I actually can’t answer the question I posed in the headline.
I’ve tried saying affirmations off and on over the past 30 some-odd years, with the hope of making positive changes to some of my behaviors and outcomes. I’ve repeated them both silently and aloud, in the shower, while driving or when going on walks.
Over the years,the topics generally haven’t varied much; they include my weight, my finances, my career and my relationships. Areas where a lot of us would like to see improvement.
Often, I’ve felt uncomfortable doing them. Like I’m telling myself lies (“Come on, Mary Anne, you are not at your ideal weight–you haven’t been even close since you quit smoking eight years ago, and even before that.”) Or like I’m parroting Saturday Night Live’s Stuart Smalley, with an audience laugh track (not even a live audience!) playing each time I try to affirm something about myself that just ain’t so.
Every time I’ve tried affirmations. I’ve given up on them or forgot about them after a short while, and settle back in to the comfortable quagmire of my own imperfect self. I let bubble up the frequently negative yet more familiar thought patterns I’ve had for decades, thoughts that are easier for me to actually believe. After all, it is easier for me to live with “You’re just a dreamer. You’re an underachiever. You’re disorganized. You suck at managing your finances” because I see evidence of those traits all around me.
I bumble along, letting those thought patterns make me feel lousy about myself and what my life has become…until I read or hear something new by someone who swears that positive affirmations do work. So I dust off some old discarded ones or write up some new ones and give them another try…for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks.
The most recent person I’ve listened to expound on the value and validity of repeating positive affirmations was business motivational speaker Dr. Alan Zimmerman. I’ve been a longtime fan of Dr. Z., have read his weekly newsletter for years and have purchased a couple of his books, and believe the lessons and stories he shares apply as much to life in generally as they do to being a leader in the workplace. So when he put recently some of his products into very affordable bundles, I jumped at the opportunity to own them. The recording I listened to the other day was part of the bundle.
When Dr. Z. started going on about the importance of positive affirmations I thought, oh boy, here we go again, tried that, done that, bought the tee-shirt. Even when he backed up his firm belief in how well affirmations work with the writings of other people (James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh, Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, and yadda, yadda, yadda), I listened doubtfully. I’d heard it all before. Woo-woo hooey.
Then Dr. Z. directly addressed the very core of my doubts when it comes to doing affirmations. “I know that, at first, when you say these things, you feel like a liar. You know full well these statements aren’t true. Liar, liar, liar, liar. Keep saying them anyway–because first you say them, then you think them, then you live them.”
Bingo. First you say them, then you think them, then you live them.
Success is an inside job.
See, here’s the thing. You’ll never have your own business unless you first believe you will have your own business. You’ll never be organized, energetic, healthy, wealthy, or whatever else it is you desire unless you first believe you can achieve these things and are worthy of achieving them. The thought precedes the action.
That’s what positive affirmations are meant to do–change the thoughts that have kept you from obtaining the results you desire. So of course they sound like lies at first, as they directly contradict the garbage thinking we’ve allowed ourselves to wallow in for years!
Back to Dr. Z.’s lecture. After giving some more tips on how to make affirmations effective (state them in the present tense, use specific verbiage such as “I make a million dollars a year” rather than “I am wealthy”), he said that the reason positive affirmations don’t work for most people is because we don’t stick with them long enough.
How long should we stick with them? According to Zimmerman, until they become our reality! But–at the very least, we should be saying them three times daily for a minimum of 21 days straight. And if we miss a day, we should start the 21-day stretch all over again.
I don’t know about you, but I can honestly say I never did positive affirmations 21 days in a row. Maybe once a week, or for a couple of consecutive days. Never for three uninterrupted weeks.
So I’m giving them a shot again. I’ve written down five positive affirmations (the number Zimmerman recommended) and I am going to make every effort to repeat them three times a day for at least 21 days. As I finish this post, I am on day seven. And yes, they still feel like I am lying to myself. But if it means that, by saying them faithfully, I end up reprogramming some of my negative self-talk, they will be more than worth it.
I’ll keep you posted. Let me know if you try it, too, and how it goes. :-)