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.

* Learn Happiness Habits from Positive Psychology * Tame your Fear with Cutting Edge Neuroscience * Control your Time and Money like an Entrepreneur * Build Better Relationships through one Tested Technique

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


When The Wolves Are At The Door

When the wolves are knocking at your door, threatening to blow down your house, it’s only natural that you should feel a rising sense of panic. When the panic occasionally subsides you might find in its place an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. This will often show itself in the form of constant worries. Money worries can be pernicious, invading every other aspect of your life. They disrupt relationships both at home and at work and stop you from enjoying even the simplest of things - more troublesome in many cases than the crisis that gave rise to them in the first place.

Whilst we aren’t qualified to give advice on how best to deal with your financial affairs, what we can do is offer some advice on how best to withstand the damaging personal assault that a financial crisis often presents. More than ever, what you need now is to bolster your sense of control and not allow money worries to overwhelm your self confidence. The following advice is given with this aim in mind.

The Advice

Don’t panic. Even if the creditors are banging extremely loudly - you must not panic. This is absolutely vital to your survival because you won’t be able to do anything if you are panicking.

Don’t allow your money worries to overwhelm you. Worry is not going to help unless it’s directed. You need to be doing something - not worrying about something. With this in mind you need to follow this three step process:

Let go of money worries in a 3-step process.
First, you need to become aware that you are worrying. Worry involves having negative thoughts that seem to intrude, usually without your complete awareness. So start paying attention to what your thoughts actually are and whenever you find yourself thinking about a subject for more than a minute, mentally step aside to see what it is you’re thinking about. Then, if you find yourself worrying tell yourself to STOP. Take a deep breath.

Second, in a diary, notebook or on a computer, write down what you are worrying about and any ideas you have about the worry. In no more than two minutes. Absolutely no more than two minutes. When you find yourself worrying again, repeat the STOP and writing down exercise.

The final step is to choose a time and place where you are free to worry about the things you have written down. It could be an hour a week or an hour a day, depending on the severity of your problem. In this time you should do something about the particular worry. Take out your notebook and look at what you have written - then spend the allocated worry-time making a plan to address these concerns and carrying the plan out. At all other times you are free not to worry. Indeed, you are not allowed to worry except at the allocated time. If you need more worry-time, then scheule it - but otherwise you must not allow your life to be dictated by this worry which, if allowed to, will undermine all your efforts at survival in times of crisis. You need to take control of worry or it will surely control you.

Your money problems may be to do with having lost some or all of your income. If this is the case, you need to become creative about finding new sources of income and confident that you can and will find a way of earning money - perhaps a better and more enjoyable way than you have previously found. When you have spent your worry-time dealing with debts or other immediate problems, start to use these scheduled times to explore new sources of work. Ask yourself what are the talents you enjoy using and that people might want to pay you for - these might not be professional skills, but ones from your personal life. What have you always dreamed of doing, but never dared to try? Could you retrain; get a grant or a loan to do so? Who do you know, personally or professionally, who could support you now or help you find paid work? If you're not sure which way would be best, try a number of options and see which one(s) take off. If you can step outside your anxiety, you will find yourself able to think creatively and positively about your future. (You might also like to read our post on What To Do When You're Made Redundant)

In The Real Secret we have an exercise we call a "money diet". It's not about curbing excess spending (because when the wolves are at the door, you have no excess to spend), but about feeling more in control and learning the difference between what you want and what you need. We go into more detail in the book, but essentially we suggest you spend the next four weeks noting down every single penny you spend.

During that period, you should also cut down completely on unnecessary expenditure. By unnecessary we mean all those things you want but don't absolutely need. Think about every penny before you spend it, and ask yourself if it's absolutely necessary. Be really strict with yourself. Try to keep your list of expenses as short as possible. Think of it as an enjoyable, or at least useful, exercise rather than a burden you have to endure.  

During the four weeks of minimal spending, make sure you also double check everything, from your insurance policies, phone and energy tariffs to your mortgage, bank charges and credit card interest rates, and make sure they are all the cheapest you can get. Comparison websites such as, and make this easy – so spend a while on the Internet, or on the phone to your providers, making sure you are on the cheapest deals possible. Set up internet banking on all your accounts, if you haven’t already, and watch your income and expenditure on a daily basis. This is the easiest way to keep tabs on your spending and helps ensure you don’t get overdrawn. Make sure you know the dates of all bills to be paid each month and when direct debits, interest payments etc leave your account so that there is always enough in there and you don’t incur charges.

If you have trouble repaying debts, talk to the people or companies you owe and renegotiate your payments. If you still feel overwhelmed, or if the creditors really are threatening foreclosure,  immediately contact your Citizens Advice Bureau, local council and/or a local housing organisation which does not charge for their services. Anyone that charges for helping you sort out debt is to be avoided. Go online to find help from local organisations, self-help groups that can get you in touch with other people in similar circumstances and who can help at least by letting you know that you are not alone.

Most money worries are solvable and will pass, and most do have immediate steps you can take to improve your situation. You’ll feel better as soon as you start to take those steps. But they really do depend on you actually doing something to relieve the situation, the most important being talking to your creditors, going on a strict money diet, not allowing the worry of it all to overwhelm you and coming up with new ways to earn money.  
If you manage to cope with failure, even 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. If you can move beyond your fear of the wolves at the door, meet the challenges they pose with assurance and overcome them, you will have laid the foundations of your own self-efficacy.

You will find more exercises to reduce anxiety and stress, build confidence and take control of your life in The Real Secret (UK), or The Real Secret (USA)

A Simpler Life

A couple of years ago, Creative Content Digital asked me to write an audio book to launch their new self-development imprint, “Lifestyle Lowdown”. Our first thoughts were around work-life balance. Flexible working, stress management and work-life balance had been one of my areas of expertise for many years and I had run pilot projects in many organisations which proved conclusively that flexibility and balance in the workplace reduced sickness absence, stress and turnover while improving productivity, commitment and employee satisfaction.

At the time I was working with Annabel (Shaw) on The Real Secret programme and self help book and, as we discussed the audio book, the phrase that resonated with all of us, and seemed to sum up what so many people are looking for, was “A Simpler Life”.

Based on The Real Secret self help strategy - “simple, sensible and scientifically supported” - Annabel and I agreed to write our first audio book on how to achieve a simpler life. In it, we don’t tell listeners that they should be ditching their possessions, earning less money or growing their own vegetables, but rather suggesting ways to explore what you fundamentally believe, recognise what you cherish above all else and identify what it is that makes you who you are.

In the last twenty years we’ve all been so carried away with doing, having and achieving more, that we’ve left ourselves little time to stop and check on where we’re heading and why we’re going there. The fact is, you can make choices between what really matters to you and those things you’ve come to believe you ought to have, do or be.

In just over an hour, we take listeners through a series of integrated, enjoyable exercises – some of which need pen and paper or a PC; others of which just ask you to sit somewhere quiet, close your eyes and recall memories, emotions and dreams. Working through them, you find yourself on a journey to re-discovering genuine values, needs, desires and hopes with a map offering positive and well-defined goals, clearly marked destinations, a planned itinerary and regular signposts to keep you on track in achieving greater joy and contentment.

I’ve been asked whether I take my own advice and the answer is yes – usually! So when in A Simpler Life we were writing about the value of revisiting childhood dreams, I thought I’d better go back and check my own. There they were, three of them: the earliest and most enduring was to be A Writer; a later one was to be A Psychologist and in my teens I was definitely going to be An Actress.

Every job I’ve had has involved writing: initially as a journalist, editor, reviewer and script writer. When I moved out of the media and into researching parenting, children and families, it was still about presenting the material in compelling and comprehensible ways. As a consultant in work-life balance, working with blue chip and public sector organisations, I’ve sometimes battled with the deficiencies of business jargon – but enjoyed learning to blur the boundaries between corporate-speak and campaigning rhetoric in the interests of both productivity and people. Now I also work with other writers as Commissioning Editor of Bookshaker Publishing.

Although I never became a psychologist, my wellbeing training and coaching, and self help writing involves me in researching how the mind and brain work – and in Annabel Shaw I have a real psychologist to work with. We have a brilliantly complementary working relationship, in which she is in charge of evidence and research while I get to rewrite and edit our manuscripts (though she writes most of this blog). And although I never got to be a professional actress after acting in many student plays, I do “perform” on radio and tv, and when I speak or give  talks, workshops and seminars.

I realised, through writing A Simpler Life, that in a deep sense I had achieved all three of my youthful dreams, and that focusing on what I really love doing best has helped to give my life the sort of clarity we encourage in the audio book. For me, living a simpler life has also involved a move out of the city into a village community, working away less and spending more time with my family. It won’t be the same for everyone – there’s no blueprint for the perfectly simple life, just ways of reconnecting with the real you and pursuing the things that bring you, and those close to you, true satisfaction and happiness.

A Simpler Life audio book, published by Creative Content Digital, is available on,, iTunes and

Special Offer - A Simpler Life is half price on Amazon and Audible at the moment - and FREE if you sign up to a 30-day trial with Audible.
Posted by Lucy


Walking Back To Happiness

So much of what we say in The Real Secret is no secret at all (we emphasise the "real", as opposed to the unreality of much advice contained in The Secret). We suggest including in your weekly timetable, half an hour’s exercise at least twice a week. We all know that regular exercise supports good mental health and can raise happiness levels. One hour a week isn't asking much. Just do it, we say in Step 5 - "Healthy Body".

Older people who exercise three or more times a week have a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's and other types of dementia; healthy people who exercise regularly have a 30% - 40% lower risk of getting dementia; and even those who devote as little as 15 minutes to exercise, three days a week, cut their risk significantly. Exercising to recommended levels can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurring by 40%. For prostate cancer the risk of dying from the disease is reduced by up to 30%. Bowel cancer patients' risk of dying from the disease can be cut by around 50% by doing around six hours of moderate physical activity a week.

Launching a new report, Jane Maher, chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer Support and a leading clinical oncologist said: "The advice that I would have previously given to one of my patients would have been to 'take it easy'. This has now changed significantly because of the recognition that if physical exercise were a drug, it would be hitting the headlines."

Even a short, brisk walk every day, researchers have said, can make a difference. If you can get into natural surroundings – the countryside, coast or park – even better, as this has been shown to sooth the mind more than urban settings.

'Burn calories and build muscle all you want, but remember that your brain and soul may be the pieces of your anatomy that benefit most from walking.'
Mark Fenton, The Complete Book of Walking

Now there is additional research in favour of regular walking from the Psychology Department in the University of Pittsburgh. Kirk Erikson, author of the study, puts it this way:

'As we search for a "magic intervention" to protect our brains from the effects of aging, we may find that this "magic" will come not in the form of a pill, but rather in the form of a brisk walk several days a week. So, I would recommend physicians to prescribe moderate amounts of physical activity—about 1 mile of walking per day—to improve brain function, reduce brain atrophy, and decrease the risk for cognitive impairment. Aerobic activities, such as a brisk walk, a game of tennis, or a swim are excellent activities that may improve brain function.'
Erikson's research study (published in Neurology) has found that the simple act of walking may improve memory in old age. As we age, our brains shrink and the shrinkage is associated with dementia and loss of cognitive functions such as memory. To test whether physical activity could mitigate some of these degenerative effects, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh tracked the physical activity of 299 healthy men and women with an average age of 78. The participants' activity ranged anywhere from walking 0 blocks to 300 blocks (up to 30 miles) per week.
Nine years later, the walkers underwent brain scans, which revealed that those who had walked more had greater brain volume than those who walked less. Four years after that, the volunteers were tested again — this time for dementia. Among the group, 116 people showed signs of memory loss or dementia. Those who had walked the most — at least 72 city blocks (or about 7 miles.) each week — were half as likely to have cognitive problems as those who walked the least.

The findings are in line with past studies linking physical activity with brain function, but dementia experts say there's not enough data yet to prescribe exercise to prevent memory loss (though we do, for health and happiness). It's also too soon to say whether exercise may prevent dementia or simply delay it in people who would eventually develop it anyway. But when it comes to Alzheimer's, even a short delay could mean great gains in quality of life.

"Even if we are delaying [Alzheimer's disease] by several months or years, that's a significant improvement in what we know already, and a change in costs for treating health care," study author Kirk Erickson said. Delaying the condition could also ease the emotional burden and problems that come along with it, for both patients and their families, he said.

You can read an interview with Kirk Erikson here

Get more "Simple, Sensible, Scientifically-Supported" advice from us in The Real Secret (UK) or The Real Secret USA here

Posted by Lucy


Motivation? Inspiration? Just Take Action!

I have a problem with motivation. Not with everything, obviously. I can very easily get myself packed and ready to go to the beach and I can do that in 5 minutes flat. I can just as easily find the energy to meet a friend for coffee - if I can get hold of one. Friend, that is (I’m having a bit of a problem with friends since my last blog). On the other hand if it involves doing something more necessary like work say or the washing up then it’s very strange because I can’t seem to find the motivation and tend to hang about waiting for inspiration. Well I don’t really hang about, obviously. I sofa surf or tea drink. Washing up doesn’t need inspiration. You’ve seen through me already.

The idea that we need to be motivated in order to get stuff done is just an excuse. It’s just pathetic really. And as for inspiration - well that’s for drama queens. No self respecting artist talks about inspiration - they talk about hard slog. Hours and hours of endless toil. Motivation and Inspiration are just amateur rubbish words. If you believe in them then you are obviously the type (see personality types here if you are in any way concerned) who wastes good money on the kinds of seminars you see advertised in second rate blog sites. You know the ones I mean - they usually have motivational speaker somewhere in the title.

Give it up and get some work done.  

Here's what you do: you pick a task, then set a timer for 25 minutes - no exceptions. Work. When it rings, stop for five minutes. Repeat three more times, then take a longer break. That's just about it. It works. Try it.

It works because it creates an illusion that you have no choice – that there's some kind of drill sergeant keeping an eye on every move you make, stopping you from defaulting to the basic lazy that you really are... Well me anyway. It’s incredible just how easy to fool our brains are - a timer is all you need.

This is the product to try if you need more advice

Motivation follows action and not the other way round. Or as the psychologist Albert Bandura put it :
It’s better to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting

Posted by Annabel who wrote this in under 25 minutes with the timer on having waited all day (on the beach at Barcelona) for some inspiration.

More tips and ways to take control of your life, set and keep goals in The Real Secret, available in paperback and kindle on and


How To Be Loved

When it comes to making friends and influencing others there are some basic rules you should be aware of - I say should. I mean definitely should.

Step One : Don’t Try Too Hard To Please
You know those people that always seem to be trying so hard to please? Remember teachers' pets? Mummy's little helper? Yes, those ones. Irritating aren’t they? Instead of making the rest of us feel good about them they simply make us feel bad about ourselves - actually, no they don’t. They are just irritating.

People who try too hard to please always respond immediately to any request for help. They reply to emails instantly, as if they were just sitting there waiting for you to send them. They already do most of the domestic chores without so much as a grumble and then when you need some extra ironing done or the kettle needs replacing or the office party arranged - there’s the person. This kind of behaviour always brings out the worst in me. I am obviously perverse. I see that you are too. Am I right? Well, if you are then good. Very good. But if you happen to be the other kind - the kind that tries too hard and doesn’t understand why people are still never happy with you, well here’s why. Sensitive types please try to be strong - I’m giving advice here that the rest of us don’t really want you to know in case it stops you making us tea.

People who try too hard to please are irritating because they seem so needy; they want to be my friend. They want to be seen as ‘nice’ people and so they think if they do all the washing up then I’ll like them even more.

Well I don’t. I never liked them in the first place. I would rather have rude than needy - at least I can shout at rude. Needy would probably just fall to bits and start crying. Do you see what I mean? And that’s why, instead of making more friends they tend to lose the ones they thought they had. Well, after they’ve made the boss a cup of tea and cleaned up the staff room. Naturally.

Well that’s the short of it and now comes the long, hard bit where I tell you what to do and you do it and then afterwards you thank me. Yes, that’s right - you do the work and I get the thanks. Bear with me - it’ll all make sense in the end.

How to stop trying too hard to please
First, if you do do the lion's share of domestic chores then pick a couple of these chores and just stop doing them. For example, do not unstack the dish washer for a week (it’ll take a week to work). Wash only your clothes and leave the rest. Stop making the tea at work.

Second, don’t respond to emails immediately. Leave them for at least a few hours and overnight if you can bear it. It is better to be seen as someone who is reliable because they always respond within 24 hours than to be seen as someone who responds immediately, because on the rare occasion when you can’t respond immediately you’ll only be seen as under-performing.

Third, begin the process of training the people you live and work with to not always expect you to say yes to any request. Say instead that you’ll think about it - and then 2 out of 5 times say no, sorry, can’t do. You do not need to explain yourself. There is nothing in the rule book that says you have to explain yourself when asked to do a favour - although you can of course be polite and say “Sorry - busy” if you really feel you have to, but there you go again being a bit too understanding. Children might have a problem to start with but just remember that it's good for them. No-one wants a dishcloth for a parent or a colleague and certainly not as a partner. If they want a cleaner they can go hire one. You are a parent/colleague/friend not their doormat. It’s not difficult to say no - it just takes practise. Works a treat once they get the hang of it and begin to see a brand new more interesting you.

So that’s step one. Now step two is a little more tricky and you’ll just have to trust me on this one - but there is good evidence to support me so just do as I say and see how it works. Don’t even think of doing this step until step one has been well mastered - it’ll just confuse people.

Step Two : Ask for Favours
This is called the Ben Franklin Effect. This states that people like you more if they have done a favour for you than if you have done a favour for them.

“He that has once done you a kindness, will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged”

So don’t go bending backwards to do others favours. Ask for favours of them. Asking others to do you a favour works because it so happens that we all tend to favour  people we once helped. Its called Cognitive Dissonance, if you want to look it up. We are so shallow that we just hate the idea of helping someone we don’t like - so to make it easy we tell ourselves that they are our friend. Why? Because we once helped them. Exactly the opposite behaviour we started out with.

Finally, here's a little test to see what stage you're at. What comes after ‘S’ in the alphabet? Correct. Thank you so much - I take two sugars. You failed - go back to step one and repeat.
 I can see you are thanking me already.

Post by Annabel who's had a tough day because there was no-one to make the tea.

The Real Secret can help with issues of self esteem and positive attitude, making and keeping friends and maintaining good relationships. It is available in paperback and kindle format on and .


Personality Disorders - The Rule of Thumb

Given the huge range of personality types (see earlier post here) how useful or helpful is it to talk about personality disorders? What is a normal personality against which abnormal can be defined? Can a personality be so abnormal that it warrants being classified as a form of mental illness?

The Rule of Thumb
The answer is straightforward. A normal personality is extremely difficult to define; an abnormal personality, on the other hand, sticks out like a sore thumb. And that’s because abnormal personalities are defined by consistently odd and unpredictable behaviour which causes real problems for the person, their family, colleagues and friends. This rule of thumb works very well for most behaviours across a wide range of experiences.

In short, if your personality causes distress either to yourself or to others and interferes with your everyday life then it’s abnormal. The occasional episode of outrageous behaviour is not what is meant here and nor are we talking about normal eccentric behaviour. Normal eccentrics don’t usually recognise themselves as eccentric and we typically delight in their eccentric behaviour. It’s when the eccentric behaviour turns to distress that we have a form of personality disorder. According to the rule of thumb - if it sticks out but isn’t sore then it’s just plain eccentric. If it sticks out and causes distress then its ‘Odd-Eccentric’ - abnormal.

Personality disorders affect around 1 to 3 % of the population. Mainstream psychiatry identifies ten personality disorders. Here they are, classified into three groups. First is the odd-eccentric, next the anxious/fearful and third the dramatic-emotional.

This is further broken down into three sub-types.
Paranoid personality disorder
You are constantly distrustful of others and imagine yourself to be threatened by others' intentions - constantly. No let up. And you don’t really exhibit much insight into this as a problem - as far as you are concerned it’s really true. This makes treatment difficult. People with paranoid personality disorder distrust everyone including doctors. The condition makes life difficult because of the effect that the paranoia has on all relationships.
Schizoid Personality Disorder
You are a loner whose behaviour is considered by others to be cold and unemotional. Schizoid personality disorder is a condition in which affected people avoid social activities and consistently shy away from interaction with others. If you have schizoid personality disorder, you may feel as though you have no idea how to form personal relationships. To others, you may appear dull or humourless. Because you don't tend to show emotion, you may appear as though you don't care about what's going on around you. However, although you may seem aloof, you may actually feel extremely sensitive and lonely.
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
If you have schizotypal personality disorder you will have great difficulty in establishing and maintaining close relationships with others. A person with schizotypal personality disorder may have extreme discomfort with such relationships, and therefore have less of a capacity for them. Between 30% and 50% of people with schizotypal personality disorder also have a major depressive disorder. A second personality disorder, such as paranoid personality disorder, is also common with this condition. People with this disorder may be unusually superstitious or preoccupied with paranormal phenomena that are outside the norms of their subculture and this, of course, makes relating to others even more difficult. Schizotypal personality disorder is closely linked to schizophrenia.

Anxious/Fearful Disorders
These include three sub-types.
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Your self-esteem is zero. You are extremely anxious that your perceived inadequacies will be exposed and then ridiculed by others and so you avoid social situations. People with avoidant personality disorder can't stop thinking about their own shortcomings. They form relationships with other people only if they believe they will not be rejected. Loss and rejection are so painful that these people will choose to be lonely rather than risk trying to connect with others.
Dependent Personality Disorder
Exactly as described - you don’t feel able to make decisions for yourself and rely on others to organise your life. People with this disorder feel that they cannot cope on their own and are terrified at the thought of having to do so.
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Are you a perfectionist obsessively devoted to order and routine? Do you require absolute control over everyday tasks? Relationships suffer because here it’s always difficult to have absolute control and this then leads to frustration and anxiety.

Dramatic-Emotional Disorders
These include four sub-types.
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Are you deceitful, violent, care nothing for the safety of yourself and less than nothing for others' safety? Do you lie and steal and manipulate others to do your willing? You are angry and arrogant and show no signs of guilt or remorse. The behaviour of someone with antisocial personality disorder is thankfully rare; hard to treat, it is most often dealt with in a court of law.
Borderline Personality Disorder
This condition is characterised by severe emotional pain and the fear of abandonment. Relationships are chaotic and unstable. You may idealize someone one moment and then abruptly and dramatically shift to fury and hate over perceived slights or even minor misunderstandings. With borderline personality disorder your image of yourself is distorted, making you feel worthless and fundamentally flawed. Your anger and frequent mood swings may push others away, even though you are so fearful of being abandoned. Your relationships are usually in turmoil.  Drug abuse, self harm and suicidal thoughts are common.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
If you have narcissistic personality disorder then you have an inflated sense of your own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they're superior to others and have little regard for other people's feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism. People with this condition need constant reassurance and admiration and they will manipulate and exploit others in order to get it.
Histrionic Personality Disorder
Histrionic personality disorder is characterised by a long-standing pattern of attention-seeking behavior and extreme emotionality. Someone with histrionic personality disorder wants to be the centre of attention - all the time - and will become ‘dramatically’ upset if they lose that attention. Perceived as shallow by others they have real difficulties in maintaining relationships. The behaviour is often hysterical.

Very few of us suffer these personality disorders in their true forms and many of us share an understanding of the facets of each from time to time. There is treatment for many and no good reason to suffer in silence if you feel that your life and relationships are being unduly affected by problems that you believe may be based on personality characteristics. Your shyness, for example, may be crippling and seriously affecting your social life but this does not mean that you have avoidant personality disorder - what it does mean is that you should speak with your GP and see what help there is available. 

Posted by Annabel

The Real Secret 12 Step programme may help personality issues through raising self esteem and positive attitude, advice on relationships and friendships, as well a bringing insights on a range of emotional issues. It is available in paperback and kindle formats on and


Lucy McCarraher interviewed by James Rick on The Full Potential Show

I was recently interviewed by James Rick for his Full Potential show. Here's James Rick's summary of what we said and his own commentary.

The problem with the law of attraction is that it’s so attractive. We want to believe that we can sit, feel, imagine and visualize all the good things we want to come our way and believe that they are going to drop out of the sky. And if they haven’t yet – you’re just not believing hard enough.

Laws, according to the scientific definition, work every time – no matter who is using them, without fail. Otherwise it’s not a law, it’s a theory. Well, I’ve applied the law of attraction to get water to jump into my mouth and transform watermelon into salmon and it hasn’t worked yet. But, I have noticed that the law of gravity has never let me down once, nor has the law of cause and effect – if I lift the cup of water to my lips and drink (cause) then I get hydrated (effect).

So I decided to have Lucy MaCarraher tell us The Real Secret which is also the name of her new book, based on scientifically proven “Happiness Habits” for not only feeling better but laying the foundation for DOING (causing) the things you want to show up in your life (effect).


Smile - It’s such a simple act, but smiling literally released endorphins and makes you feel better. This means you don’t have to wait for something to happen in order to smile, you can smile to make yourself feel better. The more you do it, the better you’ll feel!

Breathe Deep – Breathing deeply sends a signal to your brain and nervous system that all is well. Typical reactions to threats – like fight or flight – make breathing shallow and reinforce stress in the body – but breathing deeply reverses those signals and puts the body at ease. I’ve conditioned myself to do this so that I’m no longer uncomfortable in most social settings.

Be Kind – The act of kindness lights up the same areas of the brain as when you eat chocolate. Some simple ideas for follow through are to look for the positive in people’s work or actions. Verbally let them know how much you appreciate them. Get in the habit of writing thank-you cards on a regular basis.

Organization - Do you have a clean work environment (me neither) or a decent filing system? At the very least, by having an organized system (even if your work environment is chaos), you’ll feel less stress and more empowered through the day.

Set Goals – Our brains are hard-wired for setting and achieving goals. We run our lives on goal-directed activities, achieving goals and closure. In a way, that’s why email can be so addicting. Lucy recommends balancing short-term, daily achievements on a to-do list and long term goals that might take a year or more to accomplish. The balance is critical though – otherwise you’ll lose interest in goal setting. Many people forget what they should be doing because they don’t have a routine that reminds them. Solution: create a routine that incorporates everything you want to accomplish on a daily basis PLUS reminds you to set it up again the next day.

Healthy Eating & Exercise – Lucy has a clever strategy for eating healthier and exercising (according to the Hawthorne effect) – by simply focusing on something and taking note of it, you improve it. So if you’re not exercising or eating healthy – but you take note of it for 30 days, odds are that you’ll automatically begin improving how you eat and how much you exercise. Skeptical? Try it for 30 days!

Friendship - 5 close friends have been correlated to a good sense of well-being. At the same time, you should avoid or disassociate from friends or family members that bring you down. And if you can’t avoid them, be mindful when aggravation happens. Have a selection of thoughts or people that bring happiness in life – use these to press the right button. If you smile, you might see the humor in what someone is doing. Have some emotional and mental tricks that give you a new option before you act…like counting to 10 before you respond.

I take a bold stance on the movie “The Secret” and call it a lie. That might upset you if you’re a fan of “The Secret” or especially, if you’ve starred in it. I do plan to have stars from “The Secret” on the Full Potential Show and from what I understand, they’ll agree activating imagination and clearly defining what you want is only the first step. And a first step is nowhere near a complete process. A half-truth is only half the truth, no matter how you slice it. Lucy’s The Real Secret promises to deliver the other half. Scientifically-proven button pushing that will create the kind of foundation that makes real, results-oriented actions a reality.

Self efficacy, you have to have it to believe it, believe it to have it. Nobody is luckier than anyone else, but people who believe they are lucky see opportunities – where an unlucky person wouldn’t see the opportunity or won’t take action that leads to more positive results. If you’ve created your vision board and you know what you want (based on The Secret).. in the words of Thoreau:

"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

Do have a look at the full interview here and you'll find more about Happiness Habits on this blog and in your own copy of The Real Secret.

Posted by Lucy


The Law of Attraction Killed my Friend


I worked as a radiotherapist in the cancer centre of a large city hospital and in the years that I worked there I came across at least five cases similar to the one reported below - women who came for treatment when it was too late and after they had tried to ‘cure’ themselves using the Law of Attraction techniques.

It is this experience that motivates me now to warn as many people as I can of the dangers of the kinds of advice given in books like The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I still feel overcome with helplessness and anger when I think of the women who I saw die needlessly because of the advice given in this book.

It became the reason Lucy and I titled our book The Real Secret - we wanted to attract attention to the dangerous ideas associated with The Secret with a book of our own based on simple, sensible, scientifically supported research.

This article has been taken from the April Edition of Fair Lady Magazine.

A Deadly Secret

Every time I enter a book shop, there it is – in hardback, paperback and on DVD, millions sold, its author’s success serving as personal proof of the validity of her message. I cringe with revulsion and pain, and think of the dear friend who fatally embraced Rhonda Byrnes’ self-help missive, The Secret.

In 2004, I moved from LA to the university town of Eugene in Oregon, a state wedged between California and Washington. I am given Selena’s* phone number by a mutual friend and when I meet her for lunch I’m greeted by a petite, vivacious woman in her late 40s, her smooth brown skin laden with turquoise Native American jewellery, her laughter quick and joyous.

We quickly discover that we share a sense of adventure, a love for travel and music, and contempt for President George W. Bush, and we bond over her disintegrating relationship and my imploding marriage. Otherwise, we are an unlikely pair: I need my thoughts rooted in logic and my medicine grounded in scientific research; Selena is the new-age vegetarian with a deep distrust of Western medicine and convention, and a passionate embracer of all things alternative. Selena has lived through two of America’s major wars, Vietnam and Iraq, both based on lies. Unfortunately, her well-founded distrust of the American establishment has spilled over into a vague, intellectually careless dismissal of the media, the sciences and ‘Western medicine’ in general.

She argues that natural remedies are not advocated by pharmaceutical companies because they cannot be patented, and reminds me of the abusive treatment of the mentally ill in America and the brutal post-World War II pharmacological experiments on black Americans. I point out that times have changed, and greater regulation combined with the profit motive make it highly unlikely that medical and pharmaceutical companies are paying thousands of researchers to devise new ways of killing potential customers.

She visits me one day, excitedly clutching a copy of the DVD The Secret and starts raving about how suffering is the product of one’s own negative energy, and material success and emotional fulfillment can be realised through positive thinking. I am taken aback by her fervour and appalled that the multilayered complexity of life can be simplistically reduced to positive or negative emotional energy. Was apartheid the result of black people thinking negatively? Was the holocaust some sort of mass suicide by negative energy? How does positive thinking realise a meal when there isn’t a morsel of food in sight? Where does positive thinking end and delusion begin?

Selena drops the subject, surprised and a little embarrassed by my stream of rational objections. She is happy and madly in love with a new man. She goes travelling and meets her lover for a few idyllic weeks in Thailand before rejoining him in Eugene. He thinks it is too early in their relationship for them to live together but invites her to stay with him until she has found a new place. She slides into a depression, lying around, unable to galvanise herself into looking for her own place. Is it menopause? Is it because she doesn’t really want to move and would prefer him to ask her to stay? Both.

Beset by tears and hot flashes, Selena sticks to herbal remedies and desperately tries to be positive. As she emotionally disintegrates, so does her lover’s patience. He ends the relationship and pushes her to move in with a friend.

I urge her to visit a doctor for hormone-replacement pills or anti-depressants. She instinctively grimaces and argues that the pharmaceutical industry’s aggressive marketing has resulted in a generation of absurdly over-medicated Americans.

A few weeks later she gives me the shocking news. About eight months prior, she had noticed a lesion on her vulva. Her gynaecologist had said it was pre-cancerous and needed to be removed and biopsied. Selena had been reluctant to ‘have that done to my body’, and ignored the lesion until it morphed into a sore. Now her stunned and angry gynaecologist, who had assumed she had gone elsewhere for a second opinion and treatment, has informed her she has stage-two cancer of the vulva. Radiation is not an option; she is referred to a surgeon for removal of her clitoris and a chunk of her vulva.

Vulnerable after two intense love affairs and two rejections in a row, Selena says she cannot live with being ‘genitally disfigured’. She insists cancer is a product of ‘negative energy’ and wants to rely on alternative therapy and ‘positive energy’ to cure herself. I suggest the possibility of reconstructive surgery and point out that we probably spend less than 1% of our lives having sex and there are so many joys in life beyond sex and romantic relationships. After all, it seems contradictory to emphasise spirituality and an alternative lifestyle and yet risk her life to stay conventionally intact.

She is unmoved, and suddenly becomes a repository of passionate tales from the Internet about people who avoided invasive surgical and pharmaceutical interventions and cured their cancer with alternative therapy. She calls a mutual friend and itinerant psychic in Hawaii. The cards are thrown, the energies in Oregon are analysed in Hawaii courtesy of satellite technology, and Selena’s decision to stake her life on alternative treatment is further validated. I offer my support and tell her that I really hope I am wrong.

She retreats to Ashland, Oregon, to receive ‘light therapy’, and dutifully limits her diet to puréed organic greens and herbs recommended by her alternative practitioners.

Physically, Selena looks wonderful and her skin glows, but she quietly volunteers that the lesion is not getting smaller. Yet her chosen course of treatment places her under acute pressure to be positive no matter what. She cannot vent any understandable anxiety and fear because it is only positive energy that will cure her, so she determinedly remains upbeat and spiritual, about to follow up the Ashland experiment with another alternative treatment in Hawaii. At least she will spend time in a beautiful place. She pensively admits, however, that she cannot swim in the ocean because the salt will irritate her sore. And she cannot have sex.

I am returning to South Africa and feel desperate and helpless as we hug goodbye. I deliver some upbeat, encouraging platitudes before getting into my car and weeping uncontrollably. My emails and calls from South Africa go unanswered. On June 22, I am bursting with thoughts of Selena.

I call and leave another message on her cellphone and get no response. I call again shortly after, and a man answers. I ask for her and he bluntly announces that he is her father and that she passed away on June 22.

Selena died just nine months after receiving the cancer diagnosis. My beautiful friend with the simple dreams so many of us share – to laugh and love and be loved – spent the last nine months of her life not living it up, but frenetically disciplining herself, avoiding decadence, limiting her culinary choices to raw green mush, unable to swim, and unable to have the sex for which she was throwing her life away. In a dreadful irony, she spent the last two weeks of her life in a Eugene hospital, wracked with agony as the cancer charged through her body.

Since alternative-medicine practitioners reject pharmaceuticals and practice optimistic denial, they have little to offer those in acute pain. By the time Selena’s suffering forced her into the clutches of ‘Western medicine’, it was too late for anything but morphine and palliative care from medical doctors and nurses who couldn’t understand how she could have been so naive and irrational, while alternative-medicine acolytes quietly blamed her for not being sufficiently positive, thereby ‘surrendering’ to the ‘negative energy’ that ‘causes’ cancer.

I relay Selena’s story to a relative who is a Rhonda Byrne fan, and she, too, defensively responds that ‘deep down, she must have been negative’. Therein lies the exquisite paradox: The Secret is always ‘proven’ right, whether it works or not.

How ironic, when so many doctors and therapists have pointed out that it is the repression of one’s true feelings that generates stress. Oprah Winfrey has done many positive things for the world but helping turn The Secret into an international bestseller was not one of them.  

*Name has been changed.
Photo: amandaism/stock.xchng
This article was originally printed in the South African Fair Lady Magazine

Posted by Annabel

The Real Secret - what to do when the universe hasn't delivered everything you ever wanted is available in paperback and kindle on and

^ Scroll to Top