Affirmations Are Still the Workhorse for Self-Improvement

This article was originally written in 2008 and posted to ezinearticles.com

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in blogs and information within the self-development community. In an effort to promote their own paths, some seem more than willing to tear down other self-improvement approaches.

It’s hard for me to imagine how tearing each other down builds anyone up or helps shift people or the world in the best directions.

Someone truly wanting to help people would admit that there are many approaches capable of helping people improve themselves, their life status, and their thinking. Each person should evaluate different options and determine what works best with his or her current situation.

Recently, I’ve read blogs by practicioners of several self-help methodologies just raking affirmations up one side and down the other. The bloggers called them “delusional”, “wasteful”, and “dangerous”.

I’ve seen stinging criticisms blaming affirmations for manifesting a state of denial. These strawman characterizations paint every user of affirmations as an 87-year old woman wanting to be an Olympic athlete or a depressed person trying to create a fictitious happiness.

Mostly, people who use affirmations are salespeople wanting to build their skills and confidence to make or exceed quota this month. Which salespeople do you suppose make quota? Those whose minds are filled with thoughts of “I can” or those whose minds are filled with “I can’t” or “I’m not sure if I can.”?

Athletes use affirmations to gain that razor thin margin of victory that having the mental edge can bring. Writers who face a blank page every day to earn a living use affirmations to keep them inspired through rejection letters and writers block. Dancers trying be mentally prepared for that big audition or looking to advance their careers use affirmations.

People use affirmations to stay motivated to exercise, to stay focused on a big reward they are giving themselves for their hard work, or to remain committed to their diets. People use affirmations to counter the volumes of negative information that works its way into their brains every day from mainstream media.

And yes, depressed people, like I once was, use affirmations to pull themselves up out of the hole they find themselves in. It’s easy to criticize from the relative safety of a happy, prosperous life. However, when you’re really down and out all you have is the thought, the hope of a better day.

Are all these people delusional? Have they bought into some destructive ideology of happy thoughts that hold no meaning in reality? Hardly.

I’ve said often in this blog that affirmations are just one tool in your self-development toolkit. Like any methodology they are extremely effective for some people and less so for others. There is no debate, though, that affirmations are very effective at doing one simple, but critical thing. Over time, they replace limiting, negative, and unproductive thoughts with empowering, positive, and productive thoughts.

I’m not sure why affirmations have become the favorite whipping boy for some supposed leaders in the self-development world. Maybe because so many people use them successfully. Maybe because they have a track record of success many other approaches aspire to. Hey, isn’t that kind of positive thinking delusional? :o)

What I do know for sure is that affirmations will keep motivating people to be their best (whatever that is for them at this moment) and aspire to more. Those who want to tear affirmations down should really consider whether that serves their inferred goal of helping others.

Follow your bliss. Experience your bliss. Become your bliss.

Ray Davis is the founder of The Affirmation Spot. He’s spent more than 25 years studying personal development and especially writing, recording, and using affirmations to achieve his goals. His eBook – The Power to Be You – offers 416 life-changing and original quotes, ideas, and affirmations to take you to new levels of achievement and reflection.

anunnaki_cover_full_colorAnunnaki Awakening: Revelation, Ray’s first novel,  is turning heads and opening minds. Humanity’s past is checkered, secret, and dangerous.

White House Correspondent Maria Love is on to the story of her life and with the help of an Anunnaki leader seeks to unravel and reveal history’s biggest conspiracy. The Awakening has begun!

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Incremental Affirmations

sun in handsOne of the biggest obstacles faced by people using affirmations is the conundrum of the big dream and the humble beginning.

You might say, “I have big dreams, but they are hard to believe right now. When I use an affirmation in support of those dreams my mind tells me my affirmation is impossible.”

That rejection of your big dream by your logical mind is called cognitive dissonance in psychological circles. Cognitive dissonance is your natural reaction when a thought or an idea does not match your perception of how the world operates.

You see this concept at play in the mother of an accused murderer. When that mother is interviewed she cannot reconcile her image of her baby boy with that of a murderer. Denial sets in and she rejects the accusation. Her mind searches for a more comfortable belief.

stepping stonesIn your every day goal/dream setting, you face a similar challenge.

Let’s say you are a technical writer for a manufacturing company. In your spare time, you are working on the great American novel. “One day,” you dream, “I want to be land on the New York Times Bestseller List.”  You can use an affirmation like:

“I am a New York Times Bestseller List author.”

I would call this an aspirational affirmation for the writer in question. Aspirational affirmations are effective, if you can overcome the cognitive dissonance. They are about embodying your dream long before you arrive – “fake it until you make it'”

However, many, if not most, people get hung up right there. Your logical mind quite rightly reminds you that you are not a best-selling author and your thinking takes a negative turn instead of the positive turn the affirmation was intended to provide.

Many people find this hard to overcome. Nothing causes more people to try and quit with affirmations than cognitive dissonance. It is a real challenge.

You could use a future tense affirmation such as:

“I will be a New York Times Bestseller List author.”

However, this violates another basic tenet of affirmations – that they are most powerful when phrased in the present tense. Putting an affirmation in future tense steals the power from it. The key to changing your thinking is to affirm that something is happening right now.

This solution is what I call incremental affirmations.

Incremental affirmations are the affirmations you use in the early stages of your journey towards your big dream. They simultaneously place the affirmation in the present tense, while scaling it to believability. The focus is on the same goal and there is an ever-important impetus on action happening now.

Incremental affirmations are created by using words like “on my way” or “in the process of becoming”. These phrases imply that I am taking all the necessary steps and doing all the necessary work to reach for my dream, while acknowledging that I am not yet there.

So, our friend the technical writer with the small book and the big dreams can succeed with an affirmation like:

“I am on my way to becoming a New York Times Bestselling author.”

Follow your bliss. Experience your bliss. Become your bliss.

Ray

Ray Davis is the founder of The Affirmation Spot and an advocate for the potential of the human race.  He’s the author of the breakthrough novel Anunnaki Awakening: Revelation – order your signed copy today at AATrilogy.com

anunnaki_cover_full_colorAnunnaki Awakening: Revelation is turning heads and opening minds. Humanity’s past is checkered, secret, and dangerous.

White House Correspondent Maria Love is on to the story of her life and with the help of an Anunnaki leaders seeks to unravel and reveal history’s biggest conspiracy. The Awakening has begun!

How to Know Affirmations are Working

world musicI 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:

  1. Decide and commit to change.
  2. Set realistic goals.
  3. 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.

Modern technology smartphoneThere 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

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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