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What I Learned From Watching 'The Secret' and Why It's Full of Bad Advice

Updated on November 3, 2017
Catherine Stolfi profile image

Catherine is an independent research consultant at NASA Langley with degrees in English, Biology, and Environmental Science (M.S.).

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Being late to the party, I finally watched The Secret, an information documentary accompanying the uber popular book of the same name promoted by Oprah herself about the secret to happiness, wealth and living a full life. While a majority of it is absolute hogwash, there are certain aspects that a large amount of people could easily benefit from and utilize in their every day life. I will touch on the larger ideas that The Secret discusses along with their “expert” commentary that accompanies it followed by the Real World takeaway.

The Law of Attraction

The documentary hits upon this topic with an already deceiving angle, that this is somehow a law of science, such as the widely accepted Law of Gravity, which is scientific fact. According to the commentators, the law of attraction is about things that you want and the law that if you focus on them enough, they will just come to you: a nice concept for the lazy and optimistic but not very practical for those in the real world.

Real World Takeaway: There is a real world takeaway to the law of attraction, though. The “experts” discuss how everyone in the world gives off a vibration or energy and if you think positive thoughts, then that’ll be the things that attract towards you like wealth and happiness, for example. This concept hints on a greater fact, that what you put out into the world is what you’ll most likely receive back. To most of us, that should come as common sense. If you are nice to the people that surround you, like saying good morning with a smile, then that positivity will bounce back to you from those people. If you’re not so nice to others, they will probably in turn disrespect you and not go out of their way for that happy good morning greeting back. If you wake up every morning with a somewhat positive outlook, it’ll probably make you a happier person overall, not to mention, healthier as well. Those that are constantly under stress are normally affected negatively mentally and physically.

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Ask. Believe. Receive

This is utterly, and simply, the single worst advise to give someone that is having a tough time in life and seeking out how to better themselves. Certain minute details of it are practical, but again, to imply that ‘if you want it bad enough, it’ll just show up’ is just purely irresponsible. In the documentary, their ‘this is a dramatization’ example of a little boy that wants a bike is so hacky, it’s hard to believe it made it past the cutting room floor. He wants it, so he asks. He picks up a magazine that has the picture of the bike and focuses on it. He cuts out a picture of it and hangs it on his wall. He then wakes up everyday, looking at the bike, trying to imagine how he would feel if he actually had it. He now believes that it’s his. Wow, magically, it shows up right outside his play shed (being carried over by an adult) and he is ecstatic. Good concept, bad execution.

Real World Takeaway: Yes, it’s true. If there is something that you want in your life, you should wake up trying to focus on it everyday. But, you have to go the step further. You may want to win the lottery every day you wake up but if you don’t play the game, chances are you won’t be winning anytime soon. I think most people do lose focus on what they really want out of life. However, you need to begin the steps to make it happen, just wanting it is never enough.

The Secret - trailer

The Vision Board

There’s a point in the documentary where they turn the camera on the commentators and ask how they’ve utilized The Secret in their lives. One of the self-made millionaires talks about how when he was in a bad spot and began to think about the things that he wants in life. He decided to use the ‘Ask. Believe. Receive’ concept to create a vision board. He started cutting out pictures from newspapers and magazines that reflect what he hopes to gain in the future and thumb tacking them to his board. There were photos of money, a big dream house, the perfect wife, a giant yacht and things along that line. Now, cut to 5 years later. He’s moved into a new home, is married with a little boy who comes down to his home office to ask, ‘Hey Dad, what’s in the box?” His dad explains the vision board concept to his son while taking out all of his old boards to look over, when suddenly, there it is, the dream house that he tacked up all those many years ago. He says, “Oh my God, I can’t believe it, this is the house we just moved into!”

Ok, at that point you’re pretty much ready to turn the documentary off with this nauseating, whimsical, no way possible, “true” story account retelling. He moved into the home that he tacked up on his Vision Board 5 year’s prior? Ok, let’s just get to the real world takeaway.

Real World Takeaway: Making a list of your goals and the things you hope to accomplish in your life is a practice that most people do not do. Many therapists and health professionals recommend this practice for those that might feel lost, overwhelmed with stress or need direction for their future: making a physical list of your life goals. Things look very different when they’re written down. And of course, if you’re married, the list should be created with that loved one as well. It’s important that you can be sure of things you want, ensure that you’re on the proper path to accomplish them and that those loved ones you are surrounded by support you in those goals as well. Wow, couldn’t they just have said that?

The Suffixes

The one thing I couldn’t help but notice were the strange and, have to admit, googled, suffixes found at the end of the names of the commentators throughout the documentary. Some of them were DD, AB, BA, B. Sci and Ph.D. (the more familiar suffix that had no place in commenting on The Secret). I can understand being proud of holding a bachelor’s degree, you went to school for those four hard years and accomplished receiving that coveted little piece of paper. However, I work in the pharmaceutical industry and if I listed the suffix B Sci. at the end of my name in e-mails it would get, at the least, a chuckle from my counterparts. In other words, when you’re in a documentary where there are others that hold Ph.D., perhaps it’s best to keep your name as is. And then there’s the ever-deceptive D.D. suffix. In America, we don’t have any formal requirements for receiving this recognition and, often, the recipient pays a fee to a religious institution to receive the title. Again, a very deceptive means of giving oneself a title when there actually is none to be had.

Real World Takeaway: Wait, were there really scientists with PhDs commenting on the law of attraction?

Overly Happy Woman
Overly Happy Woman | Source

Misquoted Historical Figures

And last, but certainly not least, were the use of horribly misquoted excerpts from some of the greatest minds on scientific theory and in all of human history. My two favorites are below.

"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.”― Albert Einstein. A perfect inspirational quote for any budding scientist where imagination is the key to innovation. To think out of the box is probably much closer to the original intention behind this quote.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.”― Henry Ford. What an amazingly insightful and thoughtful quote from a man that will forever be remembered in human history... and yet, terribly misquoted. We have the power to control our actions while a certain mindset can influence how we behave in the present and future – again, not about The Secret at all.


If there’s something that you want out of life, just go for it. There aren’t enough mantras in the world to make something that you want just appear out of thin air. To quote (not horribly, hopefully) another great mind of our time: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do… Explore. Dream. Discover.” ― Mark Twain.




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    • conradofontanilla profile image

      conradofontanilla 

      4 years ago from Philippines

      If your interest is too deep, it will come true - in your mind but not in fact. That is mysticism. I won't ever become a mystic.

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