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How to Construct Affirmations

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Affirmations are a powerful method for supporting our growth and change when we are able to give them our attention without forcing or controlling, or falling prey to the judging that goes with those activities.

Affirmations are simply positive statements affirming the realization of our desires, dreams, or goals. Because words and images we choose to give our attention have power, how we construct affirmations matters a great deal, and can give us tremendous insight into how we’re relating to our selves, relationships, and world.

“I will lose 20 pounds” might sound like a great affirmation. Or “I will find a mate next month.” Or perhaps “I will beat Martha in sales for the month of May.” As a quick rule of thumb, you want to avoid or reframe any affirmation that reminds of you the little train that could: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!” It’s not that you can’t or the train didn’t; it’s that anything that has you bearing down and constricting your energy, thoughts, or world limits your power to fully realize your desire.

So, what’s wrong with using “I will lose 20 pounds” as your affirmation? After all, you probably will and it’s very specific – what’s not to love? If you’re focused on a number rather than a feeling you’re less likely to make whole life transformations that support the ongoing existence of your goal than you are to do “whatever it takes” to reach 20 and then, exhausted, fall into a celebratory pint of Cherry Garcia. Like cramming for an exam, quantifying something with qualitative value sets you up to pass the test but lose the knowledge.

To focus on the feeling and the value of the quantified goal, spend some time writing or talking with a trusted friend about what the goal means to you. Why do you want to lose 20 pounds? Do you want to lose just 20 pounds, exactly 20 pounds, or 20 on the way to 40? Is there magic in the number the scale will read after losing 20, or is there magic in feeling lighter? Did you pick 20 because of objective health guidelines or because the last time you weighed that weight your life was good and you felt powerful?

When you frame the statement that will become your affirmation, adjust the picture you paint so that you can state it in the present tense. State your goal as if it were already present. This does not mean stating over and over again “I weigh 120 pounds” when you really weigh 140. Your body knows when you are lying, even to yourself, and will sabotage this every time. But if you want to weigh 120 pounds because that’s the weight you were when you ran your last marathon, dig into how running that marathon makes you feel.



Notice I didn’t say “made” you feel. How do you feel when you imagine it right now? Proud, ecstatic, accomplished, powerful? Whatever it is, make that the basis of your present-tense affirmation. “I am an accomplished, powerful person who is proud of my accomplishments.” You are accomplished and powerful if you’ve run that marathon, you never lose that because it’s an amazing feat that says something about what you are capable of doing. And you have an accomplishment worthy of pride.

This affirmation says nothing about weight loss or numbers or even about the future specifically. What it does affirm is the feeling you’re cultivating by working toward and accomplishing your goal. What it does affirm is the actual power you have within you to create that goal.

So what’s wrong with “I will find a mate next month” and “I will beat Martha’s sales in May”? Both rely on factors outside your control, invite you to try to control others, and judge your inability to do so. They set you up for failure and unwittingly reinforce the very behaviors and habits that separate you from realizing what you want. Comparison statements are direct invitations to criticism and habitual behavior. Instead, reframe the intention in terms of deep meaning and motivation.

By creating positive affirmations of what you can honestly value, and concentrating on cultivating in the present moment, you’ll direct your awareness toward the power to dissolve habitual ways of reacting and create new and conscious ways of relating to your world.

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About Jill Magso