The Art of Crafting Powerful Affirmations
Th Art of Crafting Powerful Affirmations is Episode oo2. of my Bucket List project “100 Things I Want to Share Before I Die”
If you have struggled with positive affirmations, as most people do, this article may be the key you need to unlock your inner power. Crafting powerful affirmations is a “personal art” as much as it is a science.
Understand this, not all positive affirmations are empowering. In fact, some positive affirmations have been proven detrimental to one’s health.
But, despite the dangers, positive affirmations can be life-changing and well worth the effort to master.
Positive affirmations do work.
It’s an undisputed fact that every peak performer uses positive affirmations, whether consciously or as a subconscious core self-belief.
Study top-performers and you will quickly find a common thread in their stories; positive self-belief. This self-belief was mostly the result of one of two influences;
- Being nurtured by the positive affirmations of a caring adult; usually the mother, occasionally the father and often a teacher or mentor.
- Negative childhood programming being interrupted and diluted by a stronger, more powerful force; sometimes an inner-rejection of the negative programming or, more often it seems, the positive influence of a highly-supportive teacher, coach or mentor.
If, like most people, you missed out on the first, there is hope in the second no matter how old you are; I am 64 years old and I am still uprooting negative beliefs from my toxic childhood.
The purpose of positive affirmations.
The purpose of positive affirmations is best described by Muhammed Ali, the greatest heavy-weight boxer of all time;
“It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
And he famously demonstrated the power of positive affirmations with his “I am the greatest” declaration, stating that
“I said that even before I knew I was”.
Have no doubt that the right positive affirmations really do work.
But, did you know that the wrong positive affirmations can be really bad for your health?
Positive Affirmations can be detrimental to your health
A study at Duke Universtity Medical Centre found that “insincere positivity” (i.e. the wrong positive thinking) put men into as much coronary danger as did anger” (ref. Positivity by Dr Barbara Fredrickson). We will see why in a minute.
And while we’re about it, let’s add ‘false optimism’ to the list because it too can be terribly detrimental to our health, even fatal.
In his book “Good to Great”, Jim Collins relates the story of Admiral James Stockdale, the highest ranking US officer held as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Stockdale found that the “misguided optimists” were more likely to die in captivity than the “faithful realists” (both my terms). Stockdale attributed his survival to his ability to
“a blend of hard pragmatism with an unwavering hope for the future”.
Jim Collins calls this the “Stockdale Paradox”.
We will dig deeper into the dangers of the wrong positive affirmations a little later.
Two kind of affirmations that can be detrimental to your health.
1. Negative affirmations that we believe.
This one is fairly obvious. Most of us are plagued by negative beliefs that were programmed into us while our minds were still young and trusting.
That programming comes in two forms; either pre-installed hardwiring designed to protect ‘our inner cave- man or woman” from threats (what psychologists call ‘negativity bias’) or post-natal programming caused by a barrage of negative affirmations from others (some well-intentions and some malicious) such as;
- Watch out, you will hurt yourself!
- You are not good enough
- You’re not smart enough
- You’re too fat for that
- You’re ugly
- Money doesn’t grow on trees
- Add your own: ……………….
Here’s the problem. These negative affirmations are transformed into deeply rooted beliefs and eventually convictions; so much so that these convictions form the foundation of our self image.
Get it? We become imprisoned by our convictions; convicts our own negative beliefs. As a result, we live in “quiet desperation”, too afraid to step boldly into the world.
Our doubts are traitors that rob us of the good we oft might gain by failing to attempt. (William Shakespeare)
There is hope! These pre-programmed, destructive and dis-empowering negative beliefs are what the right, powerful positive affirmations are designed to uproot.
But first let us find out why some positive affirmations can be terribly detrimental to our health.
2. Positive affirmations that we don’t believe.
Positive affirmation that we don’t believe are detrimental to our health because of the stress that arises from the conflict between our conscious assertions (i.e. the affirmations) and our core beliefs.
There are essentially two forces that need to be neutralised if we are to win in life.
Firstly, the negativity bias of our natural hardwiring is between 3.5 and 5 times stronger than our positive. Here is one reason why news channels focus so much on negative news; it gets our attention far more easily than positive news. The right positive affirmations are a powerful way to neutralise our natural, but mostly obsolete, negativity bias.
Secondly, the sheer volume of thoughts we think each and every day. We all know that there are 24 hours in every day, but do you realise that there are 1,440 minutes and 86,400 seconds too. 86,400 is a lot of seconds for thinking! How much thinking we do in those 86,400 seconds is debatable but it’s supposedly somewhere between 12,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day; I guess that I am probably closer to 12,000 but, judged by the amount of talking my sisters can do, I am pretty sure they think way more than 80,000 thoughts a day!
What exactly is a thought, anyway? We will discuss this in much more detail at a later time.
But here’s the problem. Unmanaged, most of our thoughts will tend to be negative due to our negativity bias. Every negative thought reinforces our negative beliefs which, in turn, influence our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Trying to insert positive affirmations into a stream of negative thinking is going to cause turbulence, stress.
If we are to avoid stress, we must learn how to harness and direct this incessant stream of thoughts in a way that serves us instead of hindering us.
But before we go there, let’s consider the danger of positive affirmation scripts.
The danger of positive affirmation scripts.
As we have seen, affirmations are most powerful when the affirmation and belief are aligned. We have also seen that affirmations are dis-empowering when conflict arises between the affirmation and beliefs.
As a result, affirmation scripts will only work when the individual’s internal belief system says a resounding “Yes!” to the script. Very, very few people are fortunate to be in this group. The rest of are more likely to respond with something between a feeling of discomfort to an emphatic "No way, that's not me!"; in other words, some level of resistance.
Search for “affirmations for success” and Google will return 77 million results in 0,54 seconds; with articles and memes aplenty sprouting forth;
- I excel in all that I do and opportunities come naturally to me.
- My mind is free of resistance and open to possibilities
- I am a magnet for success in everything I do
- I believe in myself and my ability to succeed.
- Add the ones you tried and failed at ….
How do you feel when you say affirmations like this and how strong are those feelings?
Most of these positive affirmations are detrimental to most people’s health!
If you are one of the very few who can confidently say any of these affirmations AND sincerely believe what you are saying, the affirmations will reinforce your positive belief. Lucky you!
For everyone else, these affirmations will probably make you feel worse and that, as you have seen, is downright dangerous to your health and your self-esteem.
The Art of Crafting Positive Affirmations.
Now it’s time to win the affirmation game and open the door to the abundance of opportunity that life has in store for us.
Let’s start by agreeing that our brain is super-intelligent and it’s primary purpose is to keep us alive and safe.
Our brain will only support changes that align with the beliefs it holds.
Any change that conflicts with these stored beliefs, whether true or false, will cause the brain to resist if it deems the change a threat to our safety. Be warned.
We therefore need to re-programme the beliefs stored within the deep recesses of our brains before we have any hope of successfully proposing any radical changes.
We need to become artful and crafty if we want to win this game.
Like training a lion, you can’t force your brain to learn new tricks (i.e. beliefs), you can only encourage it to learn.
This week I will share a few of the things I have learned about the art of crafting powerful affirmations and give you a few tools that can empower anyone who has struggled with affirmations as I struggled for most of my life (despite years of study).
- How 2-minutes can change the direction of your life.
- How your hand can become an incredibly powerful tool when re-programming your brain.
- How to use your smartphone to reinforce the new, healthy programmes you are installing into your brain.
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