I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.
An affirmation is defined as a statement or proposition that is declared to be true. Self-affirmations were first popularized by French psychologist Emile Coué back in the 1920s, so they have been around for some time.
Proponents of the “law of attraction” often credit self-affirmations as being capable of magnetically drawing positive things such as financial success, love, and renewed health to us. But it is our belief that more than positive mental visualization is required to be happy and successful.
Of course, as highlighted in our book (co-author @Steve Payne) My 31 Practices, affirmations play a crucial role in directing our attention and awareness to the areas of our lives that we would like to improve. But the important part of our process, is a recognition of the actions that must accompany these thoughts to bring them into reality.
Here is an explanation of why the affirmation approach is effective by Manprit Kaur – it is great to see such clear focus on practice:
“Remember, by making affirmations, you are consciously programming your mind to think in a certain way, so that hopeful and happy thinking becomes a part of your being. Affirmations are a way to train the mind; and training happens when you practice, practice, practice! Training requires conscious effort, discipline, belief, and consistency. That is exactly how you need to practice your affirmations.”
What do they look like?
Affirmations are simply statements that are designed to create self-change in the person using them or to reinforce current wanted behaviour. They can operate at a number of levels (a simple reminder, inspiration, focusing attention) with the potential to develop and embed positive and sustained change. Over time it becomes natural.
Four Guidelines for Effective Affirmations
1. First person: begin your affirmations with “I”. This makes your statements personal to you, and easy for you to associate with and take responsibility for.
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can.
Watty Piper The Little Engine That Could
2. Present tense: write your affirmations as if they are already happening. This means saying, “I offer thoughtful gestures to people” rather than “I will offer thoughtful gestures to people”. The present tense is far more compelling than the future tense where you can find reasons that this is not what happens right now. For a similar reason, avoid using the phrase “try to” – this creates an opportunity for you to find an excuse or reason not to do something and weakens your commitment.
Do. Or do not. There is no try.
Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
3. Positive language: focus on what you want to do rather than what you do not want to do. For example, “I enjoy making healthy choices when eating” rather than “I no longer eat fast foods”.
4. Emotional, personal words: these positive emotions are powerful motivators. For a similar reason, use specific words or phrases that you use or relate to. For example, “I hang out with my pals to feel happy” rather than “I spend time with my friends,” which sounds impersonal and like a bit of a chore.
Words can inspire and words can destroy. Choose yours well
How do you use them?
We believe that the daily discipline of my31Practices is an important factor in building affirmations that work to creative positive change in your life. But what is more important than what we believe or think, is what works best for you. Different people have different preferences.
Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion.
This is why you can set your affirmation reminder at a time to suit you. In line with the myPractices approach we suggest that you take some quiet time to focus on your affirmations for the day. You might like to write it down, repeat it out loud, leave notes or associated quotes around the house. Then at the end of the day before you sleep, spend some time considering your experiences during the day. Just take five minutes to try these things for one or two days and see what differences you notice.
So what? Do they work?
There is a range of opinion in recent research. On the one hand, some researchers suggest the benefits of using affirmations include:
– protection against the damaging effects of stress on problem-solving performance
– fostering better problem-solving
– helping deal with threats to our self-integrity
People can be affirmed by engaging in activities that remind them of “who they are” (and doing so reduces our need for defensive responses when faced with implications for self-integrity of threatening events).
There are other researchers who cite the lack of supporting scientific evidence and see possible advantages and disadvantages for different groups of people.
Another school of thought focuses on mindfulness and a commitment to an alignment of values and behaviour.
So where do all of these seemingly contradictory points of view take us? Well, we believe it can all be distilled down into the following:
Affirmations by themselves may be of some value to some people, BUT, when used as part of a broader approach (alongside other techniques such as mindfulness, practice, recognition and reward, reinforcement, and others) can TOGETHER be a powerful approach to the way you think, behave, and feel. Perhaps we should invent a new word: Affirmactions.
First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.