“Every thought you have contributes to truth or to illusion; either it extends the truth or it multiplies illusions.” A Course in Miracles, Lesson 16
Have you ever heard about or used affirmations? Last week, I was interviewed by a friend and freelance writer, Jenna Joanitis, on the topic of using affirmations to improve your mood and productivity. Chatting with Jenna reminded me of this powerful tool for intentionally changing our subconscious beliefs. Louise Hay, a visionary author and the founder of Hay House, pioneered this work in the 1970s. I like using affirmations to rewrite my story and create the life I want because it’s such a simple, yet effective technique.
Even though it may look like wishful thinking, affirmations, when used correctly, perform their deep healing work at several levels of our being and can help us improve all areas of our lives – from relationships and social life to career, spirituality, and money. They don’t take too much time and can be done anywhere whenever you have a moment.
Affirmation is a statement we want to believe about who we are, what we can do, and how we interact with the world. Maintaining a healthy and consistent belief system is key to achieving any goal. If one part of you is working hard toward a specific goal and another part is working against it, it will take much longer to reach the desired objective, if it is ever attained.
We use affirmations every day, without realizing it, when we affirm what is true for us. In the words of Louise Hay, “An affirmation is any statement that we make—whether positive or negative. If affirmations are used consistently, they become beliefs and will always produce results, sometimes in ways that we cannot even imagine.”
In fact, an average person thinks about 60 thousand thoughts per day. Over 95 percent of these thoughts are unconscious and automatically carried over from the past. As are result, your thoughts today are not very different from your thoughts yesterday.
Without an intervention, people tend to repeatedly recreate different versions of their past, or their parents’ past. Incidentally, most of our beliefs are formed in early childhood. Automatic thought patterns run our lives as an autopilot, until it occurs to us that we can choose to change them.
To be fair, some of the thoughts in our subconscious mind are helpful because they help us walk, eat, drive, and perform repetitive activities. Other unexamined beliefs are simply “gifts” from the past that are neither valid nor helpful anymore.
Even though we generally don’t know what limiting subconscious beliefs we hold. The results of these persistent thoughts are always evident in our relationships, work, and money scenarios. We can look at them and ask, “What limiting belief must be creating this experience?”
Our limiting beliefs tend to unexpectedly show up at the very moment when we intend to make a positive change. For example, you decide to eat healthy, but the habit doesn’t stick for more that 5 days. You decide to go for a short 20-minute walk after work, but the unforeseen circumstances prevent you from making time for your new commitment. You start a saving account for a dream vacation, but it never grows beyond the $300 you initially put there. Our logical mind is an expert in creating excuses and justifications.
If this sounds familiar, a common limiting belief that prevents us from doing what’s good for us could be related to giving yourself complete permission to experience joy, health, and abundance. Sometimes we have to step into the same river multiple times before we a pattern becomes apparent.
Luckily, affirmations can help us rewrite our story, rewire our neural pathways, and install new positive beliefs. If you use consistently affirmations, the quality of your life will change automatically because it follows from your thoughts and feelings.
General benefits of affirmations include the following:
The good news is that it doesn’t take too long to re-train our mind to think differently. Research shows that a new habit is formed after about 21 repetitions. That means that repeating an affirmation for three weeks could help you form a new thought pattern around a specific area of life. Some affirmations may require 3-6 months of consistent practice. Assuming a 3-month period to change a limiting belief, that means you can create 4 positive beliefs in a year, or 20 positive beliefs in 5 years. Since our beliefs are intertwined and depend on each other, this must result in a profound change of one’s self-image.
Maxwell Maltz talks about self-image in his book Psycho-Cybernetics, “Whether we realize it or not, each of us carries about with us a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves. It may be vague or ill-defined to our conscious gaze. In fact, t may not be consciously recognizable at all. But it is there, complete down to the last detail. This self-image is our own conception of the “sort of person I am.” It has been built up from our own beliefs about ourselves. But most of these beliefs about ourselves have unconsciously been formed from our past experiences, our successes and failures, our humiliations, our triumphs, and the way other people reacted to us, especially in early childhood. From all these we mentally construct a “self” (or a picture of a self) …. All your actions, feelings, behaviors – even your abilities, are always consistent with this self-image. In short, you will “act like” the sort of person you conceive yourself to be. Not only this, but you literally cannot act otherwise, in spite of all your conscious efforts or willpower. The man who conceives himself to be a “failure-type person” will find some way to fail, in spite of all his good intentions, or his willpower, even if opportunity is literally dumped in his lap. The person who conceives himself to be a victim of injustice, one who was meant to suffer,” will invariably find circumstances to verify his opinions.”
Using affirmation is one of the many effective techniques that help to change the self-image. I have seen many success stories when people were able to re-write their life scripts and re-build their careers, finances, and relationships.
In practice, the length of time it takes to see a positive change depends on the person’s willingness and the scope of the desired change. Some affirmations are easier to install than others. Affirmations that affect our identity, or self-image, can take up to 3-6 months to be effective.
The hierarchy of affirmations below is based on the Logical Levels method that is used in NLP and coaching. At the highest and deepest level, affirmations involve our ideas about our purpose, how we contribute to the world, and what our relationships with the Universe, God, or the Source looks like Usually, these affirmations radically affect the entire life of a person. At the lowest level, affirmations describe what I receive from my physical environment.
In practice, we can effectively combine affirmations from different levels. You can start at the level you intuitively feel comfortable with. Working with the lower levels prepares the mind for a change at a higher level. Lower-level affirmations are more concrete, while higher-level ones require abstract thinking.
Since higher-level affirmations engage the very core of our being, they can affect all the lower levels and can produce a “domino effect.” Often, the highest-level affirmations require working with a partner or a coach, who can facilitate the process of creating new beliefs and clearing out the old ones. When we get to work on those levels, changes that occur are exponential and affect all areas of life. The entire belief system changes, making way for a new quality of life.
To illustrate how the hierarchy of affirmations works, I’m going to apply it to set my affirmations in the area of money and abundance.
After writing down my affirmations, I’m going to choose one or two of them and start using them every day as explained below. In 3 weeks, I will re-assess how I feel and either replace my affirmations with higher-level statements I already prepared or keep working with the same affirmations for another 3 weeks. Trust your intuition and observe any changes in your life. You cannot make a mistake here.
Working with affirmations only takes a few minutes per day. This could be an experiment that will change your life for the better. Keep a journal of how you feel each day, and what new reactions, events, or opportunities you notice.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to work with your own affirmations.
Tanya Ince is a Money Coach, Consultant and the Founder of Wisdom Resource Center. Tanya earned her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Houston in 2008 and graduated from Erickson Coaching International in 2016. She is a Contributor and the Co-Founder of Technology Around Me, a blog that helps college students succeed in their academic and personal life. On her blog, Tanya writes about personal development, practical spirituality, and self-empowerment. Connect with Tanya on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @TanyaCoaching.