In the previous post, I discussed the importance of repetition with affirmations in changing thoughts at the subconscious level. Over time, this repetition helps change the subconscious environment and that lays the groundwork for the belief that is necessary for affirmations to succeed. Today I am discussing belief.
Let me qualify what I mean by belief. Belief is not the fervor with which you say affirmations or listen to them. It’s not about “believing in the affirmations”.
When I talk about belief and affirmations I am talking about the belief in the accomplishment, goal, or dream you are pursuing. I am talking about a commitment and a plan of action to coincide with the use of the affirmations. The belief, the willingness to believe, or at least the desire to “go for it” must already be present in you.
This is going to shake some people up. Affirmations are not tools of persuasion. Let me say that again. Affirmations are not tools of persuasion.
The common thinking about affirmations is that if you hammer a phrase into your mind long enough and hard enough, that process will magically make you believe it. There is a grain of truth in this idea as it relates to the repetition side of the house, but if belief is lacking, the affirmations cannot succeed.
There are many people – including many coaches and mental health professionals with M.A. and PhD after their names – who mistakenly think affirmations are tools of persuasion. Often these professionals evaluate affirmations harshly because they fail to produce the desired results. These criticisms usually center on the issue of cognitive dissonance – the natural resistance in our minds to statements that we don’t believe to be true.
The argument follows this line of reasoning.
Patient A had self-esteem issues. We tried affirmations as a way of correcting the self-esteem. However, the affirmations failed because patient A was not able to make the leap from the current state to the desired state represented by the affirmations. Therefore, affirmations don’t work because they place unrealistic demands on the patient’s ability to believe in the outcome.
Precisely. Affirmations are not tools of persuasion. They do not create belief. They magnify and expand belief or desire to align thinking with actions in a person determined to achieve a goal. That belief/determination/desire foundation must be created, when necessary, by counseling, coaching, or other means. Saying or listening to affirmations without this belief component – without commitment to achieving something – is nothing more than wishful thinking.
You are always going to encounter cognitive dissonance when using affirmations – especially in extreme cases where the desired change is great – if the patient or client is not properly prepared. If the person has not committed to the change, agreed that the change is something he or she is willing to attempt, affirmations will not help. When someone is not committed to achieving a goal, affirmations are literally empty words.
I’ve seen parents use affirmations with their kids in sports and other activities. They give affirmations to the kid to improve performance. Affirmations can absolutely help improve performance, if the child wants to improve.
Affirmations can help the child become a better baseball player, but they cannot help the child want to be a baseball player in the first place. The desire to be a baseball player and to improve must be present before affirmations can change the situation.
For affirmations to be successful, there must be a determination on the part of the person using the affirmations to push toward the goal. Then, and only then, can the change in thoughts created by affirmations help create the mental environment that allows the action plan to have the best chance for success.
So what is the net net of this article? Belief, commitment, desire, or all of them must be present for affirmations to succeed. Affirmations do not get you to the goal in a vacuum. They create the positive thought environment that prepares you for success, causes you to expect it, and helps you stay focused and motivated when obstacles arise.
When you have your thoughts and your actions moving positively in the same direction you are a force to be reckoned with. Affirmations – through repetition and belief – will empower your thoughts to support your powerful action in the world.