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


Seven Steps to Self Help

If you browse the ‘self-help’ shelves of a bookshop you will come across a vast array of different self-help strategies and approaches. You could spend some time going through the different books looking for the one that you think will best suit you and your particular problems. Nothing wrong in that – after all we are all different and our problems come in all shapes and sizes. Indeed, a ”one size fits all” approach to therapy is very unlikely to be effective.

There are, however, a few underlying principles which form the backbone of all good therapeutic approaches and these basic principles also apply when you're trying to make changes in your life with or without a self help programme. Once you have the basic principles under your belt, the question of which approache you should consider will become very much easier. The First and Most Important Principle is to:

1. Trust Yourself to Find Your Own Solutions
The best help for you will be the help you create for yourself. You need to find your own solutions and any therapist or any self-help book worth their salt will help you do just that. Rather than imposing a “cure all” they will seek only to help and support you find your own way out of any difficulty. It’s true that therapists may have studied and know more about techniques and treatments than you, and you may well need their help and guidance, but no-one knows yourself better than you do. Recognising this, a good therapist should ask you to Trust Yourself to work things out above all other advice. This is because until you trust yourself to help yourself you will never be helped – no matter how knowleagable or experienced your therapist. Beware the books that tell you they have a magic cure. There is no magic cure. No quick solution that doesn’t involve you doing most of the work. Sorry – but you know I’m right.

2. Remember You Are Not Alone
When suffering we often tend to feel as if we are the only one. Everyone else seems so much happier or at least, even if they do have problems, they seem to be in control and able to cope so much better that us. The truth is, we all have problems and we all cope as best we can. It’s true that some people cope better than others for some things – but they may well do worse in other areas. One thing is for sure – if you are human you will suffer. Scratch the surface of any of us and you’ll find a story comparable to your own – you are not alone. Keep this in mind especially when you find yourself feeling a bit slef-pitying.

When you’re feeling particularly downcast, one tip is to think of someone who’s faced a similar situation and handled it well. What can you learn from their situation and the way in which they dealt with it? It could be someone you know, but just as helpful are examples from literature or film. Another suggestion is to imagine your current life and its difficulties as a film with you as the scriptwriter. What different solutions or endings can you imagine?

3. Take one small step at a time
Problems come in all shapes and sizes and our responses to these problems differ enormously but one thing we all sometimes do is to make our problems appear bigger than they really are. We need to keep things in perspective, or risk feeling overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to a sense of helplessness, and it’s this helplessness that you need to avoid at all costs. Whatever the size of the problem, the way to begin tackling it, is not to expect to deal with it all at once. Like climbing an enormous mountain you need to take one step at a time. If you spend too much time thinking about the size of the mountain you would probably give up before beginning. The same applies to problems and difficulties – concentrate on the small steps you can take and keep going.

4. Are you sure about wanting to change?
This is a tricky one. Many of us say we want to change things because we feel unhappy with the way things are at the moment. We talk about making  "life changes" and, indeed, there are now hundreds of books on the subject. Of course, it’s fine to make changes, but before we can even begin we really need to know not only what it is that we want to change but, far more importantly, we need to imagine what our lives will look like when we have made those changes. What’s your life going to be like when you no longer have the particular problem that so upsets you now? There is no point setting out on a difficult journey – change is always difficult – if you don’t know where you’re headed or even if it’s where you want to be.

5. Filling in the gaps
It’s important to consider what your new life will look like after you have dealt with those things in your current life which you wish to change. In doing this you will come to realise that some of your old habits will need to be replaced by new habits if you are to be successful. What, for example, are you going to do with the time you’ll save when you no longer have to deal with the problems that so beset you now? Filling in those gaps with positive behaviours will help support, in the long term, any changes you make now. In other words, you need to think about the positive aspects of change and make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of seeing only problems.

6. Be Open to Change 
The notion that there is a perfect life just waiting for you to discover, once you’ve got over present difficulties, is nonsense. There is no such perfect life. Not for you and not for anyone. An interesting life, on the other hand, will be constantly interrupted with problems and difficulties that you’ll need to sort out or overcome. Being open to change will give you the necessary flexibility to deal with these problems, so don’t be afraid of change. Change can open up all sorts of interesting possibilities. Try to see change as a positive force and avoid seeing change as a necessary evil.

7. What Role Do You Play In Your Difficult Life?
This is no easy question and one that asks you to be scrupulously honest with yourself. Is there any chance that you could perhaps be making things worse for yourself ? Is there any chance that you are actually maintaining the difficult situation by refusing to acknowledge your own part in it? Perhaps the hardest part of any resolution of life’s problems is taking responsibility for our own actions, accepting that perhaps, just perhaps, we might in fact be a big part of the problem. One way of gauging the part you are playing is to return to imagining your current life as a script – a book or a film. What other actions could you have taken to avoid the situation that now troubles you? In the light of that, can you think of anything that you could do now to make things better in the future ?
In Short: Is it always someone else’s fault?

There are exercises in A Simpler Life – our audio book – which can help you reconnect with your authentic self and your personal values, and The Real Secret is a flexible self help book which you can use to create your own self development programme. They are both available on and

Posted by Annabel

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