“How to use Affirmations”

Rick Gabrielly:

Welcome to THE ROAD AHEAD CAFE. Really excited today to have you back with us. Today we’re going to cover a topic which is very exciting and near and dear to all our hearts. We’re going to talk about Affirmations. We have a lot to say about that, so I’m going to kick it over my co-host, Peter Fellows.

Peter, what do you think about Affirmations?

Peter M Fellows:

Alright. Well, thank you Rick. Okay, we’re back this week and we’re bringing you more powerful insights, more practical hacks that are going to make your daily life go to the next level because after all that is the purpose of THE ROAD AHEAD CAFE and the mission of the new book I’m writing for you ‘helpers’ too.

You guys know who you are, you’re always available. You’re a shoulder to cry on, an ear to bend, that type of things, even though your own life is one spilt coffee after another.

You guys are what I call the ‘peer coaches,’ regular folks with their own problems, but you’re always helping others. That’s why I’m writing my new book about Mindful Pathfinding [The Pathfinder’s Question], a new type of mindfulness, and that’s why today we’re going to showcase this amazing tool called Affirmations.

What is an Affirmation? It’s like a positive statement: I am loveable. Okay, that doesn’t work for me but you can see, Rick and Frank are loveable, so it obviously worked for them!

I’m going to share with you today some of the latest scientific insights and findings we have on Affirmations and show you how to build the most powerful Affirmation possible.

For no extra charge, Rick and Frank will correct me, and then they’ll take the showcase we have today to the next level. This stuff is gold. So, get your pen and get ready.

So, now we move on to Frank.

Frank van den Horst:

Okay, if you look at the word affirmation, it comes from the Latin word affirmare which means to make solid. So Affirmations are actually to strengthen something. The whole idea about Affirmations is to strengthen the way you think and feel about yourself.

If I look at many different Affirmations, they are mostly written, “I will,” “I want,” etc. But the mere fact that you will something or you want something, you put something somewhere in the future, that is not already there. So, you’re not strengthening it, you’re strengthening something that might happen. But that’s not what you want. You want to get it done. You want to have the feeling that it’s already there.

So, that’s why in a lot of Eastern traditions, they say, “I am.” So, the “I am” statement is one of the most powerful ones. If you look at positive psychology you will see that there’s a lot of scientific evidence nowadays. Even if you look at child care, saying to your children, “Yes, you are loved,” you give them the feeling. You don’t hit them and say, “You're loved,” that’s not a way of being loved. Being loved is taking care, feeling that you’re welcome, that says you are okay as who you are.

So, the statement of I am okay is a very powerful one. So, I am loved is a very powerful one. Make Affirmations, make the strengthening thoughts and feelings as practical as possible, and state them in the moment, not in the future.

Rick, what do you think?

Rick Gabrielly:

This is some good stuff. I just love listening to you guys, I love hearing what you have to say. I remember two distinct stories that I want to share, it’s all about the fact that we can change.

When I met Carol, my wife, 34 years ago, she’s a banker, very conservative. I’m a sales and marketing guy, very open and outgoing, very communicative. When we were starting a family, she was like, “I’m going to go to the hospital, have my baby,” and I met a rebirther (and a polarity therapist), oddly enough at a business networking function, one day. Her name was Belinda.

We started to talk and she said, “Well, you’re going to obviously have a midwife, right?” and Carol was like, “No, we’re going to go to the hospital and have these babies.”

Belinda was like, “No, you can have a midwife and have them naturally,” and Carol was like, “No way.”

So, the first thing, Belinda starts talking to her about breathing exercises and all this stuff. We go down this whole road, basically took a fork in the road from we’re going to have our babies in a hospital, to we’re going to go to a birth center and have a midwife.

Then this kind of put this ball in motion, this very conservative young lady [Carol] was all of a sudden starting to think about different ways to have a baby. The next thing you know, she’s using these statements (that Belinda said were called Affirmations) to reprogram herself out of the worry and the fear of childbirth, into this joyous relief, and this ability to change the way she thought.

I have to give Belinda credit, my oldest is going to be 27 now. So, this was 28 years ago for Carol really changing the way she thinks.

Fast forward now, just last week, one of our good friends was struggling with some health issues and I messaged Carol, “Carol, would you mind sending our friend some Affirmations?”

Carol goes to work, puts together a beautiful email, and sends our friend Affirmations, who now, not only did the Affirmations, but then ended up during one of her networking meetings, running into a person who was starting a meditation group. So, the two of them got into that, and now [our friend’s also] meditating.

It’s amazing how much we can change.

The other story is when my youngest came home from school one day, he was struggling with some bullying stuff. I just basically had a little talk with him and told him how he could reprogram himself. As the boys were growing up, Carol was always sitting with them, talking to them about how they would speak to themselves. So, we are big on Affirmations in the Gabrielly house.

Back to you, Peter.

Peter M Fellows:

Okay, well, I’ve three ways to level up your Affirmations. Now, the first one might actually make your head spin, so just hang in here.

(1) Let’s imagine a person, Marge, who has very low self-esteem. She sees herself as unloveable, sort of like I see myself. [Wink, wink] It’s only natural that you might think she could benefit from a positive Affirmation such as I am loveable.

You’re replacing the negative with a positive, it’s what you’ve been told to do, and it may seem like a natural remedy to prescribe to her. But research shows that when road tested, this Affirmation may actually backfire because it turns out that when people who believe they are unlovealbe tell themselves that they are loveable, they still don’t believe it.

People have what’s called ‘latitudes of acceptance.’ This means that when someone gives you feedback, your brain automatically compares it to its pre-existing perception of you. If it falls within the latitudes, the boundaries of what you already believe, it will accept it.

The same holds true for Affirmations. If it doesn’t fit the brain’s preconceptions, then the Affirmation may be rejected. The brain immediately starts to think of examples that show that you’re not loveable. It may think, “Perhaps I’m somewhat loveable but not as much as I should be, not as much as Sally is.”

This can actually make the person feel worse. It [seems, from] what we’ve studied, that the brain prefers to hold onto negative self-appraisal (even though it hurts) because it affords clarity and predictability, and the brain loves predictability. It’s a safter bet for self-worth.

Now, what can you do about this? Well, two ideas you might want to try.

First, do a Mindful Pathfinding session with people. Simply reconnect them to their inner guidance and that’s what I’m writing about. We’ll talk more about it in later sessions.

Second, try and write your Affirmation in a way that’s aspirational and tangential. Now, you’re going to have to look up those words, right? ‘Aspirational,’ and ‘tangential.’ (Those are ten-dollar-words, by the way.)

I am becominng more aware of the loveable things that I do.

It’s aspirational because it isn’t saying you are something, but that you are becoming something. It’s far easier for the brain to believe that you’re becoming something than you are something.

It’s tangential because it’s not [claiming] you are loveable, it isn’t even [claiming] that you do loveable things. It’s saying that you’re simply becoming more aware of the loveable things you already do.

Now, two things here:

One is that when the person you’re helping begins to look for the lovable things they do, it’ll begin to figure out that this means they must be lovable too.

I’m going to show you how to kick up the power of this Affirmations.

(2) So, you’re encouraging the person you’re helping to become more aware of the lovable things they do. That’s good. But we can make it better. We can change it from [something] rather amorphous (another ten-dollar-word, maybe fifteen-dollar-word) to something concrete.

You see we’re going to use-- “I will count...”

“I will count the number of lovable things I do today.”

“I will count them.” That’s a very concrete action, rather than just “I’ll be aware.”

[Now] we’re not even asking the person to believe that they’re becoming aware. We’ve taken the resistance completely out of this and instead, we have the person doing a simple job counting lovable things they do.

That [will] help a lot, but based upon the newest research we can still supercharge this affirmation even more!

(3) Instead of declaring:

“I will...count the number of lovable things I do today.”

make a simple change in the order of the first two words and say:

“Will I...count the number of lovable things I do today?”

Because research shows that this will give you better results, asking rather than stating.

The possible reason is that when you say, “I will,” your brain may see that as a threat because it’s like being bossed around. “Will I,” the brain starts to think of reasons for why it will do that. So, it’s actually now getting motivation from within. You’ve given it a choice and it’s more likely to say. “Yes, I want to do that.”

So, that’s what we’re going to do, and there you gol

Rick Gabrielly:

Ah, good stuff. Frank, what do you think?

Frank van den Hurst:

Thanks. Peter, I think it is what you said, I agree. But I want to add something.

Sometimes (and I think Peter was completely right) when the brain doubts actually what you’re saying, it is because there are some emotions you have to have another look at.

You cannot simply override it with one sentence, “I’m confident. I’m confident.” If you have a history of being not confident, feeling of being not competent, not loved, you’re really stupid, you cannot go to high school, you are not able to follow up to go to university,” and so on. Well, you might have the intelligence, and maybe not the ability at that point but have the intelligence to do that.

In my practice as a counselor, I often come across the fact that we really have to discuss those feelings of no confidence. Where do they come from? What’s happening? Where do you feel that in your body? Because at that moment, you are appreciateing what is at the moment...your judgment.

That’s not good, and you want to move to something better because that’s [just] an opinion, a judgment. You have to release that.

Then it might help you, of course, by counting those moments, but also having some people helping you, some friends to give you genuine, positive, constructive feedback in a way that is applicable that you can recognize, “Oh yeah, I thought it wasn’t...I didn’t do it that well.”

I’d say, “Hey, Frank, look at this. How did you do it?” and then you start to rewrite your own script.

By rewriting your own script, the effectiveness of Affirmations will boost your daily practice [to] where you will see it in your behavior that you’re going to change.

People will say, “Hey, you’ve changed. What is it? You’re more self-confident.”

“Yeah, I hear it, I see it, I sense it without you saying one word.”

That’s what I often see.

Peter M Fellows:

Good stuff, Frank. Rick, what do you think?

Rick Gabrielly:

So, as I hear you guys talking, I’m thinking, it sounds like Affirmations can help us move from helpless to hopeful, so it gives us an opportunity to plant these seeds of hope.

One of the things that you said, Peter, is to get the brain to start believing that we’re becoming. For me, when you said the word becoming, I just thought of hope. I just see that as one of the foundational pieces in this is can we start to hope and feel, as Frank mentioned, and appreciate what is.

I think the mind is fertile ground. So, when we plant these seeds of hope, just like any other plant, it starts to grow and we’ve got to reprogram ourselves. Planting this seed of hope and appreciating what is can really help us.

These statements, however you construct yours, it’s about reprogramming ourselves. I mean, that’s why we’re all here. We’re here to help each other and you, and hopefully, you get something out of this.

I see it growing like a plant. I think thoughts become habits and then habits become beliefs. So, using these methods of self-talk, it helps me every day. I know that I’m thinking about things when I’m responding or sometimes reacting to a situation. Automatically, I guess I’ve developed a habit of speaking to myself and having that reprogramming.

It’s just kind of organizing our thoughts for the outcome that we’re looking for. I think that relaxing, selecting, and then releasing the thought, the idea that self-talk is really a great way to move to the next step. I think we have to be patient and I think we have to have a willing heart.

Peter M Fellows:

Yeah, I think you’re right, Rick.

“Will you count (talking to your self) the number of lovable things I do today?”

is actually [even] better.

Talking to your brain, it’s not only the essence of Mindful Pathfinding, but science shows that it works well with Affirmations and Intentions.

Frank van den Horst:

I agree with you, Peter. The number one killer of all Affirmations is self-doubt. You have to be very aware of that because your brain can trick you. Because the moment you start not believing yourself, and your self-doubts kicks in again, often it’s an old response pattern which you turn on.

It’s like the light switch. You can turn it off and you can turn it on. When you turn it on, you believe you create something positive, you’re going to count, as Peter says, and you talk to yourself in a third[-person] way, looking at yourself, “Okay, Frank, are you going to count? Did you count your positive actions today?”

The moment you’re going to doubt that, and the simple thing, “Oh, I forgot to count the positive actions today?” Oh, shit. That’s not a good idea.” That moment, you turn off the switch, and you have to be very aware of that one.

Don’t turn off the switch. Keep it on. The moment you see you’re doing it, immediately turn it on again and say, “Okay, thank you for the wake-up call. I’m ready to rock and roll again. Keep up the good work.”

Rick Gabrielly:

One of the things I learned not only from being coached but being a coach (and to speak to your work Frank), we’ve got to have positive daily imput. Somehow, there’s got to be something that interrupts the regular scheduled programming and thinking to wake us up.

You use the word awareness. When we’re doing our busy day and we’re fully engaged in the work or the things of life, how do we become aware? How do we take that moment? Do we wait for some type of wake-up call, or something has to happen? Is there a bad thing that has to challenge our thinking into becoming aware?

So, I think that we’d like to know what you think, if you’re listening or watching today, how is this impacting you right now?

One of the shows we just did, we talked about habits and how to deal with that type of thing. This is that exact same thing. It’s a thinking habit, and these Affirmations, we’ve got to figure out a way to interrupt the current thinking, especially when we’re overly busy or even fatigued mentally or physically. That’s when this stuff starts to creep in (or if we’re challenged in some way).

I’d love to hear what you both think on that before we end this show. Peter, what do you think?

Peter M Fellows:


It’s not you (from my perspective), it’s your brain that’s having these situations. Usually, [you’re] just going along with it. You’re the passenger in the seat, and the brain is the driver.

Whenever you feel a bump in the car, you go, “What are you doing?” like that. In mindfulness you simply say to the brain, “It’s okay, you want to drive like that all over the road.”

But why not just ask, “Is there an even more fulfilling way I can enjoy this experience?” and see what comes. Teach your brain to be mindful. You don’t need to be mindful. Teach your brain to be mindful. He or she is the one who’s driving the car.

So yes, I would say that’s the best thing [coaching your brain to be mindful]. Self-doubt’s fine. You don’t doubt yourself, your brain doubts yourself. Become its coach, become its friend, and I think you’ll get much better experiences and outcomes in your life.

Frank van den Horst:

And that means, Peter, that you have to start to observe yourself.

The key role is to start to be an observer. So, the key question for me is when people say, “What can I do right now?” Something happens to me, there is a question you can ask yourself, “Frank, what is happening to you right now?”

By asking what. The what-question is always an open-minded question.

The how is: “I have to do this,” and you already have thought about it, and said this is the solution. But often people go to solutions without having questions: why and what is happening right now?

So, if you ask yourself what is happening right now, with me, then you come to that observation momentum, and you become what Eckhart Tolle says, you realize the awareness, the presence of awareness. The presence that you are aware of what is happening. At that moment, you can make a decision what path to follow.

Rick Gabrielly:

Good stuff, gentlemen. Thank you again for all your contributions, not only to me but to humanity. Always enjoy meeting with you both. Thank you all for watching and listening. This was The Road Ahead Cafe, and we look forward to seeing you next time.

I don't want to miss out! Please keep me updated on what Rick, Frank, and Peter have planned for future episodes!

* indicates required


“How to use Affirmations”