The Secret is … it’s garbage

It has been just over seven months since I had a full time job. In January, my doctor agreed with me that I needed a break, and in May those closest to me agreed that I shouldn’t go back. Resigning felt really confrontational, but once I had written then letter I was giddy with relief (and possibly panic).

Sometimes I feel like I could have used these seven months “better”. For the first half I was reading a ton and journalling a lot and just pushing myself really hard to set new habits and patterns. Then I kind of hit a wall with all of that and I spent the next half kind of … percolating? In some ways I feel like I did things in the wrong order. Like if I had a physical injury, probably for the first little while I’d have to stay off of it, and then I’d start with physio and rehab. But brains aren’t kneecaps, right?

It actually was once I thought about the phrase “staying off of it” that I felt a bit better about the fact that I haven’t been my most introspective every day.  When you are building muscle, the time between workouts is crucial too, right?

I said on Facebook recently that when my life is going well I feel lucky, but when it is going poorly I feel like I’ve fucked up.  Jesse replied to say “i don’t know that i ever really have that kind of big picture assessment of my life in mind, to say if it’s going well or poorly.”

I think this is true of SO MANY PEOPLE, and I think this is why folks get scammed by stuff like The Secret. It has this wizardry to it, in that it forces you to think in specifics like “I want to live in a house that has a pool” or “I want to have a relationship with my sister where we can text often” (I do happen to want both of these!)

Forming this intent does two things, neither magic: It gives you something tangible to work towards, and it gives you a picture of success that you will recognize when you see it. But for people who have never done either before (which, judging by the book’s sales = most people), it seems to them like things suddenly start happening once you want them. Because of the Power of Attraction, or some garbage.

For me, it is nearly impossible to feel stable without having some kind of idea of where I am trying to get to. How can I navigate towards something without knowing what it is, and how can I recognize it when I have found it? I need landmarks and destinations. That isn’t to say that there are no happy accidents, but I feel like without metrics of what “happy” is, how do I make sure that I recognize those?

So here are some of the questions I ask myself to assess if my life is going well or not:

  1. Do I brush my teeth before I checking email? (to figure out if I am being compulsive about the internet)
  2. If I feel panicked can I calm myself down? (that is, can I recognize perceived danger vs. real danger?)
  3. If I disagree with someone, am I afraid to tell them? (not to say it’s always worth it, it’s good to know)
  4. Am I hungry/thirsty for hours? (useful to gauge how checked-in with my body I am)
  5. Do I have a project I am excited about? (do I feel creative/optimistic/engaged?)
  6. Is my house tidy? (If it’s messy, I am avoiding something or too harried)
  7. Have I gone out today? (I need to be comfortable with uncertainty and transition)
  8. When did I last do an activity like reading or knitting? (where external validation is not the goal)
  9. Have I seen friends recently? (I need to participate in my community)
  10. Am I writing? (more than anything, writing is proof I am feeling comfortable with vulnerability)

I like most of the answers to most of those questions right now. Which makes me feel a lot better about all the hours I’ve spent knitting and watching hospital dramas in the last few months. I think I must have needed that time. Because now I feel really stable  and loved and stoked, pretty much all of the time. And when I don’t, it’s not a total catastrophe, because I can draw on all of that to solve whatever I need to.

I also keep a Pinterest board called “Daydreams”, where I collect images that make me feel aspirational. Looking at it is a good reminder of what I want in my life: cozy homes, beautiful outdoor adventures, moving my body, spending time with people I love. That is all happening for me right now! If making a list of questions like the one I did above feels too daunting, this is another good way to get some landmarks. If you do either a list of questions, or some kind of collection of images, I wanna see it!

tl:dr – Don’t by The Secret, it is toxic poison and will rob you of your agency.