Recently I was asked to give a talk to wrap up a board meeting. It was being facilitated by someone who, earlier in the day, was going to collect meaningful affirmations from everyone, and then share them with the group. He asked me to send three affirmations of my own in advance, to be part of the fun.
Now, I don't normally use affirmations—at least in the way people usually think of those—either personally or in my coaching work with people.
I think the hokeyness of the old Saturday Night Live Stuart Smalley routine (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”) might have soured me on them. And I realize I’m dating myself here.
However, I am a big believer in the power of stating one’s intentions and mission out loud, because hearing yourself say something tends to have more impact than just thinking it.
In fact, with my coaching clients, we spend a lot of time unearthing the values and ideals that orient them to the world, and then developing an action plan for bringing them to life.
Part of that is the development of something I call the Core Self Manifesto. It’s meant to be read aloud to oneself daily, to keep self-knowledge and intentions at the front of the mind. So, I suppose that could be considered a type—a very non-Stuart Smalley type—of affirmation.
But this board meeting request was something different. I was asked for my favorite affirmations for a general audience, of which I had none. But after giving it some thought, now I do.
I came up with a list of the three truths which, once really internalized, I’ve seen have the most impact on people seeking resilience, performance, peace, and happiness. They can help you stay motivated and positive, and go easy on yourself, especially when life isn’t going easy on you.
If you’re up for an experiment, try saying the following statements to yourself, out loud, for a week and see what you think. I’d love to hear about your results in the comments below!
1. “If I consistently do the next difficult thing, I will make progress toward a life of greater ease.”
It takes effort to do difficult things, or overcome the fear of doing new things. Effort and the unknown are two things that the primitive parts of your brain don’t like, so they try to steer you toward comfort, as I cover in greater detail here and here.
But the comfort of what’s already known is like a jail cell with a soft bed, pretty decorations, and a window: a window overlooking the life you’d like, maddeningly out of reach.
Things like intimacy, working toward goals, exercising, cultivating mindfulness so that you’re less prone to knee-jerk reactions—the list goes on—all require doing things that aren’t necessarily easy right now.
Consistently taking the easy path leads you in circles or keeps you stuck in the status quo, while the difficult path leads to growth and change, so you can usually trust the difficulty as a good indicator of what’s best for you in the long run.
2. “I already have everything I need to be happy.”
Society often encourages you to look outside of yourself for happiness, whether that’s in the form of a car, money, clothing, or a tube of toothpaste.
It’s not that nice things aren’t nice to have. They are. It’s that pinning your happiness to tangible objects just leaves you wanting more things, and keeps you stuck in a cycle of momentary relief followed by dissatisfaction.
If you want your stuff to start serving you, instead of you serving your stuff, and let happiness spring from within, you need to prioritize satisfying your inner needs and exercising your unique abilities.
The things that really inspire and motivate you—things like healthy relationships and a sense of meaning and purpose—have to do with your relationship to yourself and your life circumstances, and acting wisely, in accordance with what makes the best “you” tick. (See No. 1.)
All of the basic ingredients for a fulfilling, energetic, and happy life are already there.
3. “No one deserves my kindness and compassion more than I do.”
Just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that you deserve more than everyone else, just that you deserve at least as much.
Now, it’s healthy to feel kindness and compassion toward others, and that makes you a safe and supportive person for people to have in their life.
But often we’re our own worst critic. If you’ve ever replayed a conversation or situation in your head, thinking of all the better things you could have said or done, and then beat yourself up about that, then you know what I’m talking about.
You probably say things to yourself that you’d never say to your friends, if they’d done the same thing . . . because you care about them.
When you don't extend the same care to yourself, and are harsh with yourself, it just keeps you feeling discouraged and bad, and that isn’t just a problem for you. It also isn’t fair to the people you care about.
You know how, when you fly, you’re advised to put your own oxygen mask on first, and then your child’s, in the event of an emergency? That’s because if you pass out, then your child will be left to fend for himself or herself.
You’ll be a better friend, employee, partner, parent, and better at every other role you play in life, when you don’t put yourself last on the list.
Note: If you like the ideas in this article, please share it with the people you care about. Also, there is a short video here covering the high points with a musical soundtrack, for those who prefer watching to reading!