The subject of positive affirmations came up a lot when I started studying personal development back in my late teens. An affirmation is a sentence stated in the present tense, about an attribute you would like to possess, a habit you’d like to adopt, or an experience you’d like to have. In order for it to be effective, you must visualize, inject emotion into the recitation, and feel the feelings of actually having that which you’re after.
So, I decided to give it a go. For over a year and a half, I spent 20 minutes a day reciting what I called my “mandate,” a beautifully written collection of my favorite positive affirmations that stated how happy and successful I was. Some mornings I felt pretty good: I began to stand up straighter and my voice became more confident. But as time went on, the passion for it faded. Instead, the words lost their power, as I recited the meaningless string of words by rote. With every word I spoke, I felt the falseness of it. After all, I wasn’t happy and I certainly wasn’t successful. In truth, I was depressed and frustrated. I was kidding myself! Positive affirmations had failed.
So why is it that some people (mainly those who profit from the self-help books we buy) report such success from positive affirmations, while the rest of us talk the talk but fail to walk the affirmation walk? The answer is buried deep within our unconscious minds…
What is your mind doing for most of the day?
If you spend a good 20 minutes a day saying your positive affirmations, and getting pumped up and feeling good, what thoughts are you thinking for the other 23 hours and 40 minutes of the day? Most likely, the same old conditioned and repetitive thoughts you always think. If there are things in your life that aren’t going the way you would like, I guarantee there are specific thoughts that are responsible for it. When most people recite positive affirmations, they make the mistake of believing that the words carry the power. But words have no meaning in and of themselves. For example, we all collectively agree that the word “cat” refers to a feline animal, but really, “cat” is just a sound that we can make with our mouths, not the furry animal curled up on your lap.
Words are like a finger pointing at the moon. They are not the moon itself.
~ Zen Buddhist saying
If the power isn’t in the words, where is it? The power lies beneath the words, in a deeper level of mind. This deeper level has five “modalities” (methods of representing reality) that correspond to our five senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic (feel, both textural and emotional), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell). Our internal dialogue is called auditory-digital and is a more conceptual modality. Here’s the important point:words merely conjure up one or more of these other levels of thinking. If I ask you to think of a cat, you translate the written word into a visual image of a cat. Perhaps you hear her purring and imagine the texture of her fur too?
It’s this deeper level of thinking that is important for creating positive change in your life. For most people, the “mind chatter” of the internal dialogue is so intense, they aren’t conscious of the other, deeper levels of thought. The “chattering monkey” drowns out the subtler, more powerful tools of the mind.
Here’s a little demonstration of how words relate to the deeper modalities of thought: I’d like to ask you NOT to think of a large, pink elephant… Go ahead, don’t think of a pink elephant at all.
You pictured a pink elephant, didn’t you? Yes? But I asked you not to! Okay, I’m not playing fair because it’s impossible not to visualize the object (if you genuinely did not see that elephant, it’s because your mind chatter is so great, it literally obscured your visual thought – it was completely out of your conscious awareness – but sure enough, that elephant was there).
It is the image that the word triggers that is important in manifesting what you want, not the word itself. When I asked you NOT to picture the elephant, the mind ignores the “intention,” and simply creates the object. The mind doesn’t compute “negatives.” Words like “don’t,” “avoid,” and “not,” are ignored by the mind, and the object is rendered in the imagination as clear as day. The pictures you generate consciously (but mostly unconsciously) are responsible for how you are creating your life. If you focus on avoiding something “bad,” you are really creating an image of that bad thing in your mind. And the mind is the most powerfully creative force in the universe ~ it will do everything to create or attract the reality of that image to you. After all, you’re focusing on it so much, you must want it, right?
The mind is a goal-seeking mechanism. You are already a master manifestor
The most fundamental purpose of your conscious linear mind is to decide what you want. You literally picture something in your mind’s eye, and that picture becomes your “goal-image.” This is working 100% of the time, all day, every day. You are already a master at manifesting, after all, you’ve manifested your entire life based exactly on the thoughts you’ve been thinking ~ the goal-images you hold in your mind. The trouble is, as I said above, you are mostly unconscious of your goal-images. Your mind-chatter drowns them out, so you are unaware that you might be focusing on what you don’twant. Or perhaps you are focused on what you want to avoid: another sure-fire way to create or attract it. Already being a master “manifest-er,” all you have to do is refocus your thoughts on to that which you want, and keep them off that which you don’t want (or want to avoid).
So, while so-called “positive affirmations” might make you feel good while you are reciting them, they have little impact on your life because of the thoughts you have for the rest of the day. Change your thoughts and you change your life. Easier said than done! How do you do this?
Swap positive affirmations for this simple principle of manifestation
Get yourself a pocket notebook and carry it around with you for two to three weeks. Every time you notice yourself thinking about something you want to avoid, or something you don’t want, write it down. That’s all. Start out small. Get curious about your own mind. Right now, it is in charge of you. But soon enough, you will have taken that control back. After a few weeks of marking down your “don’t want’s,” you should have a long list! And, you will have become much better at becoming conscious of your own thoughts. From then on, whenever you notice you are thinking about what you don’t want (remember, thinking includes visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory, olfactory), it’s simply a matter of re-focusing to what you do want.
To make this task far easier, take up a form of meditation. Almost any technique will help. Meditation quiets the mind, and enables you to clear out the trash, so you are better able to focus on what you want. This constant refocusing of the mind throughout the day will train you to create or attract that which you want, rather than that which you do not want! This is a far more powerful process than so-called positive affirmations.
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