I recently signed up to a course helping me to navigate the treacherous world of on-line course creation.  As part of the course I was asked to interview my ‘ideal customer’.  

Namely the questions centred around my potential client’s struggles, how they had gone about seeking help in the past, what books they’d read and what actions they’d taken to get to where they wanted to be.  These were designed for us to get a true feel for our customers’ mindset and language, and enable us to properly write in a way that would speak to those that may be looking for our services.

To be clear I’m a psychologist who specialises in ‘change’ and the majority of my work focuses on career shift with many of my clients leaving jobs they quite honestly hate, to go on to do more fulfilling work or even set up their own business based on their true passion.

Been there and done that

To be honest when I saw that we were being asked to do these interviews, I rolled my eyes a little.  I’ve been working in the field of psychology for lover 25 years, and have worked with my ‘ideal customers’ for a long time, so the thought of asking these ‘low level’ questions made me frustrated.  Mostly it felt like a waste of time.  

I knew my customers. The work I did helped people and got results, and the work I did on a psychological level was way more in-depth than the simple questions I was being asked to pose to these potential customers.  

But what I learnt was really quite remarkable.

Who knew this is what I would hear?

All the women interviewed were professional, so were in what would be considered a ‘good career’ with the option of progression.  They were all college educated.  

Unsurprisingly, as I had originally guessed, they answered many of the questions in an obvious fashion, telling me about ‘feeling stuck’ in their job which gave them a good salary and sense of security.  Some talked about the reliance their families had on such an income, and then there were the usual but important issues around the confidence to know what they could even do, aside from what they were already trained in?  

These answers were all straight forward enough and I felt good that I clearly had a grasp on my clients and what they struggled with.  But there was one completely unexpected thing that came up in every interview bar none, something that I had not accounted for, and that was what I can only call ‘magical thinking’.

Magic has a lot to answer for

It turned out that all the women, bar none, divulged to me that they had engaged in courses, read books and had engaged in practices that involved things like ‘the law of attraction’, angels and guides, phases of the moon, spirit guides and other wonderful and mystical ceremonies I’d never heard of.

When I dug a little deeper on these questions, I came to see that these weren’t just things that they were doing in their spare time for interest of fun or ‘in addition to’ other things.

Most of these women had now resulted in doing these things as a primary focus. In most cases they had given up on other strategies and were now solely zoned-in on these ‘magical’ practices as a way to achieve their hearts desire, in the hope that they would ‘help me attract my dream job’, ‘help me find my soul-mate’, ‘help manifest money in abundance’,

The Problem

What’s the problem with that you may ask?

Well first of all, I hold my hands up to say that I have one foot firmly in what may be considered the woo-woo.  

I’ve recommended the Celestine Phrophecy to more people than I care to remember over the years.  I’ve seen things I can’t explain, have actively lucid dreamt since I was a child and believe in the law of attraction to name a few things; but at no time would I consider that these actions are in the driving seat when it comes to changing my life.

The problem I have is when I see that there are people relying on these things to get them what they want.

The stories told to me were by women who were clearly at the end of their tether. 

They were exhausted from trying other things, from not knowing,  from feeling desperate and out of control.  Like the life they wanted is not possible, so the only way to achieve what they wanted was to hand complete control over to the unknown.  

The fact is, is that women in this situation spend hundreds and thousands on courses and products, often made by charlatans, who see their desperation, and then boldly and unashamedly cash in on their despair and intense desire to change. 

Yes, my moon ritual will bring you more money.  Yes, these crystals will help you heal your heart and control your anxiety.  Yes, my manifestation course will being you the man of your dreams!

A time and a place

As I’ve eluded to here, I think there is a time and a place for ‘magical thinking’.  I don’t think it’s all bad.

There’s good evidence to show for example that thinking positively and actively visualising who and where you want to be, is good and can help produce tangible results. That’s is to say nothing of the placebo effect.

But soul reliance on other such magical thinking, and unfounded practices can be damaging.  The damage is not least of which to your bank balance but importantly to your psyche and spirit, as you buy product after product and do ritual after ritual, only to see nothing has changed.  

Surely this ends up being even more soul destroying over time, as we realise yet again, that all we wished for has not come to fruition?  And to add insult to injury, that we handed over any control we may have had to an unknown source, when the true power and ability to change was always within us.  

Do the work

In my opinion, to really make a change we have to do the work. 

I’ve worked with enough people who’ve made true changes in their life and career, to see that it’s a practical, action-based, albeit arguably boring approach that gets us to where we want to be.  It’s not always sexy and it’s not that magical I’m afraid, but it works.

A practical approach to our physical reality involves looking at what we have at our disposal, as well as our psychology, to help us figure out what’s stopping or hindering our progress and then taking action. One step in front of the other, every day, consistently working towards your goal.

This is  the true way forward.  This way allows us to forge ahead and makes changes in our lives. It sadly doesn’t look like dancing naked under the moonlight, wearing fairy wings and chanting. Though don’t let me me stop you if you think that alongside all the other practical work you’re doing, that this is helping?

I just say let these magical practices serve a different purpose.  

Have them be one of interest, intrigue or experimentation, or maybe even just fun or play!  These would all be much more healthy ways of engaging with such things. 

This way we let these magical practices just seem like the fairy dust on on top of a very practical cake!

That’s how change can really happen.


  • Serena Simmons

    UK based Chartered Psychologist and founder of The Psychology School

    Serena has over 25 years experience working in the field of psychology. She has worked as a Senior Psychology Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University for over 13 years and is the founder of The Psychology School, her own psychology consultancy specialising in Human Change & Peak Performance. She has featured on the BBC, The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, SKY News, Radio 5 Live, Radio 4 and The Conversation.