Watch Your Affirmations

In the past, I have scoffed at the idea of affirmations. You know, “I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.” That sort of thing.

I don't feel that way anymore, because I have realized every human being on the planet practices affirmations. It's simply that most of us do it unconsciously. Most of us didn't even take the affirmations we use.

Here's what I mean: it seems to me that most of us have certain phrases, thoughts, and thinking patterns that we inherited from our nurturing environment as we were growing up. From our parents. From our peers. From our teachers. And those phrases ring in our minds no matter how old we might be today. Some common examples:

  • “Money doesn't grow on trees.”
  • “Look before you leap.”
  • “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
  • “Haste makes waste.”
  • “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

I'm not here to debate the truth of any of those statements, I'm just illustrating that we all have phrases we repeat to ourselves over and over throughout our lives. There are, I believe, many other such phrases (and unconscious patterns of thought) that we repeat on a daily basis. We are unaware of these patterns, for the most part. They may be subtle, or they may be quite obvious (like the examples I've already given).

The spooky part, at least as far as I'm concerned, is the fact that most of us didn't choose these affirmations. We are not even aware of them. We simply accepted them without critical evaluation. You might want to let that sink in.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, you're automatically thrust into a leadership position. Others look to you for example. Don't you agree it's valuable to be aware of what you are thinking, day in and day out?

Suggested exercise: pay attention to repetitive patterns in your speech and thinking today-and ask yourself whether those patterns are helpful, or perhaps not so helpful.

Comments or observations? Leave them here on this page, please!

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at

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  • You're right, Ray, about affirmations. We live by what we believe. What you're really talking about, I think, are beliefs we adopt as true. Many such beliefs are really lies. And they are formed, many of them, when we are very little, before we even can consciously choose them–then they go underground. (I just edited a book that explains how all this works, The Healing Code:

    Unless we find and correct these lies, they can rule our lives, even (as Bruce Lipton shows in his book, The Biology of Belief) affecting our physical health. So the exercise you suggest is very good, to become aware. I would just suggest going a step further, though, and replace the lies with truth, which is what The Healing Code helps you do, quickly, painlessly, and effectively.

    Also, the kind of affirmations many people teach that you mention first off, actually set you up for stress because if you tell yourself something you don't really believe, you're setting up a conflict for yourself. (Such as saying, “My cancer is healed” when it's not.)

    Noah St. John, in The Secret Code of Success, suggests using afformations (not a typo) where you ask yourself a Why question (“Why is my cancer healing?”). He says your mind is wired to come up with answers to why questions, so it starts working to create the answer. Much better than affirmations. I've been playing around with afformations and it's quite astounding how well they work.

  • I've not been a strong believer of affirmations either but I do agree that the examples mentioned (and others) are often repeated without us even paying attention to it. The question that I find even more interesting is whether or not they actually affect our actions? If we say them over and over but without changing our actions (because of them), then there isn't a problem. However, if saying “money doesn't grow on trees” makes us live an unnecessarily frugal life, then we should definitely stop saying it.

    But with that said, I am a believer of the statement that our thoughts control our actions. I just haven't gotten to the point where I am using affirmations consciously.

  • Susanchartock

    Hello Ray,

    Here's another one of those cliches used, “Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

    However none of these comes to mind in all my thinking from day to day.

    I enjoy reading your emails though since you always come up with something extremely worthwhile to think about in doing so.

    Sue Chartock