Are positive affirmations bollocks or a fast track to success?

positive affirmations visualisation
image: Edu Lauton

About two years ago, I saw some scraps of paper on my friend’s fridge with some curious words written on them. They said things such as “I am grateful that I am in the process of being a successful XXXX and earning XXXX per week.”

As she poured my cup of tea, she noticed I was reading her positive affirmations and she became a little embarrassed. It was just something she was trying out, she explained. A little positive psychology with some visualisation techniques.

My friend’s positive affirmations were of things I also aspired to, so with her guidance to get the wording just right for the Universe, I decided to test this out myself. Perhaps it was chance, but that very first week I hit my financial target, which was significantly greater than it had been the previous weeks.

Karen Williams, a designer and developer of childcare centres, has used this technique for both her personal and professional life. Daily, upon waking, she visualises what she wants to accomplish for the day and sees and feels how it would look in her mind.

“I definitely see the difference it makes,” Karen says. “But I see it work both negatively and positively. If I start down the track of ‘Oh my god, I hope this doesn’t happen,’ a fear based visualisation, it occurs just as easily as a positive based one. I’m very mindful if I go down that negative track to turn it on it’s head and ask ‘what do I want to accomplish’ and ‘where do I want to be?’”

Karen has done much in the self-development realm, and considers Anthony Robbins as a personal mentor. Tony, as she calls him, encourages both visualisation, and small steps of action to create your vision- mental plus physical.

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Athletes have used performance visualisation for years, and studies have shown that mental practice is almost as effective as physical practice, and combining the two gives significant and lasting results.

After Karen’s husband passed away, she took the time she needed to heal but then she wrote a “wish list” of every trait and value she wanted in a partner. The list was 25 qualities long.

“I didn’t go out places thinking ‘I’m looking for this person today’ but I knew I needed to get out as much as possible and meet like-minded people to allow the opportunity to say yes I’m present and available,” tells Karen.

She met her partner, and shortly after getting together she invited him to see something special.

“I showed him my list. He ticked every single box on my wish list. Someone I had dreamed of meeting, had come into my life and it was beautiful.”

Benjamin Hardy, PhD candidate in Organisational Psychology and creator of Life By Design course, is also a huge advocate for getting really specific on your goals. He recommends writing your goals twice daily and visiting them throughout the day. Benjamin explains how his visualisation process is done through journaling in this article .

“[My journaling] is where the mental creation happens. And because my mental creation recurs on a daily basis within my journal, the physical creation is organic. It’s simple.

“Achieving highly specific goals becomes very, very predictable. Confidence becomes a continually growing loop where ideas quickly become realities,” Benjamin writes.

It’s kind of similar to riding a bike. Where you look is where you head to, so if you stay looking ahead at the road it will help you keep on the path to your destination. In theory. Success is not guaranteed, but giving yourself a better shot can’t hurt, surely?

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Australia’s own positive psychology leader, Dr Tim Sharp, aka Dr Happy, suggests everyone can benefit from a little woo woo as long as you get busy at the same time.

“I definitely recommend visualisation as a strategy for happiness and success. There are numerous studies that show visualising goals and positive outcomes increase the chances of achieving and enjoying those outcomes. At the same time, however, what’s very important to note is that visualisation is not enough on its own; it needs to be accompanied by constructive action,” says Dr Sharp.

Getting your head in the game, putting your game face on, pulling your finger out and getting on with it seems to be the secret sauce in the recipe for success. Mental preparation meets physical action.

“What we picture or visualise, we focus on. And what we focus on, we see more of. So if we visualise positive goals and/or constructs we’ll see more of what we want and we’ll create more motivation and energy to do what we need to do to make this a reality.

“Anything and everything we do requires physical and mental effort. The two are intricately linked and the two can enhance each other (or detract from each other),” says Dr Sharp.

Visualisation and positive affirmations may seem a little bit bollocks to some, but it can be a very powerful and positive strategy for achieving happiness and success; but that happiness and success is unlikely to knock on your front door while you daydream about it on the couch.


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