Pete Koerner, author of The Belief Formula
Affirmations are one of the most popular personal development tools, but they can also be one of the least effective, simply because most people aren’t shown the correct way to use them. One of the most common misconceptions about affirmations is that they act as “magical incantations” that will transform your life circumstances. Want to earn more money? Recite an affirmation that you are a millionaire, and *poof!* you are wealthy.
The True Purpose of an Affirmation
Believe it or not, the words in an affirmation have no power to change anything in your life. Like I said, affirmations are not magical incantations, and you may be surprised to learn that the purpose of an affirmation is NOT to change anything outside of yourself.
Yes, your ultimate goal is to create better circumstances in one or more areas of your life, but that’s not the first thing that needs to happen. Instead, the true purpose of an affirmation is to change the way you FEEL about a given topic. When you feel differently about something, you will start to think and believe differently about it. And when you think, feel and believe differently, you will take different actions – and therefore you will change the results you receive.
Many people don’t grasp the importance of this concept, so they create affirmations that focus more on their outer conditions rather than how they feel. As a result, they don’t change their beliefs, their actions don’t change, and their circumstances don’t change either. With this in mind, think back to those example affirmations I just shared. Do those make you feel differently about money, health or relationships? More likely, you don’t feel much of anything at all when you read them. That’s because they don’t get to the heart of what you really want, which is to FEEL differently about that aspect of your life.
Take a moment right now and jot down a few key words about how you would like to feel regarding the main areas of your life:
Health and well-being
Overall quality of life
Do you yearn for a greater sense of peace, happiness, security, freedom, fun, passion, ease, or meaning? If you could create anything you wanted in these areas, what would you create? What is important to you? Which negative habits and qualities would you like to release?
Creating Effective Affirmations
Now that you have a better idea of your goals in the key areas of your life, it’s time to explore just what makes an affirmation effective. Read the following affirmation and consider how it makes you feel:
I achieve my goals easily and quickly.
If you are like most people, you probably feel some resistance to that statement. Most of us do not achieve goals easily or quickly – more often it’s a long, strenuous journey to success. Even if you didn’t experience a feeling of resistance to the affirmation, you may have felt detached or impassive when you read it, like it just doesn’t have any meaning for you.
Based on the concepts we’ve covered so far, would you say that this is an effective affirmation? Perhaps if a person had experience in achieving goals quickly and easily, they might be open to an affirmation like that; but for the majority of “average” people the answer would be no. How about this alternative wording:
I am capable of achieving my goals easily and quickly.
That one feels a little better, doesn’t it? You aren’t saying that you always achieve your goals easily and quickly, but you are affirming you are at least capable of doing so. This affirmation may feel a little better, but it can still be improved.
I am eager to achieve my goals easily and quickly.
That one feels better; a little more upbeat and inspiring, right? Maybe it even triggers a little glimmer of hope that it’s possible to achieve your goals quickly and easily? How about this one:
I am ready to achieve my goals easily and quickly.
Notice one important thing about these examples – all I am doing is inserting emotionally-charged words into the original affirmation! Capable, eager, ready… these words simply trigger your emotions so that the statement makes you feel better about your goals.
Do you think that feeling better about your goals will bump up your level of motivation and determination? Do you think that being eager and ready to move forward might inspire more focused action and persistent effort over time? Absolutely!
Remember, the true power of an affirmation is that it makes you feel differently, form better beliefs, and take more productive actions. Now you can see how this works in our examples.
Next we’ll go over the exact steps you should take when writing your own powerful affirmations:
Step One: Identify the Goal
First, you need to be very clear about what you want. Not the outer goal; but the inner goal of how you want to FEEL. Focus on the essence of the feeling you are aiming for. For example, you want to feel confident, strong, empowered, happy, uplifted, free, inspired, loved, proud, secure, and so on.
If you were creating an affirmation to help you lose weight, your goal would probably be to feel proud of your body, light, happy, confident, or craving-free. Ideally you will want to focus on just ONE essence per affirmation rather than trying to cram a bunch of different goals into one.
Let’s say that your main goal is to overcome feelings of self-loathing and start loving your body. The essence you are going for is self-acceptance. You could call it different names but it really comes down to being able to accept your body rather than hating it.
Step Two: Lay the Foundation
Now create the basic affirmation, which is simply the new “truth” you wish to experience. Using the weight loss example above, your new affirmation might be:
I completely love and accept my body.
But remember, if you don’t feel so good about your body, that statement is going to trigger a strong feeling of resistance, disbelief, and maybe even anger. You just won’t believe it’s true because it ISN’T true (yet). That’s okay – we’re just laying the foundation before we move on to the next step.
Step Three: Soften Rough Edges
Right now your affirmation doesn’t feel good to you – it just brings up some unpleasant thoughts and feelings and does nothing to shift your beliefs about your body. However, there are many ways we can “soften” it a bit and make it feel better. For example, adding the word “choose”.
I choose to love and accept my body.
Adding that little word helped, didn’t it? But some people still might struggle with the affirmation even in its altered form. How about adding “okay”:
It’s okay to love and accept my body.
Ah, that one is better! You aren’t saying that you DO love and accept your body; just that it’s okay to do so. Even though we’re taking a roundabout route to the main goal, you can still feel a stronger sense of acceptance about your body, right?
If you were to recite this affirmation regularly for a few days, do you think you would start to feel more accepting of your body? Probably so!
Another way to soften the rough edges is to add an element of “will”:
I am willing to love and accept my body.
If that one still feels a bit too unbelievable, you could add “learn”:
I am willing to learn how to love and accept my body. (or)
I am learning how to love and accept my body.
Softening the edges just means choosing words that are a bit more relaxed so that you have an easier time believing in the concept. Most often this is a temporary measure because after saying the softer version for a few days to a few weeks, you will be able to step up to the stronger version.
For example, starting with, “It’s okay to love and accept my body” can easily lead to “I choose to love and accept my body,” and then straight to “I completely love and accept my body.” This is an effective way to gradually improve your beliefs and feelings on any subject.
Conclusion: Use Affirmations with Care
I often refer to affirmations as “power tools” because they can transform your life like few other development techniques can. But like all power tools, they must be used correctly to get the intended result. Use them incorrectly and you could end up with results you didn’t intend or want – or worse, results that displease you more than your original circumstances did.
One of the greatest things about affirmations is that they can easily be altered and personalized to fit your own goals. If the examples I used in this guide don’t resonate with you, keep tweaking them until they do.
Remember that the true power of an affirmation lies in how it makes you feel. If you can feel yourself leaning in a positive direction when you say an affirmation, even if it’s a subtle shift, you are on the right track!
Even better, your mastery of using affirmations effectively will continue to grow the more you work with them. You’ll be able to “feel” when an affirmation is right for you, and being sure your affirmations are tightly focused like this will allow you to exert less effort but still achieve great results.
In fact, your affirmations will continue to grow and evolve with you. The more work you do on your personal and professional growth, and the more control you gain over your self-talk, the less you will need to do the “stepping-up” technique we described at the beginning of this guide. You simply won’t feel the need to “soften” your affirmations to make them more believable. Instead, you will easily remain open to big goals and believe they are possible for you.
As your initial affirmations start to come true, be sure to keep expanding them to be bigger and better! Don’t settle for just “good” results – keep going after GREAT results in every area of your life. Make long lists of everything you wish to accomplish, and then steadily and surely change the way you think about those areas of your life.
As you change your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions for the better – the circumstances of your life must also change for the better. Once you understand the reliability of this approach, you should find yourself feeling very motivated and inspired because that means virtually ANYTHING is possible for you.
Every goal is achieved the same way; step by step.