If you’ve been in the business world for any length of time at all, you’ve read, heard about, or even tried positive affirmations.
An affirmation is a positive statement, in the present tense, said aloud, with feeling, multiple times a day. The idea behind it is that you use affirmations to reprogram your mind with positive language and ideas that will ultimately create new behaviors and bring you everything you want in life.
Some examples of positive affirmations are:
- I am living my best life now.
- I have all that I need in abundance.
- I am successful.
- I like myself!
Or as Al Franken’s character Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live would say;
Essentially, affirmations are lies that you tell yourself in order to try and trick your brain into a state called “cognitive dissonance.” Cognitive dissonance occurs when your reality does not match your perception of reality. When it happens your mind kicks into high gear to try and reconcile the two either by changing your perception or feeding you ideas for changing your reality.
We’ve all experienced cognitive dissonance. Think of a time for example, when a close friend of yours acted in a way that was unusual for him or her. Perhaps you see her yell at her children in a fit of anger, or perhaps he failed to follow-through on something he said he would get done. What was your reaction? Most people are shocked at first and then go through a litany of possible explanations for the friend’s behavior. They will then reach-out to that friend to find out what’s wrong. That is cognitive dissonance.
The question however is this; do affirmations that create cognitive dissonance actually create permanent changes in character?
Of course not. Changes in character come through the work of the Holy Spirit not from chanting positive thoughts. That’s why we should forget affirmations and preach the Gospel to ourselves instead.
I recently read of a pastor who gets up every morning, goes into his bathroom, stands in front of his mirror and preaches the Gospel to himself. I decided that was a good thing to do and so I took up the practice myself. Here is essentially what I remind myself of each day;
You are a rotten sinner and you deserve Hell and God would be perfectly just in sending you there. But God loves you and has shown you mercy even though you don’t deserve it. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life, died for you, and was raised to life for you. God has rescued you from sin and death and Hell and has covered your sins with the righteousness of His Son. You did nothing to earn this. You couldn’t possibly hope to earn it. It was given to you by God because it pleased Him to do so and because it brings Him glory. Rejoice in that and remember that you are not your own, you were bought with a price, so by God’s grace and the power of His Holy Spirit you will live today for His glory. You will strive to live each moment as an act of worship and thanks for His matchless love and grace. Rejoice! God is at work in you to conform you to the image of His Son and one day he will take you home to enjoy His presence forever.
How’s THAT for a positive affirmation? Kind of sets a different tone for the day doesn’t it? I know this discipline has already made an enormous impact on the way I approach each day.
I realize this will create some cognitive dissonance in the heads of a few self-help gurus but this is the truth folks and we can’t go wrong preaching the truth to ourselves now can we?
Can you imagine the change in our mindsets and in our hearts if we started each and every day with this realization, with this affirmation of Gospel truth?
Forget affirmations, preach the gospel to yourself.