I’ve been practising self-affirmations for the past three years. I know this because I started affirming when I first read the book Think & Grow Rich. Since then, I used a reminder app on my phone to alert me every morning to do my affirmations. I’ve never missed a single day. 2 years in, I wrote a short article on the experience (here) but since then, my thoughts and experiences have changed. Today, I’m a true believer of affirmations and below are three reasons why you should start too.
P.S Make sure you read the last section ‘Self Affirmations Bruce Lee Style’! It’s powerful stuff.
1. Self Affirmations Is Training The Positive Thinking
Some people swear by self-affirmations claiming that it radically changed their lives. Some criticise and blow it off as a delusional hype. My thoughts are that both parties are wrong. Affirmations can never create results in isolation but nor are they useless. I believe that self-affirmations and positive thinking are synonymous. They work based on the same principles.
Being optimistic is NOT denying reality. I choose to be optimistic because the other state of mind is pessimism, and pessimism gets you nowhere. With everything else being equal, I will choose to practise self-affirmations than not to. Why not? There are actual scientific evidence as to why you should implement affirmations in your everyday routine.
To start, our brains are hardwired for negativity. According to Psychology Today, “the capacity to emphasise the negative rather than the positive [is] probably an evolutionary phenomenon. From our earliest beginnings, being aware of and avoiding danger has been a critical survival skill.”
It turns out that in our brains, negative and positive stimuli are processed in two different ways. The amygdala (part of the brain responsible for emotion) uses approximately two-thirds of its neuronal power to detect negative experiences, and once the brain detects a negative experience, it is quickly stored into long-term memory. This makes perfect sense! Our ancestors had to rely on their memories to survive. They had to remember which plants or berries were toxic, where to fish and where predators lurked the most.
On the other hand, positive experiences have to be held in the forefront of our thoughts with a conscious effort for more than 12 seconds in order to store them in long-term memory. Rick Hanson describes our affinity towards negativity by saying: “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.”
It’s a scientific fact that we are innately programmed to be negative and it’s damn hard to stay positive. Reciting my affirmations every morning allows me to reset my mindset and start the day on the right foot. It helped me in so many ways that today, my affirmations have grown into a full blown 2 pages (it encompasses ALL facets of my life). I don’t affirm to crave rewards in a delusional way, but because I like myself more and the world that I live in when I’m more positive.
2. Negativity Is Contagious
Human are easily influenced to think, feel and act in a certain way. We are naturally attracted to restaurants with a long queue, we get sold on advertising media and we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with. It turns out that negativity is not just ingrained into our brains but it’s also contagious.
Paul Rozin and Edward Royzman showed in their research that negative perspective is more contagious than positive perspective. Furthermore, a study by John Cacioppo and his colleagues demonstrated that our attitudes are more heavily influenced by negative news than good. Maybe this is the reason why there are more negative emotional words (62%) than positive words (32%) in the English dictionary? We are hardwired for negativity and it spreads like a virus.
I was originally a very sceptical guy. Whenever I was proposed with a new idea or a new goal, my first response was to be sceptical. I would listed endless reasons why this idea will fail and why that goal was unattainable. Whenever someone did something, I would question his or her intentions. The crazy thing was that the more pure and philanthropic the act was, the more twisted view I posed. I found myself saying things like:
“Oh, he’s doing it for the money”, or
“She’s clearly faking it and putting a mask on in front of all these people…”.
But since I started to self-affirm, I changed dramatically. I began to see the possibilities first and obstacles second. New ideas and challenges excite me and do not wear me out. I appreciate and see the things as they are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a sceptic of many things and I believe it’s an important trait. But self-affirmations allowed me to see things in a broader light, the bigger picture and for sure, it made me happier and more likeable.
3 . Thoughts lead to results.
Positive words become your thoughts. Positive thoughts become your behaviour and positive behaviour leads to results. The power of words is not be taken lightly.
Past few days I’ve been listening to the live recordings of ‘Born To Win’ seminars by Zig Ziglar and he says something that resonates perfectly with self-affirmations. Zig preaches that the things we listen to, the ideas we believe in and the thoughts we dream will ultimately make us. What we feed our minds with, we eventually become.
Think about the advertisements that aired during the Super Bowl 2017. According to Bleacher report, it cost corporates and businesses $5.02 million dollars for a half-minute segment during the Super Bowl. That’s a LOT of money for 30 seconds. However, companies are willing to pay such a price because they believe - and know - that 30 seconds is more than enough time to influence the viewers emotionally and mentally to sell their products. Another example Zig gives is tobacco advertisements. See the video below first:
Smoking was something men needed to do. It symbolised masculinity, sex appeal, freedom and attractiveness. These subliminal messages were so powerful that even children were unconsciously programmed to smoke when they grow older at the age of 7!
We make decisions based on emotions, we buy products because of the ‘why’ and the way we ‘feel’. The good news is that this concept can be reverse engineered and applied for our benefits. Self-affirmation is a form of a subliminal message that targets the subconscious mind. Personally, affirmations work because they reinforce and empower me. They help me become more optimistic and - whether it’s conscious or sub-conscious,- those thoughts and feelings aid me to take better choices in life.
4. Self Affirmations Bruce Lee Style
Here’s a letter Bruce Lee wrote to himself in 1969.
Four years later, he died. But in those four years, Bruce had achieved everything he said he would and more. At the age of 32, he had changed the face of film and martial arts forever. It’s inspiring to read what he thought (believed) and what he actually achieved.
As I conclude this article, I want to share with you a letter written by Bruce Lee himself, over a decade before his death. Take note that he was still a 21-year-old student at the University of Washington. Pay attention to his unshakeable beliefs and certainty in his words. I have bolded sentences that really stood out to me. Reciting affirmations is a life-changing habit. It will make you more confident, help to expand your boundaries and teardown your self-limiting beliefs. If you haven’t already, I hope you start a journey of self-affirmations too, Bruce Lee style!
This letter is hard to understand. It contains my dreams and my ways of thinking, as a whole, you can call it my way of life. It will be rather confusing as it is difficult to write down exactly how I feel. Yet I want to write and let you know about it. I’ll do my best to write it clearly and I hope that you, too, will keep an open mind in this letter, and don’t arrive at any conclusions till you are finished.
There are two ways of making a good living, one is the result of hard working, and the other, the result of the imagination (requires work, too, of course). It is a fact that labour and thrift produce a competence, but fortune, in the sense of wealth, is the reward of the man who can think of something that hasn’t been thought of before. In every industry, in every profession, ideas are what America is looking for. Ideas have made America what she is, and one good idea will make a man what he wants to be.
One part of my life is gung fu. This art influences me greatly in the formation of my character and ideas. I practice gung fu as a physical culture, a form of mental training, a method of self-defense, and a way of life. Gung fu is the best of all martial art; yet the Chinese derivatives of judo and karate, which are only basics of gung fu, are flourishing all over the U.S. This so happens because no one has heard of this supreme art; also there are no competent instructors… I believe my long years of practice back up my title to become the first instructor of this movement. There are yet long years ahead of me to polish my techniques and character. My aim, therefore, is to establish a first Gung Fu Institute that will later spread out all over the U.S. (I have set up a time limit of 10 to 15 years to complete the whole project). My reason in doing this is not the sole objective of making money. The motives are many and among them are: I like to let the world know about the greatness of this Chinese art; I enjoy teaching and helping people; I like to have a well-to-do home for my family; I like to originate something; and the last but yet one of the important is because gung fu is part of myself.
I know my idea is right, and therefore the results would be satisfactory. I don’t really worry about the reward, but to set in motion the machinery to achieve it. My contribution will be the measure of my reward and success.
Before he passed away, some asked the late Dr Charles P. Steimetz, the electrical genius, in his opinion “What branch of science would make the most progress in the next twenty-five years?” He paused and thought for several minutes then like a flash replied, “spiritual realisation.” When a man comes to a conscious vital realisation of those great spiritual forces within himself and begins to use those forces in science, in business and in life, his progress in the future will be unparalleled.
I feel I have this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all these combined. My brain becomes magnetized with this domination force which I hold in my hand.
When you drop a pebble into a pool of water, the pebble starts a series of ripples that expand until they encompass the whole pool. This is exactly what will happen when I give my ideas a definite plan of action. Right now, I can project my thoughts into the future, I can see ahead of me. I dream (remember that practical dreamers never quit). I may now own nothing but a little place down in basement, but once my imagination has got up to a full head of steam, I can see painted on a canvas of my mind a picture of a fine, big five or six storey Gung Fu Institute with branches all over the States. I am not easily discouraged, readily visualize myself as overcoming obstacles, winning out over setbacks, achieving “impossible” objectives.
Whether it is the God-head or not, I feel this great force, this unstopped power, this dynamic something within me. This feeling defies description, and [there is] no experience with which this feeling may be compared. It is something like a strong emotion mixed with faith, but a lot stronger.
All in all, the goal of my planning and doing is to find the true meaning in life — peace of mind. I know that the sum of all the possessions I mentioned does not necessarily add up to peace of mind; however, it can be if I devote [my energy] to real accomplishment of self rather than neurotic combat. In order to achieve this peace of mind, the teaching of detachment of Taoism and Zen proved to be valuable….
Probably, people will say I’m too conscious of success. Well, I am not. You see, my will to do springs from the knowledge that I CAN DO. I’m only being natural, for there is no fear or doubt inside my mind.
Pearl, success comes to those who become success-conscious. If you don’t aim at an object, how the heck on earth do you think you can get it?’