The Real Secret is a different kind of self help. We debunk the empty promises of so many books and DVDs and bring you a simple, sensible approach to real life fulfillment. We don't believe you can achieve happiness, or anything else, by simply wishing for, thinking about or visualising it. Our book - and this blog - takes only the best of what really works and turns it into a positive, practical 12-step programme that will enable you to take control of your life and raise your happiness levels.

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The Real Secret is simple, sensible, scientifically supported self help
by Lucy McCarraher & Annabel Shaw


What to do when you're made redundant

No one wants to lose their job, but in the past few months a massive number of us have been made redundant, and it’s happening to more of us every day. Every day we hear about more cuts to services - and that means jobs and that means people. It might mean you, or someone in your family; without a doubt it means people you know and care about as friends or colleagues.

Coping with the loss of your career, or without a job, takes its toll not only on your finances, but also on your relationships, your health and your feelings of self-worth. Like divorce or the death of a loved one, redundancy is one of the major life-disrupting events.
Even if we ourselves haven’t been affected, most of us feel worried because it could happen to us – the current economic situation puts millions of us in a state of uncertainty about the future.

If you have lost your job recently, or feel you may well in the near future, here are some strategies that can help you deal with the situation – even turn it to your advantage.

One of the dominant feelings that you may have when you’ve been made redundant is failure: you feel you have failed to do your job well enough; failed to impress your bosses. You feel like a failure, perhaps, in other ways like being able to provide for your family or to maintain your financial or social status.

Consider this, though: most successful people have experienced major difficulties in life, many of them have been through many “failures” of one kind or another. If you manage to cope with repeated failure and go on to achieve success, you have what psychologists call “self-efficacy”. People with high levels of self-efficacy do not give up easily; they believe they have it in themselves to achieve their goals. When you believe in your own power to exercise control over your life, you are healthier, more effective and more successful. People who believe they are capable approach difficult tasks as challenges to be mastered, rather than as threats to be avoided. They are invariably successful – and you will be too.

In The Real Secret, our aim is to help you become increasingly self-efficacious, successful and happy by asking you to undertake a series of Steps to form Habits of happiness, most of which are not hard at all, but require focus and commitment. They are all do-able, even if you find some more difficult than others. Once you have mastered them, you will have increased your levels of self-efficacy. You will have proved to yourself that you are capable and can effect change in your life – such as finding a new job or new ways to earn a living.

Here are some ways to help deal with redundancy and unemployment:

Choose to be Positive.
Long term research has shown that happy people have better relationships, more successful careers, earn more money, maintain closer links with friends and family and savour life more. So the best way to re-join the ranks of the successful and satisfied is to get happy. Sustainable satisfaction and success is not simply about earning and spending money; it’s about reaching for the real sources of human happiness and ensuring that we keep in touch with those things that bring us true joy and fulfilment.

Whilst you can’t change your own situation, or the economic climate, or government cuts, what you can do is take control of your outlook, make choices and develop habits which promote happiness in all the important aspects of your life, of which work is but one, albeit an important and necessary one.

Learning to find pleasure in the smallest details of a life that might not that seem that great, coupled with enthusiasm and excitement for how much better it can become, offers you the quick win of feeling happier right now, as well as establishing the essential framework for your long term well-being.

In Step One of The Real Secret you will find some very simple exercises which will help you maintain a realistic and positive outlook.

The first is to remember to smile. Yes, really! Smiling isn’t just a response to something good; the act of smiling activates pleasure centres in our brain, reduces stress chemicals and makes us more attractive to others as a partner, friend, colleague or client. So get into the habit of smiling more, not just when you’re happy, but especially when you’re down. You may have been made redundant but don’t allow that to ruin the whole of your life. You are more than the job you once did.

Appreciate yourself

Being made redundant can often exacerbate feelings of negative self worth and may even reconnect you with old, damaging feelings about yourself. It could be that throughout your lifetime, other people – and you yourself – have fed you negative messages about yourself, sometimes in words, other times by implication; sometimes on purpose, other times by accident. The most destructive of these are the ones that have been reinforced by repetition of someone else’s opinion, by circumstances that seem to validate this view of you – such as redundancy, through negative comparisons to other people who are in work, or your own continual acceptance of these limiting beliefs.

These negative views of yourself affect your ability to be happy, to enjoy life and be at ease with yourself, even when you’re not consciously aware of holding them. They transmit themselves to other people via your body language, your turn of phrase, your attitude and your whole approach to life; they hold you back from enjoying good experiences, strong relationships and positive developments.

Positive people with high self esteem find it much easier to find work, so try this exercise to keep your self-worth high.

Write down two negative things you think about yourself and two things you think you can’t do. Cross them out and write the positive opposite of these statements – such as “I am a great xxxx (your job), “I can get a better job”. Read or repeat these affirmations as often as possible to raise your confidence and self esteem and replace bad attitudes with good ones. After a month of daily repetition, write some new ones and repeat for a month.

For more details on writing affirmations see Step Two of The Real Secret.

Take control
In The Real Secret we talk about the importance of taking control of the administration of your life so it runs like a well-oiled machine and you no longer have to waste any excess time and energy on it that could be better spent on other, more important things. Being well organised and feeling in control becomes even more critical at times when aspects of your life are in crisis - such as losing your job.

We introduce five organisational habits in the book, but the one habit you should certainly adopt when made redundant is the habit of making a daily to-do list. Your list should never be more than five items long, or else you're taking on too much and setting yourself up for failure. Mark one or two of those items as things you absolutely must get done that day, and pursue those tasks relentlessly until you get them done. Make your first job each day to write and check your list for what needs doing. As you complete a task, cross it out or tick it off. At the end of the day, review what has been done and transfer any uncompleted tasks to the next day or reschedule to a more realistic date.

More details on how to do this in Step Three of The Real Secret

Money matters
The importance of money to our emotional and physical well-being is not in contention. We all need money in order to meet basic needs. However, whilst we need food for survival we may also want to eat at an expensive restaurant. Whilst we all need clothes for warmth and protection we also seem to want designer fashion. Therein lies the difference – the difference between needs and desires. A difference that becomes increasingly relevant the moment you lose your job and the income that it provided.

We talk quite a bit about money in The Real Secret and introduce a number of strategies for dealing with money issues which research has shown to be useful and effective. One tip is to simply be aware of every penny you spend. What you may discover after a few weeks of paying close attention to your spending is what is called the Hawthorne Effect - the scientific finding that the mere fact of being aware of your spending habits will make you spend more wisely.

This is advice that we all need, but it becomes critical when money is in short supply.


Goal-directed activity – motivation, goal-seeking and achievement - is wired into our brains and keeps us happier and more successful. This cycle activates pleasure centres, embeds memories of success, helps you feel in control of life and therefore happier. One difference between a dream and a goal is simply the written word. A 1953 Harvard University experiment identified ten percent of graduates who had set themselves some goals and four percent who had actually written down their goals. By 1973 the net worth of the four percent was double that of all the rest. So setting goals is not enough - you need to write them down!

In The Real Secret we introduce exercises that clarify in writing what you really want to accomplish in the long term; identify how you see it taking shape in the mid-term – say within the next year, or couple of years; then plan short-term steps towards getting there – right down to what you’re going to start doing this week.

However ambitious your goal, you can make your way towards it with regular, incremental, achievable steps, being flexible to adjust your aims to changing situations.

Finally, if you find it difficult coming to terms with the loss of your job and moving on, take some time to process your emotions. Left to themselves, anger and resentment can circulate endlessly in our minds, invade our dreams and hijack headspace we don’t want to waste on them. Dwelling on unhappy or unpleasant episodes stops you enjoying the good things in your life and having the self-confidence to achieve more. Writing is an immensely effective way of processing these episodes and our reactions to them, freeing us from associated negative emotions and allowing the events themselves to pass quietly into history.
If you are used to getting up at 7am and leaving the house by 8.30am there is no reason you shouldn’t stick to this timetable when redundant. Set yourself your own working day and between the hours of 9.30am to 5.30pm dedicate your time to working on your CV, searching for jobs, visiting recruitment agencies and getting in touch with old contacts. Once it gets to 5.30pm you can allow yourself to switch off and enjoy your evening.

Being made redundant means that you now have a new job - the job of finding new employment or a different way of gaining an income. In order to do this successfully you will need to be in control and you will need to be organised. If you haven’t already, then now is the time to get yourself sorted!

Why does writing help you? Because putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain.

James W. Pennebaker has probably done more research than any other psychologist on the “writing paradigm”. He explains how the actions of putting life events and our reactions to them into written form causes us to pay attention to the words we use to describe them and the structure of our “story”; which in turn forces our brain to integrate the emotions with our understanding and interpretation of them. Though the process of expressing feelings may be painful at times, Pennebaker’s expressive writing experiments have demonstrated major improvements in not only the mood and distress levels of his subjects, but on their immune systems, stress levels, self-esteem and productivity.

Perhaps of most interest, if you have been made redundant, is his comment: “Not only are there benefits to health, but writing about emotional topics has been found to reduce anxiety and depression, improve grades, and… aid people in securing new jobs.”

In the penultimate Step of The Real Secret, we show you how to take any problem, large or small, old or new, and test this process of laying it to rest. As a starting point, spend no more than 15 minutes a day writing about the events of your redundancy and the emotions you are feeling about it. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation and don't show your writing to anyone else. In a few days time you should feel more relaxed about the past and more positive about the future - a future which will be full of unexpected benefits and openings.

The Real Secret is available in paperback or kindle format from and

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