Affirmations? There’s a better way

In the world of self-help, affirmations are the bread and butter of creating change. We want something in our lives, so we write affirmations, we repeat them, and we memorize them.

Any program leader or sage advice-giver will tell you the rules of affirmations:

  • They should be in the present tense: I am… I thrive… I have…
  • They should describe the circumstances you want to create and remind you that what you desire is fully present in this moment.
  • You should say or write them daily, or 3 X day, or 20 X a day… with feeling!
  • Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I get that. But it feels so … fake – right?

If my goal is a new car, my affirmation tells me I already have it. But when I look in my garage, I see my seven-year-old compact, not the Mercedes of my affirmation. It deflates the energy of that goal for me and I don’t feel like I can conquer all obstacles, I feel like I’m stuck exactly where I’ve always been.

Is that how it feels for you?

Well, I’m about to turn the practice of affirmations upside down.

Yes, it’s important to name your goals and encourage yourself to attain them. But here’s the deal: What you say is important, but how you address yourself when engaging in self-talk is critical.

Psychologist and researcher Ethan Kross noticed a difference in the inner monologue of people who have forward movement as contrasted to those who don’t see progress. He observed that by using the pronoun, I, as we are directed to do in creating our affirmations, you’re likely to perform poorly.   But, when you talk to yourself using your actual name, your chances of success soar.

Say, (first name), you …. (affirm your ability or action).

Here’s why it works.  Distancing the message by talking to yourself by name is like you’re counseling a friend – you’re outside of the situation now and can see things more clearly. It allows you to transcend your own ego. Language creates distance, and distance creates perspective.

When you shift your perspective to more of a fly-on-the-wall outsider, it allows you more flexibility and openness. You’re more able to think things through in a wise and measured way because you’ve tricked your brain into thinking about it as though the situation belonged to someone else.

As Kross explains, “… taking a step back and becoming a detached observer can help… People engaging in this process, using their own first name, are distancing themselves from the self, right in the moment, and that helps them perform.”

So, rather than repeating an affirmation that tells me “I have the car of my dreams,” I now say “Debra, you know what it takes to get a new car – you can do this!”

That feels so much more authentic and real to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you tried it?  What was the impact/result?  Please comment below!


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