Do affirmations work? Only if you say so…

Think positively! Look on the bright side! If you’re having a hard time, this may be the last thing you want to hear. And if you can’t see a bright side, you may consider pessimism to be a much more realistic approach to life. If so, you’ve probably never tried using positive affirmations …but you’ve been using negative ones, without even realizing it. They work just as powerfully—bringing you whatever you believe you deserve and keep affirming through your pessimistic view of reality. You’re not wrong, of course. You’re every bit as unsuccessful, unlucky, unloved or hard-done-by as you say you are—and you’ve powerfully manifested all the evidence (people, situations, circumstances) to confirm it, leaving no doubt in your mind that this is how things really are.

Can I prove to you that positive affirmations work—and that you can change your whole worldview? No. But you can prove it to yourself, if you’re willing to challenge some of your beliefs and to allow for the possibility that you can use the power of your mind to orchestrate your own life.

But it’s not just about thinking positively and being in denial about whatever challenges you face. For affirmations to generate the positive outcomes you seek, you must understand the principles that govern our reality, and then apply a process that incorporates them.

Be the change…

Not surprisingly, positive affirmations only work if you actually use them—daily, for at least two weeks. Talking about them won’t change anything, and doing them once or twice won’t be enough to re-wire your subconscious mind with positive beliefs, while dissolving the deeply engrained negative ones that you’ve lived by for so long. Most importantly, though, you must start to embody and practise the words and actions that match your positive affirmations. Affirming a deeper truth, yet failing to speak or act in accordance with that truth, just creates more internal conflict, exaggerating the gap between the way things currently are and what you’re affirming. Your actions will always win out over your thoughts. So, if you’re affirming that you’re attracting more clients or your ideal partner, but you’re acting and speaking as if your business is going to fail and you’re never going to find your mate, your affirmations cannot work. Your words/actions will reinforce your negative beliefs more powerfully than your positive affirmations can cancel them out—and you’ll end up confirming your worst fears.

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I’ve had fun with affirmations. I remember one period of my life, in the early 90s, when I affirmed that money was coming to me in unexpected ways. In the space of two weeks, I found $80 on the street, as I was running home in the pouring rain; I found money in my clothes when I took them out of the dryer I shared with my neighbours—yet no one claimed it (and it wasn’t mine); and I received an unexpected insurance payout for a claim I’d made almost a year before and had given up on ever getting. Since then, I’ve made a habit of affirming that there’s always more money coming from somewhere, and that the more I take care of me, the more I’m taken care of, in every way. It proves true, every time. Going on holiday, for example, always seems to trigger some big win—a new opportunity in my work, an editing assignment, new clients or other nice surprises.

But there are some obstacles to affirmations (and life) working for you, and it’s important to bear these in mind, if you decide to start affirming how you’d like your life to be.

1) You don’t actually believe what you’re saying. This, of course, is why you’re doing the affirmations in the first place. You’re affirming a deeper truth (an ideal scenario that you don’t know how to create) so that your mind ultimately accepts it and works to make it a reality. Dismissing them as rubbish won’t help. You’ll not only be depriving yourself of an easy way to make some breakthroughs, but you’ll also be reinforcing your negative beliefs about yourself—and making your challenges even more challenging.

2) You don’t believe that your mind works that way or that you have that kind of power. For cynics and pessimists, seeing is believing; but for optimists or those who believe in the power of their minds, it’s a matter of believing and then seeing. Which one would you prefer to make true?

3) You don’t believe you deserve to have the ease, success, wealth, love or dream life that you desire. Our early programming shapes our sense of self, determining how lovable, worthy or important we believe ourselves to be, and setting us up for a certain kind of life, with certain expectations, fears and insecurities—all of which determine how much love, money, ease, success and fulfillment we have. How’s that working for you? Would you like to change your mind about what’s possible?

4) You’re building a case against yourself. If you maintain that affirmations don’t work, it’s not the affirmations that you’re rejecting; it’s the power of you. (And affirming that they don’t work is something you can keep proving to yourself—thereby, ironically, confirming that they do, in fact, work.) The negative circumstances in your life are the evidence that you’ve created as a result of your negative beliefs—and to confirm the validity of those beliefs. This creates a circular, self-defeating argument, keeping you locked into the blinkered belief that this is how life is, regardless of what anyone says. Affirming that affirmations don’t work is the same as affirming that YOU don’t work, even though your subconscious mind is designed to bring you people, opportunities and challenges in accordance with how it’s been programmed.

The great thing about affirmations is that the more you do them and see them working, the more they work and the more you believe in them, and the more you integrate them into your life, which creates a never-endingly-positive snowball effect.

Here are some of my favourite affirmations, based on the principles that govern our reality:

  • The more I take care of me, in healthy, practical ways, the more I’m taken care of.
  • When I make myself a precious commodity in my own life, I enhance my value and I attract the rewards and recognition I deserve.
  • Being fully, fearlessly me is the most powerful thing I can do to create the life I want.
  • Everything’s unfolding exactly as it’s meant to, in my best interests, at exactly the right time.
  • The more I actively love, respect and validate myself, the more I attract others who do the same.

But don’t forget to embody and practise the things you’re affirming—for example: if you affirm that you’re taken care of, you must replace worry and self-doubt with optimism and affirmative action; if you affirm that you’re regaining your health, you must talk and act as if you’re getting healthier by the minute; and if you affirm that your life is full of exciting new opportunities or a new relationship, you must actively engage with others so that those magical connections can be made.

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Part of the magic of manifestation involves feeling and acting as if the good stuff has already happened, given the impact that our moods, energy levels and intentions have on our circumstances. But that doesn’t mean you should suddenly move to the Caribbean after a week of affirming that life in the tropics is blissful. It takes time for your affirmations to manifest in physical form—and the timing is always perfect, even if you don’t necessarily think so, at the time.

Your life is in your hands—and, even more powerfully, in your mind. You can decide who you want to be and how others will treat you, by virtue of the self-worth you embody in your own life. Make it true in your mind and it becomes true in your life. And changing your mind about you changes everything.

About the author

Olga Sheean is a former UN international civil servant, an author, editor, disruptive thinker, therapist and mastery coach specializing in human dynamics, creative potential and conscious evolution. She has documented the bio-effects of wireless radiation, exposing the widespread corruption within the industry, WHO and governments, and writes widely on the true drivers of human dysfunction and how to reclaim our autonomy.

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