successful affirmations—how to make affirmations work
Successful Affirmations—How to make affirmations work:
We can make our affirmations more effective by understanding what affirmations are, what they’re comprised of, and how they work. After that, I’ll give you some important tips and tricks to increase the effectiveness of your affirmations.
If you don’t want to read the whole thing, skip to the “Tips and Tricks” section (link above) to learn how to make your affirmations work more effectively.
What are affirmations?
Affirmations are statements that we use to affirm a “desired” reality. To affirm something is to “state as fact, assert strongly and publicly” (New Oxford American English Dictionary, 2021). So, affirmations are statements in which we make, that we intend to be true, either for ourselves or others, and are present or future-tense.
What are affirmations made up of?
Affirmations are comprised of: (1) your self-perception, (2) what you want, and (3) your worldview. Without harmony between you, your worldview, and your desires, affirmations are just empty air. Let’s break down each component to help make your affirmations more effective.
1. Your Self-Perception
Firstly is the aspect of self-perception. If you don’t like someone, do you pay attention to what they say? Do their words hold the same weight as words from someone whom you admire? Probably not. And the same goes for yourself and your affirmations. If you don’t like yourself, why would you believe the affirmations you are stating? That’s why the first element of successful affirmations is establishing and maintaining some level of self-belief and trust. If you trust yourself and what you’re affirming, then you’ll be able to ignore anything that opposes it.
What If You Don’t Like Yourself (Yet)?
If you don’t like or trust yourself, affirmations are probably not the best tool to develop self-confidence. But, you can still use affirmations to positively influence the language you use within your internal dialogue. If you’re still learning to like yourself, use affirmations in combination with other self-help techniques like journaling.
2. What You Want
Secondly, successful affirmations accurately reflect what you desire. Figure out what you want, and why you want it. Why does anyone want anything? Usually, people want something because they believe that whatever they desire will elicit a positive emotional experience. Additionally, a desire is more easily affirmable if it does not directly contradict your personal or social values. To make affirmations work, you have to believe that your desires are as valuable as the desires of others.
What About Your Values?
Successful affirmations are in harmony with your personal and social values. Successful affirmations do not affirm harm on yourself or others. By ensuring that your desires are not directly seeking to harm yourself or others, you develop trust in the worthiness of your desires. So, if you value others, you cannot want a positive, and also want it to come at the cost of someone else having a negative experience. By aligning our desires with our values, we can ensure that we’re acting in a way that reflects our consideration of others and also facilitate the development of our character.
Personal Vs Social Values
Personal values are inherently social because they’re based on how we want to respond in any given situation (situations usually involving others). Here’s a link to an article that can help you determine your personal values. And here’s a great resource that organizes and explains social values. The same organization offers a quiz to help you better understand your generational social values. (You can still see your results if you decline to share your email with them once you complete the quiz).
3. Your Worldview
Your worldview is an important aspect of making your affirmations work successfully. A worldview is an existential philosophy that guides a person’s perception of the objective reality. How we view the world can have a huge influence on how we see ourselves and our desires.
One way we can better understand our relationship to the outside world is through understanding a concept called “Locus of Control”.
Your Locus of Control
The degree to which you believe you have control over your personal experience is a psychological concept that is referred to as your locus of control. If you believe you are mostly in control of your personal experience, you have an internal locus of control. And if you and believe that you are subject to the whim of the environment, you have an external locus of control. This explanation is a bit simple and most people have beliefs that reflect both internal and external loci of controls.
I find that I am happiest when I take the philosophical position of “I can’t control what happens, but I can control how I react”. This approach seems to work the best for me. Believing that you have the power to influence reality through deliberate and intentional response, is a key aspect of successful affirmations.
Your Subjective Perception of Objective Reality
The better you understand your worldview, the better you understand your personal relationship to objective reality (what you believe to be true, and what you believe others believe to be true). I don’t want to get too philosophical here, because it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to cover all the nuances of the ethics associated with individual desire; but because we’re social creatures, we have to find a way to honor our individual desires while still honoring the social goals of communal harmony and safety.
There is a whole world that exists outside of our individual experience of it. And if you value objective reality above your desire to influence reality, you’re likely to feel discouraged. This is not to say that we should not value objective reality, but that we should not allow it to negatively influence the pursuit of our personal vision and goals. The important thing to note here is that we are considering the objective reality, but not making it the object of our focus.
Tips & Tricks for Successful Affirmations
Now that we know what affirmations are, what they’re made of, and how they work, how can we use that knowledge to optimize the effectiveness of our affirmations?
Start with where you are.
Complete an honest assessment of how well your self-perception, your values, and your worldview are aligned with your desires. Learn what you personally and socially value, and how your desires can reflect these values. If you don’t like yourself or don’t believe you have the power to control your response to uncertain life events, then focus on improving those key elements before relying on affirmations to help you change your experience.
Decide what you believe you have control over, and centre your affirmations around that.
To make affirmations work, you have to focus on developing confidence in your internal locus of control. Like most things in life, force is best applied towards that which you have control over. Decide what you want, and then what you believe you can have, and center your affirmations around GENTLY closing this gap.
Affirmations can only work if you believe they do.
We can use this quote to better understand affirmations and how we can use them more effectively. Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool of perception. You can use your will to influence your mind, and therefore how you perceive the world around you. You have to believe in yourself and your power of thought for affirmations to work successfully.
Find a way to believe in what you’re saying;
Don’t become too specific, too quickly. Be as specific as you’re ready to believe. If you say something and it feels wrong or false when you say it, try decreasing the specificity of the affirmation, or switching to an affirmation that feels more authentic. Affirmations only work if you believe in yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Respect others, but focus on you and your desires.
We are social creatures. Our happiness and success depend on harmonious integration within society. If your desires align with your social values, then you’ve done your best to consider the needs of others while still honoring your dreams.
Create daily habits that make affirmations easier; find the right time and frame of mind
There are certain circumstances that help increase the effectiveness of affirmations. Affirmations work best on an empty and pliable mind. It’s not what you say, but the state you’re in when you say it. Being in a relaxed and emotionally positive state will yield the best results. I’m most relaxed and emotionally positive, when I wake up, after meditation, yoga, or exercise, and right before I go to sleep.
If you like this post, stay tuned for my upcoming blog posts on “Affirmations for Mental Health” and “How to Write Affirmations”.