I get these two questions a lot from people who are using affirmations. When are affirmations an effective tool? How do I know that an affirmation is working?
Affirmations are an extremely effective tool for self-development, behavior modification, thought substitution, or skill enhancement when you do three things:
- Decide and commit to change.
- Set realistic goals.
- Clearly define your goals.
You have to decide and commit to change. Until you do that, your affirmations are just wishful thinking. Without action and belief, your affirmations will fail. So will other methods. Counseling, visualization, and any other technique require some commitment on your part.
Secondly, your goals should be realistic. To use affirmations effectively, you need to separate reality from hyperbole. There is, in my opinion, a lot of misinformation circulating in the positive thinking arena right now.
There are some popular programs around that promise that if you believe something, anything hard enough, it will be yours. They create an impression that thoughts are the key to some cosmic ATM that will leave you rich and healthy…somehow perfected…if only you believe strongly enough. These, to me, are reminiscent of an “eat anything and lose weight” diet.
Your thoughts are the most powerful tool for improving your capabilities, but a 65-year old man is not going to think himself into winning an Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash. If you’re 65 and you want to run the 100-meter dash, wonderful! Work on being the best you can be. Aligning your thoughts with that goal will allow you to achieve far more than you ever imagined.
Your thoughts are a tool for improving not perfecting yourself. This topic could be several additional posts, but the point is to be realistic. Once you reach early goals, stretch yourself a bit further. The change is organic, not instant.
Thirdly, it is not possible to know how well the affirmation or affirmations are working unless you have a clear picture of what you are using them to achieve. You need to have a picture in your mind of what success looks like. Then you use carefully selected affirmations that target or support that goal.
Let’s say you are football quarterback who wants to improve game performance. You need to first identify what aspects of your game need improvement and then use affirmations that specifically support the mental and physical behaviors that will help you achieve that change.
So, how do you know the affirmations are working? Let’s take thought substitution as an example. Let’s say you have some very old self talk that says, “You’re so stupid,” or “You can’t play baseball,” or “You’ll never be an actor.” Usually, these thoughts were planted by someone else at some point in our lives. Because the tape has never been replaced, it plays on cue each time you face the situation.
A typical affirmation to overcome any of these thoughts is something positive like, “I am so smart,” or “I am a great baseball player,” or “I am a great actor. I really connect with my audience.”
An easy way to know your affirmation is working is when you face the situation and the old thought comes up; but your new positive thought immediately answers the old negative thought.
For example, “You are so stupid,” is immediately answered by “No, I am so smart.”
Repetition, belief, and the desire to change all play into how well affirmations work. They are simply a tool that can help you improve an area of your life.
Empower Your Mind!
Ray Davis is the founder of The Affirmation Spot. He’s been studying and practicing personal development for 30 years. He’s also studied many of the world’s spiritual traditions and mythologies.
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