top of page


  • Writer's pictureAllison Abrams, LCSW-R

The Secret to Happiness: How to Create the Life You Want

“What if I never meet my soulmate? How can I ever truly be happy?” This question was raised by one brave participant in a recent “deliberate living and conscious creating” workshop taught by Mike Dooley, a contributor to Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. His answer, revealed later in this article, may surprise you.

As a therapist, healer, and advocate of living your best life, I’m always on the lookout for the newest, most innovative techniques in helping people break through their greatest obstacles—usually themselves—to bring positive change into their lives. So when I read that Dooley was holding a weekend workshop that would teach individuals to do just that, I quickly signed up.

Armed with a dose of healthy skepticism, I was excited to possibly incorporate these ideas into my psychotherapy practice as well as my own life. I had read Dooley’s book Notes from the Universe: New Perspectives from an Old Friend several years ago and was impressed. Dooley’s tagline, “thoughts become things,” speaks to the theory that the thoughts we think, the words we speak, and our basic core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us manifest into our physical reality. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other modalities work in a similar way, bridging our thinking with our feelings and actions.

One need not believe in God or religion—or cognitive behavioral therapy, for that matter—to understand these ideas. One need simply believe that there is a force out there greater than ourselves and beyond what the physical senses can perceive, and that we, as humans, have a great deal more power than we realize. If you’ve read The Secret or anything related to the law of attraction, this is not a new concept.

What Dooley provides is a practical action plan designed to teach people to harness the gift of imagination to create the life of their dreams. The gist of his program is not to attach to specific outcomes or circumstances, which are beyond our control, but to focus on the emotions that these things engender. For example, if you’ve been preoccupied with getting that book deal or that one acting role because you think it will provide you with lasting happiness or financial abundance, you are setting yourself up for disappointment if the book or movie deal doesn’t come through. You’d be better served placing your focus on what it feels like to be creatively fulfilled and to have financial independence, and think of all the possible ways that can lead to that. Don’t attach to the “hows,” he reinforces, but focus on and attach to the feeling. Attachment to specific outcomes, after all, is the source of most unpleasant human emotions and suffering, as the Buddhists have known for time immemorial.

In less metaphysical terms, by focusing your thoughts on positive feelings and outcomes, you’re more likely to move into action to take the steps necessary to getting what you want.

Too often, we struggle with a perceived feeling of powerlessness—believing that we will be happy only when or if circumstances are different. “If my career would just take off,” we say, or “if only I had more money or I had a partner” … “then I would truly be happy.” The problem with this style of thinking, though inherent to the human condition, is it can cause us to remain stuck in a perpetual cycle of despair.

If the story you tell yourself and others is that you “have no money,” or, as the participant described above believed, “there are no good men out there,” then you will continue to be in a state of lack and you will continue to find all the “wrong” people. Conversely, if you change the story and start thinking, speaking, and believing the opposite, then the universe will conspire to make it happen. In less metaphysical terms, by focusing your thoughts on positive feelings and outcomes, you’re more likely to move into action to take the steps necessary to getting what you want.

Practical things to do starting now:

  • Say yes! Be open to any and all possibilities. You may not want to go to the party with that annoying coworker, but you never know who you’ll meet there.

  • Focus on the desired feeling, not the material result. In other words, if you are going to obsess as humans do, obsess over the feeling of abundance and love, not the house or that one person.

  • Create a vision board. Or it could be a scrap book, or any compilation including the limitless possibilities or options that would bring you joy (or abundance, creative fulfillment, or love, etc.).

  • Visualize, visualize, visualize. Everything in existence began with a thought. If you can’t see it, you probably won’t get it. Think back to a time when you felt overwhelmed with joy, for example, and feel that feeling in your body … and get used to it!

  • Incorporate gratitude. This one should be a given; however, if you’re not already implementing gratitude into your life, start now. Whether it’s keeping a gratitude journal or simply waking up each morning reminding yourself of all there is to be grateful for, training your mind to focus on the positive may bring about more of the same.

If Dooley’s program in particular does not speak to you, there are a multitude of similar programs out there which can serve as a wonderful adjunct to good therapy in overcoming personal obstacles and achieving greater well-being. How We Choose to Be Happy by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks; Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer; and Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting: The Astonishing Power of Feelings by Lynn Grabhorn are just a few.

As for Dooley’s answer to that question raised by the participant unable to find her soulmate? Live your life as if you will never meet him! As radical as that may sound, he has a point. If you’ve had your heart set on one specific dream, one career, one person, or any one specific outcome, you are setting yourself up for heartache and/or disillusionment if that does not manifest.

Instead, remain open to all possibilities, and, as Dooley believes, if that particular dream doesn’t come true, it’s likely because there’s an even better one waiting for you. While you’re busy having fun and living a life of joy and happiness, you will surely attract people who will want nothing more than to join your party.

None of this is to say you should give up your dream. Just be open, as you never know—it may just be that Plan B was the path meant for you all along.

This article was originally published on GoodTherapy.


bottom of page