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Affirmations: Hokey Pokey Bullshit?

  • Affirmations. That’s a bunch of hokey pokey bullshit.

    Or is it?


    An affirmation is a statement that expresses – or affirms – your intent to create a desired change in your life, either personally or professionally. Many great teachers (like Wayne DyerDeepak ChopraSusan JeffersLouise Hay) swear by the power of affirmations. When I first started Single Women Rule, back in February 2005, it was called EVE’s Society. EVE is an acronym for Energy, Virtue, and Excellence. I created three statements I wanted the members of EVE’s Society to repeat daily to change their lives:


    I approach my career and life goals with Energy.
    I maintain Virtue in all my relationships.
    I strive for Excellence in all my daily activities.


    I didn’t know it then but the statements were “affirmations” – a term I became familiar with in November of 2006 at T. Harv Eker’s Millionaire Mind Intensive Conference. T. Harv used affirmations to change his money blueprint – his habitual and learned thinking on success and wealth – and become one of the highest paid motivational speakers today. That’s when I began my grand tour through the self-help aisle – The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra – each author stressed the importance and power of writing and speaking your intentions on a daily basis.

    The only problem with affirmations is that you have to do them. Science tells us it takes at least 30 days to create a habit or break one, 30 days for our brain to adopt new thinking patterns. I couldn’t get past day five.


    The next year, I met Terry Hernon MacDonald. She ran a bi-weekly women’s business networking group that still meets in Shelton, CT. I read her e-book, How to Attract and Marry the Man of Your Dreams. Terry used affirmations to change her mind set about herself and the love she wanted, ultimately attracting her husband. I partnered with Terry to form because her message of changing your life by changing the way you think was my vision to empower unmarried women through EVE’s Society.


    But I still couldn’t get past day five.


    A few weeks ago, I met a friend for lunch and we lamented watching our dreams fade faster than a spray-on tan. Maybe we just didn’t want it bad enough? Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be? Why was the success we wanted eluding us while other folks, no smarter, prettier, fatter, or skinnier than us, enjoyed it?


    The next day she stumbled onto a set of CDs, ironically from the T. Harv Eker conference we’d both attended. What had we done? We’d forgotten everything we heard and read over the last few years. We decided to strike out on a new 30 days of affirmations. Why if we couldn’t get through 30 days, maybe we just didn’t want success bad enough and dammit if we couldn’t do 30 frigging days, we probably didn’t deserve success. We began to listen – constantly – to positive messages. I listened to Harv’s free teleclass. I popped in my Secret DVD every day. I recorded Dr. Dyer’s latest PBS special, Excuses Be Gone, and watched that over and over.


    I created my own affirmations which I find works better than reading ones others wrote. It feels less like an externally-imposed task if you write something that is specific to your life and goals. But if you’re stuck, Susan Jeffers, Ph.D., gives you some great ones in her e-book, Why Affirmations are So Powerful, when you sign up for her newsletter. Dr. Dyer has a nice daily affirmation page, as does Louise Hay.


    Today is day 12. My friend just reported that after focusing intently on getting two new clients, she did. I have noticed a difference in the behavioral affirmations I’m working on: developing discipline, being more proactive, writing . . . daily. I can’t say it’s easy. Around day 8, my old mindset said this is stupid, oh, I don’t feel like it, what’s the point, and well, a few games of Bejeweled won’t hurt, would it? But you don’t have to believe it at first; you just have to do it. The more you do it, the more you begin to believe it. But in the great words of Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton, “Don’t take my word for it.”


    In an August 12, 1996 Newsweek article, Scott Levy wrote about Dilbert cartoon creator Scott Adams. In the article, Adams reveals how he escaped his cubicle grave:


    Adams did rise somewhat in the PacBell pecking order, eventually pulling down around $70.000 a year. However, much of his work involved the sort of meaningless corporate time-wasting he would later lampoon: “in my 17-year experience, I never once did anything that helped a customer,” he says. But he did not sullenly accept his fate. Instead, he affirmed. Yes, affirmed. And now he is rich, famous, and does not need a date on Saturday night.

    Affirmed? Let Scott Adams explain this, with a straight face. “The basic idea is that 15 times a day, you just write down whatever it is your goal is,” Adams says. “Then you’ll observe things happening that will make that objective more likely to happen. It’s actually a process of forcing your environment to change.”


    Adams himself was initially skeptical, but tried it anyway. His first efforts concerned impressing a certain woman, and picking stocks due to rise. He got both wishes, but he wasn’t sure whether it was affirming that did it. So he decided to be more specific. He was about to take the GMAT test to get into business school, and he asked for the precise score of 94. When the results arrived, they read … 94.


    Soon he was writing I WILL BECOME A SYNDICATED CARTOONIST 15 times a day. He fashioned the “Dilbert”-esque doodles he had been working on into a slick package and sent it to syndicators. Amid the rejections came one acceptance: United Media, home of his idol, Charles Schulz. Chalk one up to affirmation.


    Make no mistake; affirmations will not work without action. Adams wouldn’t have become a cartoonist if he wasn’t drawing. The other day, I was watching The Jacksons reality show (a topic for another post) and three of “The Brothers” had gone to visit a juvenile detention center. Jermaine said this to the group of boys:


    “Take your craft seriously. If that’s what you want to do, be the best at it. Don’t just be okay, be the best. My brother Michael, who always wanted to be the best, he wanted to sell the most albums ever so he wrote it on his mirror. He looked at it every day. He believed it. He worked hard and he achieved it.”


    My jaw dropped. (And not because of Jermaine’s hair.) Michael Jackson used affirmations and hard work to create unparalleled career success. If I can use affirmations to get it, like Michael Jackson or Scott Adams did, well then call me a hokey poke.


    And that’s no bullshit.

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