Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Use Daily Affirmations to Strengthen Self-Confidence

The core principle of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, the granddaddy of all success literature, is the building of self-confidence through twice-daily affirmations, a process Hill called "auto-suggestion." He says quite pointedly:
Taking inventory of mental assets and liabilities, you will discover that your greatest weakness is lack of self-confidence. This handicap can be surmounted, and timidity translated into courage, through the aid of the principle of autosuggestion.
Your problem, in other words, is a lack of self-confidence, and here's how to fix it. And fix it, it does.

Hill offers a lengthy example of what he calls a "Self-Confidence Formula":
First. I know that I have the ability to achieve the object of my Definite Purpose in life, therefore, I DEMAND of myself persistent, continuous action toward its attainment, and I here and now promise to render such action. 
Second. I realize the dominating thoughts of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action, and gradually transform themselves into physical reality, therefore, I will concentrate my thoughts for thirty minutes daily, upon the task of thinking of the person I intend to become, thereby creating in my mind a clear mental picture of that person. 
Third. I know through the principle of auto-suggestion, any desire that I persistently hold in my mind will eventually seek expression through some practical means of attaining the object back of it, therefore, I will devote ten minutes daily to demanding of myself the development of SELF-CONFIDENCE. 
Fourth. I have clearly written down a description of my DEFINITE CHIEF AIM in life, and I will never stop trying, until I shall have developed sufficient self-confidence for its attainment. 
Fifth. I fully realize that no wealth or position can long endure, unless built upon truth and justice, therefore, I will engage in no transaction which does not benefit all whom it affects. I will succeed by attracting to myself the forces I wish to use, and the cooperation of other people. I will induce others to serve me, because of my willingness to serve others. I will eliminate hatred, envy, jealousy, selfishness, and cynicism, by developing love for all humanity, because I know that a negative attitude toward others can never bring me success. I will cause others to believe in me, because I will believe in them, and in myself.
The "DEFINITE CHIEF AIM in life" that Hill mentions here is also an affirmation, normally a sum of money to be attained by a specific date (although it can be anything you choose, and can be a wide variety of qualities you would like for you life to embody). These affirmations with serve to inspire a plan for the attainment of your goal, which will also become its own affirmation, which will become more and more specific as you go along.

Self-confidence is all important because it is the bond that connects being with doing. The completely self-confident person will not even consider doing anything that does not arise from his/her being, from "who they are," regardless of how statistically improbable their success might be. Imagine Pavarotti going into teaching because there are a lot of good singers out there. Or Joey Votto (first-basemen for the Cincinnati Reds) working at a bank because it's so difficult to make it in the big leagues. There are a lot of examples of both, by the way, and the difference is self-confidence, which is the strength to do that which arises from one's being, come what may (see Put Being Before Doing in Job Search).

Affirmations really work. I'll never forget the moment their efficacy became crystal clear to me, and it wasn't so very long ago that it happened. I was searching for an apartment to rent and I'd just visited a depressing little place I thought I could afford. I thanked the woman who showed it to me and then walked around the block to take one more look at another place I had just missed renting.

I stopped at a crosswalk and just as I did, a man driving a black Range Rover stopped at the stop sign, and at that moment another line from Think and Grow Rich popped into my head: "ALL IMPULSES OF THOUGHT HAVE A TENDENCY TO CLOTHE THEMSELVES IN THEIR PHYSICAL EQUIVALENT." (Hill capitalizes important ideas like this a lot.) And I thought: what impulse of this man's thought has clothed itself with this Range Rover? And I thought: what impulse of my thought has clothed itself with the beaten up old car I was driving and the prospect of living in this dingy little apartment?

I had to be honest with myself. I was better looking, probably better educated, I probably knew as much or more about making money than he did, I was probably more creative. So what was the difference?

I walked back around the block, saw my old car (it was a very good car, I must say) and said to myself: I can no longer afford a lack of self-confidence.

And it wasn't just about money. It brought home to me that, not only did I not have any money, but I wasn't even doing exactly what arose from my being to do! If you're going to be broke, you might as well be doing what you love full-time, non-stop. (But you can do both, simply make it all part of your system of affirmations and your life will begin moving in that direction.)

This is how affirmations work. They change things. They will move you quietly out of that non-supportive relationship and into one that is foundational to the achievement of the goals you set for yourself. They will move you out of that dead end job and quietly into a new one. They will move you quietly out of one unhelpful habit of mind and into a productive one.

Affirmations work in two ways. First, they use conscious thought to override subconscious thought. Conscious thought is always superior to subconscious thought. It's what sets humans apart from animals. Animals have insufficient conscious thought to override instinctive (subconscious) thought and behavior, and no mode of delivery (the spoken word, e.g.) even if they did have the conscious thought to deliver.

Affirmations work through repetition to reprogram subconscious thought, which is used to run bodily functions without your conscious involvement, like breathing, blood flow, and digestion. 

Bad habits can be removed using affirmations. If I have, through repetition, asked my subconscious to take over the trimming of my fingernails through use of my teeth, I can undo that habit using affirmations, by simply saying: "I decide when I bite my nails, and such self-control feels fantastic!" any time I see the impulse arising. After some repetition, my subconscious gets the message that I no longer wish for it to manage this function for me and it gives up doing so without argument. This really works. Try it, fellow former nail-biters to be.

Athletes work this process in reverse, attempting through repetition to place certain movements under the management of their subconscious minds. They call it muscle memory. The last thing a golfer wants in his/her golf swing is conscious thought as to its mechanics. The more fully his/her subconscious manages that golf swing, the more consistent it will be. Bad habits are unlearned through repetition as well. (Even good habits are unlearned in this way: how many times has Tiger Woods reinvented his drive now, trying to replace the great with something even better?)

Affirmations can be applied with success to absolutely any aspect of life. The 5 elements of an effective affirmation are:
  • Speak as though what you ask for already is;
  • Use only positive words;
  • Include feeling words;
  • Say it with feeling; and
  • Visualize what you are saying.
If you have never known wealth in your life, try developing a rich person's mentality with something like: "I am a very wealth man/woman. I have a net worth of ___________ dollars, and it feels fantastic!"

If you're in an unsatisfactory relationship, try saying exactly how you would like that relationship to be: "I have a wonderful husband/wife. S/he always does his/her best to build my self-confidence, and it feels fantastic to have a husband/wife like that!" Add whatever you like to the mix.

Do you have a substance problem? Try saying something like this: "I decide when I take a drink of alcohol, and such complete self-control feels fantastic!" (Chances are good, unfortunately, that you won't be able to bring yourself even to say an affirmation like this. It isn't that it won't work, it's that you're not ready for it to work yet. You're not ready to give up that substance just yet. Don't worry, the affirmation will be there for you when you are ready. And it will work, simple as that.

If you don't have inner peace, try something like this: "I decide how my insides feel, and such complete self-control feels fantastic!" Be careful not to say that your insides feel fantastic--they may not at that moment, but the words you're saying will reenforce to your subconscious mind that that's how you want to feel all the time. Say instead that it's the self-control that feels great, not what you're feeling at that particular moment.

The second way that affirmations work is by connecting you up with those "forces you wish to use, and the cooperation of other people" as Napoleon Hill puts it in the affirmation above. Note that the affirmation that this comes from is about self-confidence. That's because all affirmations are completely intertwined with self-confidence. They use the creative power of the spoken word to reconnect us with the Source of all inspiration and creativity, which is inside of us. That is to say, they reconnect us with our Being. And it's this Being in which we have (self)-confidence.

Here's the self-confidence formula I use (in addition to the one above): "I have complete confidence in my being, and doing that arises from it, and such complete self-confidence feels fantastic!" It's much less of a mouthful. I say it to myself probably 50 times a day, along with a confident fist pump (notice how many times the best athletes make that quiet little gesture; why do you think that might be?).

If you read Think and Grow Rich, you may notice that Hill's Definite Chief Aim formula appears to be focused in the future, as opposed to present-moment oriented as I've recommended above. But the whole point of Hill's formulation is to see the money now in your possession, see it with your eyes, feel it with your hands. It's about visualization, in other words, which is always present-moment oriented (see The Visualization of Success).

Hill also recommends that you read Chapter 4 of Think and Grow Rich on "Auto-suggestion" aloud once each night before you go to bed until you're thoroughly convinced that affirmations work. If you do this, you will eventually get it. Do it. What have you got to lose?

Give affirmations a try. Experiment with them. Find a whole interworking system of them that covers your whole life as you would like it to be. Use them to "build your own life to order" as Hill puts it. Work them and re-work them until you have them just the way you want them. This level of vision and planning will not go unrewarded. You will see a radically different you in the very near future.

Photo credit: ilovemylife


  1. Affirmations do work.It's a long hard slog but they will benefit you in amazing ways.I'm living proof.Great article!

  2. I can say with total certainty that this works. I have'nt been using autosuggesstions in around 2 months and the result has been staggering. I have to say that I feel terrible. lol.

    I can say that with a smile because I can create a list of autosuggesstions right now and fix the situation but it's important to realize the role that it plays. If I told you my story, where I am right now you would think it wasn't so bad. But when I tell it to myself It's magnified times a hundred. I'm 30, I've never been in trouble or anything, but I have low self-esteem because I was born with a standing IQ of 132. Since then It's risen and risen.

    The problem is that when you can see things to their endpoint, you don't really want to get to the end. The end seems boring. Now connect that to an everyday thing. A friendly conversation at work, college coursework, dating, paying bills. When you make the connection everything has the same boring end. You end right back where you begin, in fact in most of these cases you may lose more than you gain...

    coursework=college degree=good job=interested women=house,car,kids,dog,marriage=stagnant life with no escape.

    so coursework=stagnant life with no escape.

    In fact most things have this outcome, so I only pursue things that have either a ridiculously high outcome, or an end that I can't see... Multibillionaire... World Leader...

    Not to say that these are bad goals at all, but I can't deny that if you don't focus on the rent today and conquering the world next week... you lose your living space.

    I'm rambling a little.

    So, bordem with an outcome means that you don't really care about the work. That goes for conversations, and everything else. And when you don't engage people they develop some very shallow views about you. You don't engage me (because I'm so great), so you can't. People begin to think that you're stupid. Ironic. Unfortunatley when you don't have a college diploma, and you don't care about things you have to work with the bottom of society... and in the ghetto you don't need to be better than someone, you just need to point and laugh... (I'm getting to the point) This can damage a persons self esteem, especially if it happens again and again. And here we are...

    I figure (1)1 week of autosuggestions, (2)hiring a referance company to say that I've been a accounts receivable clerk for the last 5 years. (3)studying accounting for 2 months and (4)creating a polished resume. Will all be enough to get me back on track. Then purchasing houses. Then learning german, french and italian, Then moving to Switzerland (I hate NY) and purchasing for a passive income is a good 5-year plan.

    It feels good to write this down. Thank You.

    1. Affirmations are great. But the issue may be a focus that is outside of "the Now." Why focus on outcomes? Focus on what is here and now. This is a difficult habit to get into for most people, because most people have been in the habit of either focusing on the past or on the future, which don't really exist. Only "the Now" is real.

      Might I recommend 'The Power of Now" which is reprinted in full on this blog, listed above under the Life Coaching Library? It has done me a lot of good. Perhaps it will help you too.


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