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The Secret to "The Secret:" You Get EXACTLY What You Ask For!

Peter has been an active member of the Conscious Community for almost three decades, including as a featured writer for OM Times Magazine.


Does Manifestation and "The Law of Attraction" Really Work?

The self-improvement and metaphysics field is filled with "programs" and "systems" and "practices" designed to help us all reach happiness, wealth, abundance, love, inner peace, enlightenment and a plethora of other desirable states.

In 2006, Rhonda Byrne's international best seller "The Secret" took the world by storm, and suddenly millions of people started "manifesting" their dreams and desires through this thing we've come to know as "The Law of Attraction." Subsequently championed by Oprah Winfrey and other notable pulic figures, "The Secret" became a world-wide pop-culture phenomenon.

Of course, the principles behind the "The Secret" really weren't anything new-- it was basically a repackaging of ideas dating back decades or centuries... or possibly millennia... albeit presented for modern times.

This article takes a somewhat deeper look at the whole "manifestation" business and how it actually works-- or is intended to work-- and why it sometimes does, and sometimes doesn't.

This is NOT an endorsement of "The Secret," nor a statement that am saying "you should do this!" but rather an invitation to step back and take a long hard look at the actual "bag of goods" being pitched.

For a change, we'll push the "Woo-Woo New Age Angle" to the back, and look at some fundamental psychology as well.

It's really not as complicated as it may seem... and you may be surprised by what you learn!


This stuff is all BOGUS... isn't it?

Some people "believe in" the principles of "The Secret" and manifestation with something that looks like near-religious fervor. They insist that everything in life can be accomplished through some form of creative visualization and the power of positive focused intent.

That's all well and good, but it really goes a bit overboard, sometimes.

You're supposed to "visualize" a Rolls Royce, and it suddenly appears in your driveway? You "think" your way to curing your lung cancer?

Critics and skeptics of The Secret consider these ideas a bunch of garbage, and even point to them as being "dangerous" because people forego using common sense in place of "magical thinking." Which is probably a bad idea, if you have a life-threatening illness.

A few even call "The Secret" and everything that follows "a cult."

What's the real story, here?


Thoughts Become Things

I've been interested in "self-development" and "consciousness" since my teen years. Throw in a passion for exploring the human condition and our underlying motivations... and you end up with somewhat of a "psychology nerd." As a consequence, I became quite fascinated with all the hullyballoo that started up after the release of Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret" in 2006.

The subtitle of this paragraph-- "Thoughts Become Things"-- is actually part of a longer quote by Bob Proctor, one of the numerous "inspirational people" featured on "The Secret" DVD. The full quote is "Thoughts become things. If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand," and comes from his 2002 book "You Were Born Rich."

As I said before, "manifestation" through focused intention isn't exactly a new idea, and it can usually be found at the heart of almost any spiritual practice.

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So let's go waaaaay back, for a moment.

I first came across variations of the concept while slowly working my way through the Upanishads at age 19. If you are not familiar with these writings, the Upanishads are the philosophical core of Indian-- and especially Hindu-- spirituality. From the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad comes a by now famous verse, which you may have come across:

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As you deed is, so is your destiny.

This, in essence, is "manifestation," as set forth in 2500+ year old teachings!

This is "The Secret"

OK, let's take a brief station break, for a moment!

"The Secret" is Rhonda Byrne's book from 2006 which caused such a stir around the world. Whether you believe in this "stuff" or not, it remains an interesting point of reference for those interested in personal development.

Is this book worth owning? Is the hype justified? Well, in my opinion, this book is a pretty good "basic primer" on the idea of using focused intent to move yourself in the direction of things (and events/people) you really want to attract into your life.

On the upside, it's pretty simple... which is a good thing if you don't want to delve into a lot of Eastern philosophy. On the downside, if you're a student of consciousness and enlightenment, you'll probably find it incredibly simplistic... and it also rather glosses over important aspects of spiritual practice.


Let's Start with some Basic Common Sense

In many cases alternative thinking, "consciousness," metaphysics and things "New Age" are little more than a way of putting fancy-- and appealing-- wrapping around various principles of common sense.

Along with that comes a tendency to take common principles that make perfect sense and wrap them in a sort of "shroud of Cosmic Mystery."

As we progress through the article, I want to de-mystify some of this stuff.


A Guiding Principle: Positive Phrasing

One of the core concepts in the theory of manifesting-- whether you call it "Law of Attraction" or "creating your own reality" or whatever-- is the importance of phrasing the request you put out to the Universe, Cosmos or Higher Power in a positive way.

Spirit (if you are into the metaphysical angle)-- or your own inner consciousness (if you prefer psychology and science)-- does not interpret the word "not." The only thing that matters is the actual "thing" in our request; in our intent.

In other words, if you've had an issue with alcoholic partners in your love life, and are making your "list" of attributes for a perfect new partner... asking for someone who's "not an alcoholic" is counterproductive. You need to ask for someone who's sober. If you've had issues with non-ambitious unemployed slackers... don't say "not a slacker," say "an ambitious and financially secure" person.


DON'T Think of a Pink Elephant!

You might wonder why that matters... it's just common sense!

It's like that old parlor game. If I tell you "NOT to think of a pink elephant," what do you immediately think about?

Yeah, I thought so!

It doesn't matter how sincere we may be about "avoiding" certain things... if we use them (let's take "alcoholic" as the example) in our visualization-- even though we may be thinking about them with a red circle around them and a line through them-- our starting point is visualizing an alcoholic. Forget alcoholics. Visualize "a sober person" instead.

One of my favorite anecdotes about this involves the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta. This happened long before The Secret was published. She was asked by a very sincere group of people... on several occasions... if she would be present at their anti-war rally. And repeatedly, she politely turned them down, every time she was asked. Eventually one of the organizers asked "Why do you not support us? We are completely aligned with what you believe in!" To which she replied "As soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I will be there immediately."

Whether this story is actually true or not, it's an excellent illustration of the importance of positive phrasing.


Be Careful What You Ask For!

Of course, that's a very old saying.

In the context of manifesting, "careful" actually means something closer to "mindful." Which, in turn, means having a healthy dose of consciousness and awareness of what it really is you want. That's a downfall for many because they basically only have a "half baked" idea of what they want their end result to be.

True story: A friend of my wife's really wished for a big refrigerator to replace the small and past-its-prime model she and her family were making do with. Somewhat to her surprise, she found someone on Freecycle who not only was getting rid of a an almost brand new top of the line fridge, but was willing to deliver it to her house at no charge. Her positive visualization had truly worked... and in less than two weeks!

However... when the guy delivered her marvelous new fridge, it turned out to be too big to fit through any of the doors to the kitchen-- she lived in an old Victorian home with small narrow doorways. In fact, the only door in the entire house big enough was the front door... which was just a hallway. So the marvelous giant fridge now lives on the back porch, in a closet her husband built.

The point here being, when you "ask" for something, be sure you really understand the deeper implications of what you're asking for. In other words, "I want to win the lottery!" is a meaningless request... because you can go get your quick pick and win $3 tomorrow. Ta-daah! Your wish came true. You "won the lottery."

Again, this is just common sense... but we tend to overlook it because we fail to take the time to look at the specifics of very broad ideas we have.

What do YOU think about all this?

Are you a fan or follower of The Secret and the Law of Attraction? Do you follow Abraham-Hicks? Or do you think it's all complete nonsense, designed to separate the naïve from their money? Or to enable the dysfunctional? What is your opinion about it all?


There's no "Magic FedEx Truck!"

One of the common misconceptions about "The Secret" and manifesting reality is that you can just sit down and think of something, and voilá, it spontaneously appears in your life.

Sorry, no! Nice try, and thank you for playing.

That's just not how it works. However, a lot people-- including many of those who "hype" the whole concept for profit-- tend to gloss over the fact that you actually have to do something (aside from "visualizing") in order for your manifestations to come about.

I call it "waiting for the Magic FedEx truck."

People sit in their homes and visualize the perfect boyfriend, or the perfect job, or the mansion they want to live it, or their new Porsche... and it's as if they are waiting for the FedEx truck to pull up one afternoon and deliver it.


CREATING is an Action, not a Thought

The "creating" part of "creating your reality" requires action on your behalf, in support of your visualization.

Now, some people might want to argue with me and tell me the story that goes "Yeah, but my Uncle Harry wished for blah, blah, blah...." and ends with how Uncle Harry ended up rich with no effort on his behalf.

They "conveniently forget" that Uncle Harry was the only person in the family who was willing to put up with nutty Aunt Maude's frequent 3-hour phone calls complaining about everything in the world, and the only person who sent her a birthday and Christmas card every year... and that was why she left him her fortune.

Of course, that's an extreme example.

But there's no "magic" in it, just human beings drawing incorrect conclusions from a set of circumstances.

Do people something "just get lucky?" Absolutely! But there's seldom anything "deliberate" about that... for every person who did get lucky, there were 99,999 who made the same "wish" and got nothing. But we never hear about them... in a sense, we often base our "perceived reality" on the "highlight reels" of other people's lives.

Here's Jack Canfield-- one of the "stars" from "the Secret" making the exact same point, about the importance of taking action in support of what you visualize:


Stick to the Basics-- How Manifesting ACTUALLY Works

The thing about "creating our reality" is that's it's actually really super simple. The New Age and "Consciousness" industries would like to have to believe that you need a stack of books and $495.00 seminars to "do it properly" but that's not actually true. It's also not true that "manifesting" is the result of some kind of "cosmic force" or metaphysical magic... although it can certainly make us feel good to think so. And there's no harm in that!

The core principle revolves around a couple of very simple ideas.

First, it's a fundamental part of human nature that we look for "evidence" to support what we believe in. If we believe that pale yellow is a popular house color, we are going to start looking for pale yellow houses so we can count them, and point them out to our friends as "supporting evidence" that our belief is true. And we're going to feel disinclined to listen to people who prefer pink houses, because that "challenges" our beliefs. So, this focus on yellow houses leads to the second part of the equation.

In the simplest of terms, something we intentionally give attention to is more likely to happen than something we ignore. Why? Because when we have "a vested interest" in something happening, we will tend to focus on it, and when we focus on it, we will consciously-- or inadvertently-- take steps in support of ("action") what we are focusing on. As a result of which it seems like we can "manifest" things.

Again, there's no "magic" in that. If you sow carrots and radishes-- but are mostly interested in growing carrots so you tend and water them more, odds are your carrot crop will be better than your radish crop.


Simple Psychology... an Example

Here's a very simple example for you to think about-- odds are this has happened to you, in some very similar way.

Let's say you want a dog. Let's say, to be specific, that you want a pedigreed Welsh Corgi. So you start thinking about Welsh Corgis. And all of a sudden it seems like there are Corgis everywhere! Of course, there actually are no more Corgis than there ever were-- it's just that you are suddenly focused on Corgis, so instead if largely ignoring them, you now see them all.

That's how the human mind works. At any given moment, we're being exposed to and process thousands of stimuli-- inputs-- but we are only consciously aware of a few dozen of them. The rest are definitely there... but they live in the realm of "background noise."

Now, let's furthermore say that you really can't afford the $900 for a "pet quality" pedigreed Corgi. But because you are focused on all things Corgi, you "accidentally" notice an article in a magazine about a Corgi Rescue program, and next thing you know you're adopting a pedigreed rescue-Corgi for basically the price of its shots at the vet!

Guess what?!? You just "manifested" a free pedigreed Corgi! See how simple that was?

Another simple example people are often familiar with is car shopping. Maybe you're interested in a yellow VW Beetle. All of a sudden, there are yellow Beetles everywhere. Has there suddenly been an explosion in the number of these cars on the road? Nope. You're just focused on a yellow Beetle.

Was there any "magic" involved? Intervention from a higher source? Not really.

The real "secret" here lies in consciously defining what it is we want, then focusing and taking action in support of that want, as a result of which it seems to come about. So, basically, The Secret teaches us how to remove a lot of the "randomness" of life.

Wait... what?


Randomness vs. Specificity

OK, one more time.

The key concept is "focus." As in focused intent.

A lot of people get bogged down here and say "But wait, I FOCUS on things all the time, and they don't happen."

One of the things that happens to most of us in life is that we usually focus "retroactively" rather than "proactively." When we get really focused or fixated on something, it's often as a response or reaction to something that's already unfolding, or previously unfolded... not as a "new plan from scratch."

"How is THAT any different?" you might ask.

Well, glad you asked.

The thing is, we're not manifesting our reality, we're reacting to it. Specifically, we're "reacting" to something we already created, in the past. And when we're "reacting," what happens? Usually we're in a state of "don't this" and "don't that." Now, let's revisit the section on positive phrasing. See the problem? Our "intent" may be focused, but it's in the wrong place. Metaphorically speaking, it's the difference between waking up one morning and going "OMG! I must study for this exam or I will fail the class!" which is quite different from deliberately focusing on taking two hours every day to study, so you'll pass.

Is the overall "intent" the same? Sure! We want to do well on the exam so we'll pass the class. But one approach is random and reactive... the other is focused and intentional. That's the difference. And a very important one, at that.

So, to summarize: It's important to define and know what we truly want. And then to state-- in a positive fashion-- what we want. And then we focus our intent and take action "in support" of what we want.


So... DOES it work?


There really is no "it." The only thing that "works" (or not) is you.

"The Secret" and various other books, programs and workshops on the topic of "manifesting our reality" are simply a set of guidelines that endeavor to help steer us in the right direction. As I wrote, above... there IS no "magic FedEx truck" that will deliver your wishes. The ideas in the books teach us how to be smart and proactive in creating the lives we want, rather than allowing life to randomly "happen" TO us.

The key word in the phrase "create our own reality" is create. Create is an active word, not a passive one.

To the degree anything "works," just about ANYthing has a better chance of "working" if it's actively in your mind all the time, than if it isn't.

I wish you lots of success at creating the life you want. But be careful... odds are you'll get exactly what you ask for!

© 2016 Peter Messerschmidt

Are YOU a follower of The Secret and Law of Attraction? How is that working for you? Please leave a comment and share your experiences with other readers!

Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on August 29, 2016:

Excellent article.

I do practice the Law of Attraction, and I have seen it work in my life. I've had enough experiences to know that it works for better or worse.

As you say in your article, be careful what you wish for, and be very specific in your desires.


DREAM ON on January 20, 2016:

I continue to believe in the Power Of Positive Thinking and the Secret is another version with a way to improve our life. Thank you for sharing. A very clear and easy approach. There are many ways to do things and if we keep trying we can get the results we want.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on January 04, 2016:

Thank you for this informative and supportive hub on the law of attraction. i read "the secret." Your explanation of how this all works is helpful. I live and believe in the law of attraction along with prayer and faith in a higher power!

Thanks again.


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