Many of you will know about one of the iconic books of the recent self-help movement, the 'Secret'. Indeed, to call it a book ignores the DVD and the CD's that bear the same title. It also ignores the movement of disciples that has sprouted up around it.

Now, as one who judges a group at least partly by its followers as well as by its ideas, the 'Secret' has caused me a feeling of disquiet for some time. While many movements down the years begin with a grain of truth, it usually gets followed by a huge dollop of propaganda that followers are expected to swallow wholesale.

In the 'Secret's' case, the grain of truth is rather straightforward (as truth usually is). It is as follows. To paraphrase the Henry Ford maxim, “whether you believe you can, or that you can't, you're right”. In other words, your expectations play a major part in your success or failure. Any sporting star will tell you that – that's why sports therapists make so much money from working with them. The 'Secret' develops ideas around the law of attraction – that we attract what we expect to attract, whether we want it or not.

I believe 'The Secret' gives the self help movement a bit of a bad reputation, and discourages many from becoming more involved in self development. For me, there are four significant reasons why this book should at least be taken with a large dose of salt.

Reason one: It takes the 'help' out of 'self-help'

Core to 'The Secret' is the idea that, if you visualise yourself as successful, you will be successful. This is encapsulated by the mantra employed throughout, “thoughts become things”. What does that mean? Well, to take it to its extreme, if you sit eating a 3-course meal, then lay on the couch dreaming yourself fitting a pair of snug jeans, you will fit those jeans someday soon. You will be putting out a signal to the universe that goes something like “me thin, me thin, me thin”. As Ali Baba would say, open sesame, you will be thin. The universe will make it so.

My first objection to the 'Secret' then is that visualising by itself is not enough. You must also take action, a point conveniently skirted over throughout the book, CD's and DVD.

Reason two: It equates money with happiness

The Secret is blatantly western in its orientation, to the extent that it glorifies the accumulation of wealth. Pretty well every contributor in the 'Secret' has a number of key things in common.

They are rich, or at least comfortable.
Their focus is on creating financial wealth.
They equate money as the root of happiness

What happened to companionship, spiritual development, making a wider contribution to society, health, families, and all the other things that usually make life worth living? While they do get brief publicity now and again, they are as fleeting as that warning at the foot of a fag packet telling us about the risks of heart trouble. It is not the first thing you notice on that packet. So it is with the Secret.

Reason three: It is patronising

I must own up I noticed it more in the four audio discs, but the Secret landed as a sermon by the rich, for the less rich, about why they got rich. All they did, of course, was to visualise themselves being rich! I just don't buy that viewpoint. In the Secret, an interesting question is asked for the majority of people in our world who are not rich:

What is it that the richest 1% have that you don't that made them that way? (apart from the obvious answer, money!).

Now, the response they were seeking was 'they think they will generate money, so they do'. All wonderful, and it may be a good way for the rich to explain their wealth. However, what about the many other answers – abuse of power, inherited money, having rich parents and attending private school, and the like. All very relevant elements, and all marginalised in the Secret.

I may be over-simplifying things to say that the Secret glorifies the rich and insults the rest. Oh, and before someone accuses me of jealousy, let me emphasise that I have no desire for great wealth. While some money does matter, as I said above, a number of other things are too, when it comes to fulfilment.

My last reason is the least obvious. But it is also deeply dangerous.

Reason four: The book is dangerous

If the well off and contented are getting what they visualise, then it is also true that the badly off and unhappy are also getting what they visualise. The homeless, the unemployed, and the depressed are all that way due to how they think. How convenient, and a great excuse not to help them, and pass by the other side instead. But this isn't just a point about explaining capitalistic greed. If only....

Let's take it to the next level. The poor and starving in Ethiopia, the dead in Haiti, even the Holocaust in the 1940's, all brought it upon themselves through the way they visualised, and their failure to see a good outcome. I say it in those shocking terms to bring to light the danger behind such thinking – and 'The Secret' lends itself to that danger.

My Conclusion?

I hope you've concluded it yourself, based on the arguments above. The Secret takes a good idea, and builds a tower of Babel, treachery and danger on it. I well understand the desire of many to find a better life. I work with people who want happiness and a better tomorrow, and that is an admirable aim. If you are one of them, my advice is straightforward. Find another self help or spiritual book to read. It might not be as well known as the 'Secret', but you will be more likely to find something real to use in your life. Talk to me – I could recommend many options.

Author's Bio: 

A published author and coach consultant, Mark has 25 years experience of helping people develop their leadership, power and career to become the best they can be. His motto is 'bringing personality to work, and work to life'. He owns Brilliant Futures, and can be found at