Fresh out of a breakup in my freshman year of college, I started writing self-improvement goals on a dry-erase board in my dorm because, well, that’s just something breakups make me do. My roommate’s best friend walked in the room and saw my goals, then suggested I watch a movie called The Secret, because she thought it would really help me.

So that summer I watched it and it was… interesting. This 2006 documentary encouraged positive thinking based on the “Law of Attraction.” The Secret is that if one believes that they will receive a positive outcome and they repeat this belief in their head and only have positive thoughts about it, this positive energy will attract the item, person, or achievement desired. But does the Secret really work?  

Here are the first 20 minutes of the film, in which the featured authors, philosophers, and scientists of the documentary do a far better job than me in explaining the Secret:

I definitely agree that positive thinking is the first step to reaching a goal. Henry Ford put it best: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can‘t - you’re right.” And, I’ll admit that when I first saw this movie, I was so inspired by it. I couldn’t wait to think my way to success. But I just watched it again the other night I found it kind of silly. 

The documentary proposes that the energy used to think about something has a physical effect on whether or not that thing is attracted to you. I’m not denying that thoughts have energy, or that this energy varies with mood. But I don’t think that it’s useful to depend on a connection with the universe, whether or not it exists, to fulfill our desires. Though the movie doesn’t necessarily suggest sitting around and doing nothing, it seems to place all the proactive power in the universe. They suggest you wait around for a sign while conducting life as though you already have what you want. You don’t take any action until the universe does. But in my opinion, being proactive is the first step to achieving your goals quickly.

Also, the movie ruins this wonderfully simple advice by including all this scientific jargon about the relationship between our thoughts and the universe, which is difficult to believe and unnecessary. Plus I think it’s kind of funny how they make the Secret seem like this ancient key of wisdom and use all these weird cut scenes of “historical” reenactments, and whispered recitations of quotes by powerful people such as Abe Lincoln. Definitely effective from a cinematic perspective, but from a more critical angle, I had to laugh at some of these clips.

Despite everything I just said, I do highly recommend this movie to anyone looking to achieve big goals or turn their lives around. I still found it inspiring the second time, even if I also found it cheesier. Just don’t take their advice, or the Secret, too literally. Think positively, but take stuff into your own hands too.

What do you think of this movie? Have you ever depended on positive thinking alone to reach a goal?