The Secret - Rhonda Byrne

I have very mixed feelings about The Secret. I think this book can be an amazing catalyst for change and growth for certain people. I also think it can spell huge disaster for others.

The Secret Let's get the bad out of the way first. The book uses quotes from many famous people throughout history to say that if you want something - just BELIEVE you have it with all your heart and you will get it. Don't "want" it or dream about someday having it - instead, believe with every fiber of your being that it already is yours. If you want to go on a cruise, act as if you already have the tickets. Don't go around saying "I can't afford that" - believe in your heart that you can afford it.

I think most of us can see the problem here. If you have an instant gratification personality, you will easily believe these things - and go max out your credit card. You will honestly believe you CAN afford these things, that you WILL have money soon to cover all your bills, then bankrupt yourself and destroy your life. I know people who have done that.

Rhonda applies the Secret to health and weather too. So if you simply believe your cancer is going away, it will. I am ALL for positive attitude (and I'll get into that later) but what if your chosen belief is "I will beat this cancer completely naturally, without medicine"? We have seen in the news families who believed 100% with all their heart that God would heal them - and the child died. Someone who believes with all their heart "My ex will come back to me!" might waste their life away - bypassing wonderful men - because of that incorrect belief.

So yes, this book can certainly be mis-used by people who do not apply its words wisely. But you could probably say that about anything. People out there lose lots of weight on low carb diets - and then some people think it means "eat only steak and nothing else" and do poorly. Any system can be followed properly or badly.

What is the GOOD about this book? There is a lot of good in here. Many of the basics of other books and religions are covered. To summarize - start with a quiet mind, meditation and calmness to think about what you want. "You must feel good about You. This is important." Really focus on what you have now and honestly enjoy it - feel gratitude for the good things already in your life. Focus on positive goals - instead of thinking "I have to get out of this debt" focus on "I will be financially stable." Help out others around you - not as a "sacrifice" of your time and money, but because you honestly enjoy doing it. Learn to enjoy your own company, to be happy with who you are. Only you can make yourself happy - not others, not possessions. As for the past, "Let it all go no matter what it is. Do it for you."

You might think some of these things are cliche, but they are all SO true. There's a reason the concepts show up in book after book. They are critical to long term contentment. Maybe it takes some people 4 or 5 readings before it starts to sink in. If that's the case, The Secret does its job to help keep emphasizing these points.

To remind people that this wisdom is ancient, Rhonda adds in quotes from many well known personalities.

"Whether you think you can or think you can't, either way you are right." -- Henry Ford.

"All that we are is a result of what we have thought." -- Buddha

Rhonda talks about the placebo effect - something we all know about. In studies, lots of people react just as well to a sugar pill as they do to real medicine! They believe so strongly that they are going to get better that they really do. Our bodies are rather powerful healing machines. If we honestly believe a bracelet will reduce our stress, we will begin to relax - and our stress really will lessen!

So I do believe wholeheartedly in the underlying message of this book. It is important to appreciate what you have in life, and to find contentment in it before you start reaching for your goals. It is important to have goals, and to focus and strive towards them with healthy energy. Rather than being jealous of others, realize how many others don't have what you do now. Rather than live your life full of stress - which causes numerous health problems - find a way to lead it as relaxed and content as you can.

The Chicken Soup author explains succinctly how this all helps. When he first wrote his book, he was stuck on what to do with it - and he was extremely poor. But he made it his focus to get the book to sell. Once he was focused, he started noticing things around him that he might otherwise have not paid attention to. Because he was actively thinking all the time about selling the book, and talking about it, he was able to make contacts and arrangements and the book became a top seller. If instead he had just sat in his house, watching TV, never thinking about his book, it's unlikely it would have gone anywhere.

This brings up one of my concerns again. Much of the book talks about the process "working itself" without ANY input from you. The book talks about simply "placing an order" with the Universe and then waiting for it to happen. That reminds me of the Joplin song "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedez Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends!" There's also the classic joke of a devout parishioner who prays every day to win the lottery. Finally God's voice booms out, saying "buy a lottery ticket!!"

Now, I realize WHY Rhonda wrote it this way. People really do honestly need to believe their goal is achievable. If they get stressed out and wound up in the "How"s, they might never start. They just need to believe they WILL get a better job and then start working on the task every day. They can figure it out as they go. There are one or two SMALL comments in the book about "Inspired action will not feel like work at all". The point is when you're working towards a goal you honestly love and adore, anything you do towards that path will be thrilling. Sort of like working in a Broadway Theater as an understudy - this might be a fantastically amazing experience for someone who has always dreamed of being a Broadway star. Yes, they are "just" an understudy and not the star, but this is a step on the path and inherently fantastic in and of itself.

So I agree with her that getting people to focus on their goal is a good thing. I wish there had been more caveats of "you need to work on it every day, not just lounge on your couch watching TV and eating bon-bons and waiting for the world to give you millions". But I also understand that many people have to start slowly. They have to even acknowledge that there is a chance for them, to have the ability to dream. The Secret gets them started.

This brings me to another point. Nowhere in The Secret does she talk at all about priorities. Deciding your priorities is SO important before you start heading towards goals. What if your goal is a big house - when really what you want is a happy family? What if you get that big house and now you never see your family members because they're all off in a different part of the house, and you're sad and miserable? Goals should *always* spring from core priorities in your life. The book almost drives home a message of "be a millionaire with a mansion and a yacht! Grab grab grab!" That concerns me a lot. Again, maybe if she "cluttered" up the message with priorities and planning a lot of people would think it was too much work and not bother. But I really wish she had a chapter on healthy priorities, all the same.

So The Secret should be taken in conjunction with other books that DO go into priority setting and non-complaining, to help provide the tools to achieve your dreams. I do think The Secret is a valuable part of that library, though. Its core message is straightforward and completely true. Wake up each morning feeling grateful for what you have, and positive about your opportunities for the day. Help out others around you, and focus on your goals. Feel good about yourself. Instead of complaining about your past and problems, be enthusiastic about your dreams and future. It really can make a HUGE difference in your life, one step at a time.

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