Relaxing with Rob

Make Affirmations Work

January 05, 2020 Rob Sepich Season 1 Episode 29
Relaxing with Rob
Make Affirmations Work
Show Notes Transcript

A slight change to an affirmation could strengthen its power.

Here's the Michael Jordan interview (1991) on Saturday Night Live.

Examples of how you might structure an affirmation:

Up until now, I’ve been expecting perfection; now I’m striving for excellence.

Up until now, I’ve been scared of down-time; now I’m making it count.

Up until now, I’ve been afraid of public speaking; now I’m growing in confidence.

Up until now, I’ve been eating mindlessly; now I’m savoring food.

Up until now, I’ve been fighting change; now I’m learning from it.


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[ music.] Hi, this is Rob Sepich, and welcome to Relaxing with Rob. If you feel stuck in a pattern that you'd like to change, I'll share a twist on a common prescription for behavior change: affirmations. I learned this in a workshop from Jack Canfield, the coauthor of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and I've used it with college students for years. Affirmations are really easy targets for jokes. When Al Franken was a writer and cast member of Saturday Night Live, he popularized the character Stuart Smalley, who used the affirmation, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" I remember when Michael Jordan was a guest on his mock self-help show and Smalley tried to build up Jordan's self-esteem--only to learn that somehow this really wasn't a problem for Michael. In fact, just for fun, I'm going to place a link to that interview in the show notes. I think that affirmations have been used for parody because they invite it. They're usually simplistic and they make it seem like you don't have to put the work into changing. You just say something positive and then your life improves. But as my meteorology professor, Dr. Villmow would say in response to any observation we'd make about the weather, "It's not that simple!" Maybe an affirmation has backfired for you. For example, what if you've tried to reduce your perfectionism by telling yourself, "I'm not a perfectionist." But after a couple of stressful situations where you kind of fell back on your pattern, you start to conclude that you can't change. Or maybe you've tried to eat more intentionally, but after mindlessly eating something while watching a show on your laptop and realizing you didn't even taste the food, you conclude you're not even capable of this. Well, in my experience, just saying how we want to be is usually not enough. And to illustrate this, I once saw a cartoon of a wishing well with a sign above it, saying "Caution: wishing doesn't make it so!" It does take work. But I think more than that, I believe it takes a different way of looking at the problem. And I think that acceptance of how things are right now helps a lot. And here's where three optimistic words come in. And this is the part I learned from Jack Canfield. The words are: "Up until now." I sometimes insert them in front of something I don't like about myself just to inject hope and the possibility of change. So for affirmations, start with something that's currently true like, "Up until now, I've been expecting perfection." Okay, so far you're just stating the truth. This sinks in, and this provides an anchor for your affirmation. Next, construct something in the present tense, like "now I'm striving for excellence." And the present tense works because it's harder to reject it. Because it might only be true slightly and not necessarily in all situations, but it's true, so you can't reject it. And you might still occasionally do something perfectly, but that's not your expectation. And by the way, try to make these affirmations brief because these are a lot easier to remember. Or the other example, try "Up until now, I've been eating mindlessly; now I'm savoring food." This doesn't have to mean every time. But you've got your anchor, and then your affirmation. When I'd help students with this, we'd usually agree on just one or two to try for a week or so rather than a laundry list of changes to make. And that's what I'm suggesting for you if you'd like to experiment with this. Try out the formula regardless of how you fill it in. And if possible, say it out loud several times a day. It doesn't have to be in front of a mirror like Stuart Smalley, but do try to say it with some conviction. That'll really help your odds of success. I'll place more affirmation examples in the show notes. So remember, the "up until now" preface allows us to be the imperfect humans that we all are, and then the "now I'm" affirmation also acknowledges that we have the ability to change. Not that it's easy, in fact, it rarely is. But it's possible, and it happens every day. Thank you for listening, and we'll talk again soon. [inaudible] .