Affirmations and creative visualisations are two extremely powerful tools for putting us in the right frame of mind to make our goals happen. I think of them as ‘mind techniques’ – but there is nothing strange or mystical about them. They merely tap into the way the brain works.
Again, it’s a bit like doing a search on the Internet via Google: you need to tell the search engine what to look out for, what to ‘capture’ as it scans the Net. Your brain does the same thing. When you focus your thoughts on something, that’s what the ‘noticing’ part of your brain (the Reticular Activating System) scans for as you go about your life – so that’s what you’ll see. That’s why optimistic people seem to attract good fortune – as pessimistic people seem to attract bad luck. In a sense, therefore, by focusing our thoughts on something, we are bringing it about in our lives!
Affirmations are one way of ‘programming’ the mind to look out for – and so help to bring about – the positive outcomes we want. They help to keep us focused and positive. Here are some hints for coming up with effective, positive affirmations.
• Use the plural 'we' where possible. This may seem awkward if the goal doesn’t obviously involve family or friends, but it expresses something important. Just try it.
• Use the present tense. If you want a new house, affirm that: ‘We’re living in our new house’. Don’t waste brain space saying ‘We will be living in our new house’ or ‘We’ll try to get our new house’ or ‘We would like to live in a new house’: say it as if it has actually and already happened.
• Be specific. Don’t use vague affirmations like ‘We will be successful’ (or even ‘We are successful’). What does that mean, exactly? It doesn’t give your brain much to go on.
• Use positive affirmations. At the simplest level, this means affirming what you want to happen – not what you don’t want to happen: ‘We are financially secure’, say, rather than ‘We don’t have any financial worries’. The subconscious mind actually doesn’t process negative grammatical markers like ‘don’t’ or ‘not’: it focuses only on the keywords you feed into it (‘financially secure’... ‘financial worries’). You don’t want it scanning its environment looking for the stuff you wanted to avoid – so only feed in positive keywords. (This is one reason why ‘Don’t drink and drive’ messages are ineffective...)
At a deeper level, the most positive affirmation is a loving, harmonious, peaceful one. If our goals are tied up with anger, guilt, jealousy or other negative emotions, it is harder to make effective (rational) decisions.
The following are some examples of general affirmations you might use any time.
- ‘Everything we touch is drawing us closer to our goals.’
- ‘We are moving into the winners’ circle.’
- ‘We are blessed beyond our fondest dreams.’
- ‘Riches of every sort are drawn to us.
1014 Signposts to Success
An example of specific affirmations (relating to specific goals) might be:
- ‘We are now living in our new house.’
- ‘We are enjoying our four-day weekends.’
- ‘We love everything about our interesting new job.’
The point of affirmations is to repeat them – in your head and out loud – over and over again: that’s how the message sinks from the conscious mind to the subconscious, where it becomes powerful. Repeat your affirmations whenever you review your goals. And in the morning when you get up. And in the evening before you sleep. And before you tackle difficult tasks in pursuit of your goals. You may feel that this really isn’t ‘your sort of thing’. That’s fine. In fact, the stupider or more uncomfortable you feel, the better: discomfort is often a sign that you are going through some transformation. And if other people scoff, that’s their problem. Why hide what you’re doing? They’re going to have to get used to the new you, when the positive affirmations work...
In any case, I urge you to give it a fair try – just while you’re doing this programme. Test it and see. Even Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking) acknowledged that the only people who don’t have problems are dead. We’re not promising you a perfect, trouble-free existence. We’re saying: don’t focus on the problems, the negativity, the doubts. Choose to focus on the positive, and you’ll begin to experience it more.
If you really struggle with positive affirmations, you may be having problems – not just with the technique (which can sound a little silly at first) but with believing you can be a success.
Visualisation is an awesomely powerful tool. You’ve probably heard it said that one of the key qualities of great leaders is that they have ‘vision’: well, that’s not something they’re born with, it’s just something they do – visualise!
You need to see ‘in your mind’s eye’ the end results of your efforts. Don’t worry about how you’re going to get there (yet): just see the end result. An effective visualisation:
• Focuses on desired results (the goal, the achievement, the enjoyment), experienced as if they were happening in the immediate present – as if you were there, now• Involves sights, sounds, feelings, smells, tastes – as complete and as vivid as you can imagine. (When you first try to do a visualisation, consider what is most vivid for you: you may, in fact, be more of a ‘sound’ or ‘feel’ person than a ‘sight’ person. That’s fine. Use the sense that’s most powerful for you – and work a bit harder to involve your weaker senses, so that you get a vivid, multi-sensory imaginative experience.) Get your senses working. Use photos or tapes that suggest what you’re trying to ‘visualise’. If you’re trying to visualise a new car, why not go to the showroom and sit in it – or even take it for a test drive? Drive down your street and feel yourself driving home in your car... Make it real.
• Includes benefits to others: people who are dear to you, enjoying and celebrating the fruits of your achievements. When I was visualising my dream house, I wasn’t thinking about how I was going to fi nd or build it – let alone pay for it! (I didn’t limit myself by including a budget with my goal…) I was visualising myself moving into my 150-square house and living in it. I could see myself walking round the property; putting the key in the front door and opening it; putting my bare feet on the marble and feeling how cool it was; entering the library and smelling the timber; hearing the kids laughing on the deck; sitting down on the couch and feeling how comfortable it was. And smiling because it felt so good to have achieved my goal. (And I did...) Tigers Woods visualises every shot he makes before he makes it: sees the ball going into the hole on that last putt. Many other successful sports people – and business people – do the same thing. So can you.
Some people who attend my workshops say to me that ‘they’re just no good at visualising’. Sorry, but that doesn’t work.
• They often haven't tried – or haven't been shown how.
• This is something every kid can do. (Adults just forget, sometimes.)
• They may not be very 'visual' in their imagination – but that's not all there is to it.
• Such excuses are just plain negative! (No wonder they aren't willing to give positive visualisation a go...) If it doesn't work for you – fi ne. But listen: give it a try. Preferably more than once. And then see how you feel...