Harnessing Positive Thinking
"I'm never going to be able to do this job; I'm just not smart enough."
"Why does my boss want me to present at the trade show? I'm a terrible public speaker, and I'll just embarrass the company."
"I wish I could stick up for myself at work. In every meeting, I let the others walk over my ideas. I'm never going to get ahead."
Many of us have negative thoughts like these, sometimes frequently. When we think like this, our confidence, mood and outlook can become negative, too.
The problem with negative thoughts is that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. We talk ourselves into believing that we're not good enough. And, as a result, these thoughts drag down our personal lives, our relationships, and our careers.
But, if we deliberately do the opposite and use positive thoughts about ourselves, the effect can be just as powerful but far more helpful.
In this article, we'll explore how you can use affirmations to drive positive change in your career, and in your life in general.
What Are Affirmations, and Do They Work?
Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often, and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes.
You might consider affirmations to be unrealistic "wishful thinking." But try looking at positive affirmations this way: many of us do repetitive exercises to improve our physical health, and affirmations are like exercises for our mind and outlook. These positive mental repetitions can reprogram our thinking patterns so that, over time, we begin to think – and act – differently.
For example, evidence suggests that affirmations can help you to perform better at work. According to researchers, spending just a few minutes thinking about your best qualities before a high-pressure meeting – a performance review, for example – can calm your nerves, increase your confidence, and improve your chances of a successful outcome.
Self-affirmation may also help to mitigate the effects of stress. In one study, a short affirmation exercise boosted the problem-solving abilities of "chronically stressed" subjects to the same level as those with low stress.
What's more, affirmations have been used to successfully treat people with low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health conditions. And they have been shown to stimulate the areas in our brains that make us more likely to effect positive changes in regard to our health.
This latter study suggests that a stronger sense of self-worth makes you more likely to improve your own well-being. So, for example, if you're worried that you eat too much and don't get enough exercise, using affirmations to remind yourself of your values can spur you on to change your behavior.
There is evidence that the higher your self-esteem, the more effective affirmations can be. However, this research also found that if you have low self-esteem, positive affirmations actually make you feel worse, because they set up a conflict between the positive state you desire and the negative feelings you currently experience. If this applies to you, work on Boosting Your Self-Esteem before you use affirmations.
How to Use Positive Affirmations
You can use affirmations in any situation where you'd like to see a positive change take place in your life. These might include times when you want to:
- Raise your confidence before presentations or important meetings.
- Control negative feelings such as frustration, anger, or impatience.
- Improve your self-esteem.
- Finish projects you've started.
- Improve your productivity.
- Overcome a bad habit.
Affirmations may be more effective when you pair them with other positive thinking and goal-setting techniques.
For instance, affirmations work particularly well alongside Visualization. So, instead of just picturing the change you'd like to see, you can also write it down or say it aloud using a positive affirmation.
Affirmations are also useful when setting personal goals. Once you've identified the goals you'd like to achieve, affirmative statements can help you to keep yourself motivated in order to achieve them.
The power of affirmations lies in repeating them to yourself regularly. It's useful to recite your affirmations several times a day (have them pop up in your notifications!). You also need to repeat your affirmations as soon as you engage in the negative thought or behavior that you want to overcome.
How to Write an Affirmation Statement
Affirmations statements usually target a specific area, behavior or belief that you're struggling with. The following points can help you to write the affirmation statement that best fits your needs.
Think about the areas of your life that you'd like to change. For instance, do you wish that you had more patience? Or deeper relationships with your friends and colleagues? Or would you like a more productive workday?
Write down several areas or behaviors that you'd like to work on. Be sure that they are compatible with your core values and the things that most matter to you, so that you'll feel genuinely motivated to achieve them.
Be sure that your affirmation is credible and achievable. Base it on a realistic assessment of the facts. For instance, imagine that you're unhappy with the level of pay that you currently receive. You could use affirmations to raise your confidence to ask for a raise.
However, it probably wouldn't be wise to affirm to yourself that you're going to double your salary: for most people, and most organizations, doubling what you're earning in one go isn't feasible. Keep it realistic! After all, affirmations are not magic spells – if you can't believe in them, it's unlikely they'll impact your life.
Turn negatives into positives. If you are struggling with negative self-talk, note down the persistent thoughts or beliefs that are bothering you. Then choose an affirmation that is the opposite of that thought and belief.
For example, if you habitually think, "I'm not talented enough to progress in my career," turn this around and write a positive affirmation such as, "I am a skilled and experienced professional."
- Write your affirmation in the present tense. Write and speak your affirmation as if it's already happening. This helps you to believe that the statement is true right now. For instance, "I am well-prepared and well-rehearsed, and I can give a great presentation" would be a great affirmation to use if you feel nervous speaking in front of a group.
- Say it with feeling. Affirmations can be more effective when they carry emotional weight. You need to want this change to happen, so every affirmation that you choose to repeat should be a phrase that's meaningful to you. For example, if you're worried about a new project that you've been tasked with, you could tell yourself, "I am really excited to take on new challenges."
Examples of Affirmations
By definition, your affirmation will be personal to you, and specific to what you want to achieve or change, but the following examples may provide some inspiration:
- I have plenty of creativity for this project.
- My work will be recognized in a positive way by my boss and colleagues.
- I can do this!
- My team respects and values my opinion.
- I am successful.
- I am honest in my life, and my work.
- I like completing tasks and projects on time.
- I'm grateful for the job I have.
- I enjoy working with my team.
- I'm bringing a positive attitude to work every day.
- I am excellent at what I do.
- I am generous.
- I am happy.
- I will be a leader in my organization.
The use of affirmations is just one way to make positive changes to your life. You can also use techniques such as Thought Awareness, Rational Thinking, and Positive Thinking, and Cognitive Restructuring. You may also want to take our quiz, Are You a Positive or Negative Thinker?
Negative thinking can cause severe health problems and, in extreme cases, death. While these techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing occasional negative thinking, they are for guidance only, and readers should take the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they have any concerns over related illnesses or if negative thoughts are causing significant or persistent unhappiness. Health professionals should also be consulted before any major change in diet or levels of exercise.
Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to overcome self-sabotaging, negative thoughts.
To use affirmations, first analyze the thoughts or behaviors that you'd like to change in your own life and career.
Next, come up with positive, credible, and achievable affirmation statements that are the opposite of these thoughts. Repeat your affirmations several times a day, especially when you find yourself slipping into negative self-talk or engaging in negative behavior.
Remember that affirmations are most effective when you use them alongside other strategies, such as visualization and goal setting.
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