Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right

That’s a quote from Henry Ford and it neatly sums up what I want to talk about today.

I could equally have chosen to quote the Little Engine That Could, whose mantra when faced with something difficult was

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I know I can!

Or I could have been boring and used the title “Affirmations: how they work and why you should have some” but I don’t like boring.

Having said that, this post is going to be all about Affirmations, how they work and why you might find them useful, so now that I’ve sucked you into my web, let’s get cracking.

Oh by the way – ths one goes on a bit, so you might want to make a cup of tea first and maybe get some custard creams…..

Affirmations (or InCANtations or Enchantments of Statements of Positive Thinking or whatever else you might see them called) are sentences that we coaches like to encourage you to repeat to yourself over and over to change your habitual mindset.

These sentences are always in the positive sense and describe some facet of who/how you are in positive terms. Here are a few I’ve picked at random from the books I happen to have beside me at the moment:

  • My existence is a blessing
  • I deserve to be Rich and Happy
  • I value what I do and who I am
  • I am powerful and I am loving and I have nothing to fear

(and thank you to Nick Williams, Tim Brownson, Susan Jeffers and Barbara Stanny from whose books I lifted them)

We suggest that you use Affirmations because we all know how powerful they can be in helping to change your mindset and get you to where you want to be in life.

Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say you’ve always been hopeless with money and you want to get a grip on things. The message you’re currently giving yourself is

I’m hopeless with money

and whether you realise it or not, your behaviour around money will be a direct consequence of that message, which you’ve probably been telling yourself for years. You do what people who are hopeless with money do and the consequences of that spill out over lots of other aspects of your life.

So now let’s imagine that you want this to stop. You could create an Affirmation that says something along the lines of

I enjoy learning to mange my money effectively

or simply

I am good at managing my money“.

OK, it’s not true right now and your resistance will be screaming at you to make sure you know that, but you’re going to ignore that and press on.

Every day, you make a point of writing and/or repeating that sentence to yourself as often as you can stand. Within a very short space of time you will notice that your attitude to yourself and your dealings with money have started to change.

So you’ll want to keep on repeating your Affirmation and maybe add another one to it, maybe along the lines of

I enjoy watching my savings grow” or

I am taking action to pay off my debts“.

And so it will continue, until one day you wake up and realise you have transformed into someone with a healthy bank balance and an appreciation of how to manage their money effectively.

It’s powerful stuff, and it works.

The things is though, I’m not always convinced that we do enough to explain why Affirmations are so powerful, and the process that is likely to go on for you when you first come across them.

To my mind the best Affirmations are the ones you create for yourself as they will be in your words and will therefore mean more to you.

Ones such as those above are helpful suggestions for where to start if you find the blank page at all intimidating – for example, I have personalised “I value what I do and who I am” and turned it into “Everything I do shows how much I respect and value myself” because that works better for me.

There’s power in choosing your own words because your Affrmation will feel more personal.

I have a list of about 10 affirmations that I write out every morning. If for any reason I miss a day, I make sure to write that day’s affirmations out the next morning – so on Mondays I generally write the whole set out 3 times because my weekend routine is different to my weekday routine.

There’s power in repetition – the more you do something the more familiar it becomes and the more it starts to feel natural.

I have a special notebook that I keep just for my affirmations and if I get a day where I feel a bit low or lacking in motivation, I go to the start of that notebook and read right through it until I get to the affirmations I wrote that morning. I can see how they’ve evolved and how some have disappeared and been replaced by others. By the time I get to the end I feel enthused and remotivated and ready to get on with doing my thing.

There’s power in watching your own progression from one way of being to another.

As time has gone on my thinking has changed to reflect my Affirmations. This is the hardest thing to convey to other people and creating and using Affirmations is somewhere I notice resistance coming from a lot of my clients.

And I can understand that – I had a lot of resistance to the idea myself for a long time.

I was an Affirmation Dabbler.

I copied out lists of Affirmations from other people’s books and stuck them on my wall, like they said, and then never looked at them again.

I created my own, highfalutin Affirmations and said them out loud to myself ten times a day for 3 days – and then gave up because I felt stupid and “they weren’t working”.

And then I got it.

I realised that other people’s Affirmations weren’t going to work for me, I needed to create my own.

I realised that I needed to overcome my resistance to the whole idea and just trust that it would work.

And I realised that I needed to make connecting with my Affirmations a daily ritual and do it whether I felt like it or not (and thank you, Eli, for flicking on my light-switch about rituals!)

The most common objection I hear from clients when I start working with them on Affirmations is

But I can’t say that, it’s not true!”

Oh, how I can relate to that! When I first started in business, a number of people suggested to me that I should repeat to myself, over and over again, something along the lines of “I am wealthy beyond measure and have plenty of clients“.

Boy did I resist that! Every time I tried to say it to myself my head was instantly filled with voices saying “LIAR!

Now I can see that there were other Affirmations it would have been more useful for me to have used at that stage, such as “Every day I take time to learn more about how to run a business” – if I’d done that then I might have spent less time flailing and more time getting to grips with stuff!

So now I’ve got it, and my Affirmations are working for me and they are part of the process of getting out of my own way and allowing the Universe (hello, Universe!) to guide me, here are my Top Tips Around Affirmations:

1. Expect to encounter resistance to the process from within. Creating and using Affirmations is a way of changing your thought patterns and your thought patterns aren’t going to like it. They will send your ego charging into battle armed with all sorts of reasons why this is a stupid idea and it won’t work and you’re lying to yourself etc etc etc. Acknowledge that this is part of the process, and carry on regardless.

2. Create Affirmations that reflect the way you WANT to think and feel about yourself. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

3. State your Affirmations in the present tense, so that you’re describing yourself as you WANT to be as if that’s who/how you are now. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

4. Steer clear of Affirmations that are phrased negatively.  Say you’re trying to get out of bad eating habits. Your intital thought might be to give yourself an Affirmation along the lines of “I don’t binge eat” – DON’T GO THERE!!! That’s like telling yourself not to think of a pink elephant juggling  purple bananas – all you’ll be able to think of is pink elephants juggling bananas! A more useful Affirmation here would be “I enjoy eating healthily” because it focusses on a positive way of being you. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

5. Get the Affirmation habit – repeat and repeat and repeat. I find writing them down on a daily basis works for me, you may prefer to record them and play them to yourself or simply repeat them out loud – find what works for you, and stick to it. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

6. Ignore the resistance and carry on regardless.

I’d love to know what works for you and if you have any examples of how using Affirmations has had a positive impact on you, please share them here.



6 responses to “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right

  1. I’ve been using affirmations a lot recently, drawing on these two passages from the Bible::

    Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see Hebrews 11.1 (NIV)
    God … gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Romans 4.17 (NIV)

    But I steer clear of incantations and enchantments; keen to keep my feet out of that “sticky matrix” 🙂


  2. Cathy did you write this *for me*? *lol*
    Thank you, makes it easier to deal with the resistance, knowing that it’s supposed to be there….

  3. Hey Cathy, this rocks. This is the most well articulated and engaging piece I have seen written about affirmations. Now I know why I have gradually stopped. All fired up again now, going to create my own custom set 🙂

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