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Takeaways From The Secret

October 18, 2010

On my wonderfully restorative and rejuvenating vacation, I read The Secret. It was a pretty quick read based on the premise that whatever you want in this world –health, wealth, happiness, love– is yours for the asking.

There are three simple steps to leading the life of your dreams. First, get clear on what you want and ask for it explicitly. Secondly, believe that the universe will deliver. Call it blind faith or utter devotion, but you have to believe. Third, prepare to receive what you’ve requested.

According to the book, The Universe is like a giant catalog and once you know the secret you have the power to order whatever you want. I agree that harnessing positive thought can be transformational, but I would warn that your actions must be aligned with your thoughts in order to manifest what you’d like to see. Wishing for love and living with self-loathing are contradictory and likely to confuse the universe, right? Right.

Regardless of whether you buy into The Secret (full disclosure: I do), I think there are three super important takeaways from the book: thoughts and words have power; external change follows internal change; and lastly, you alone own your joy.

1. Thoughts and words have power.

“Every thought of yours is a real thing – a force.” Prentice Mulford

This idea struck me. Hard. Reminded me of an interview of Anna Deavere Smith I read many many moons ago when I was doing directorial research for The Bald Soprano, the first play I directed in college. In the interview Smith remembers her grandfather telling her that “if you say a word often enough, it becomes you.”

Anna Deavere Smith, actor and playwright, employed a fascinating process where she interviewed subjects involved in real-life events, studied tapes of their interviews to memorize their speech and mannerisms, and then wove the interview text into a one-woman master performance. By learning their words exactly, Smith was able to embody the people she interviewed. That was the first time I internalized the power of words.

So when I read in The Secret that thoughts are a force, I understood immediately. Thoughts, like words, have power.

I can choose to wield them or I can allow myself to be bowled over by my thoughts.

If thoughts have power, then the most powerful forces in my life are the things that I spend the most time and energy thinking about. I used to believe that nothing would work out. I thought I’d be trapped in debt forever. I was sure that I didn’t deserve wealth, happiness and love. Thinking that I wasn’t capable or worthy meant that I unwittingly invited those negative influences to permeate my life.

Fessing up to the fact that I had created my own self-fullfilling prophecy of doom and gloom was hard. Really hard. But admitting my blunder meant that I could choose to live differently.

So, on some level I knew that thoughts were important far before I read The Secret. However, now I am certain that your thoughts, like your words, will become you.

Choose your thoughts wisely. Focus on the ideal version of yourself. Think about the dreams you want to see come to fruition. Lovingly put your energy into that which you want to see more of in your life.

2. External change follows internal change.

Another lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that we have to get right inside of ourselves before we can expect to see results in our social interactions, relationships, and worlds.

First, an internal switch has to be flipped, a corner rounded before outward appearances follow. My lightening bolt aha moment that brought this notion home for me was when I realized that I had to start feeling comfortable in my own skin before I could allow myself to be praised by others.

In college I amassed a truly incredible wardrobe that was full or personal style and the kind of sass I aspired to personify. I collected clothes that fit my ideal version of myself that I was far too embarrassed or scared to wear.

I had friends cheerleading me –assuring me that my personal style was great—but I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. It didn’t matter that other people believed in what I was doing, I didn’t believe in myself.

It wasn’t until a year after I graduated college and lost 40 pounds that I began to feel good in my own skin. Once I started to appreciate myself –my body, my personality, my style– I was able to honor and understand and respect when the world mirrored back those feelings of acceptance, awesomeness and love.

What do you do when you’re not ready to fully commit to a new belief? When you aren’t certain but want to start inching your way towards a new decision or lifestyle? Act as if.

Act as if the desired change has already happened. Act as if you know what you’re doing. Act as if you’ve got it all together and are a powerful change agent. The exercise of acting as if opens up space for the desired shifts to take place. It’s a powerful catalyst. I promise.

3.  You alone own your joy.

This one is heavy, especially for the ladies, because we grew up with movies and fairytales that propagated this notion that some charming prince will discover just how amazing we are, which will in turn give us permission to believe in our sheer awesomeness.

And that’s bullshit. You don’t have to wait for anyone to embrace the divine joy of being, knowing, trusting and appreciating yourself fully.

You are completely, 100%, without–a-doubt responsible for your own joy. Let me repeat that: you alone are responsible for your joy. Got it? No one can take your joy. (Kinda like the Eleanor Roosevelt quote that “no one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”)

I’m beginning to believe that the romantic notion that we need someone to see us more clearly than we see ourselves —someone who can tell us how beautiful we are before we’ll believe it— is a powerful act of self-loathing.

And, self-loathing is a tried-and-true deterrent to love and joy. Trust me on this one. I’ve been there and done that.

Remember, you alone have domain over your own joy. No more and no less.

We’re all diamonds. You don’t need a love to tell you how beautiful you are or a mentor to tell you how talented you are or anyone to explain your worth to you. Oh, hell no. We are all enough. We are responsible adults who can take care of ourselves, which includes loving and believing in ourselves.

Own your joy, imperfections, beauty, strengths, weaknesses, and talents. Own you, embrace you, love you. The rest will follow.


Maybe the Universe is a giant catalog waiting to deliver wares to your doorstep. Maybe it isn’t. What is important is what you believe. Do you believe in a benevolent universe or a malevolent one? Choose wisely because thoughts have power and they will become you. Not ready to dive off the woo-woo deepend? Act as if. See what happens.

Have you read The Secret? I’d love to know what you think.

[*Please note links in this post are affiliate links on amazon. What does that mean? If you click a link and purchase something then I’ll make a small commission, which’ll be put towards buying more books! I promise to only link to products I actually endorse and recommend.]

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2010 6:40 am

    I read The Secret in May, mostly because I had heard references to what it was about but felt like I wanted to know for myself (since people can exaggerate). I thought it contained some dangerous ideas – like you should stop wearing glasses so you can cure your own vision and eat fast food because your brain, not calories, controls your weight. But ultimately, I felt like if you could dismiss the extra-crazy parts, the main message was sound: positive thinking is good for you. (I sort of went off on it on my blog:

  2. October 28, 2010 9:13 pm

    I have read The Secret many times, I pick it up and read through a few pages whenever I need a reminder of where to focus my thoughts…

    I so believe that what you focus your energy on, grows, so it only makes sense, to me, to focus on what I want…{not an expensive car or cured vision}, but what ‘outcome’ or ‘feeling’ I want to experience…I have not been disappointed.

    I understand the message of the book and look past the Hollywood ‘visions’.

    I have put The Secret into practice in my life and it has been life changing.

    We really do have a choice to make every day…I like knowing that I have that power!

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