What are affirmations?

Affirmations, sometimes called positive affirmations, are the statements or phrases we repeat to ourselves to enforce positive thinking. In the process, they can be used to boost self-esteem, overcome anxiety, and defeat negative thought patterns.

Understanding affirmations

Affirmations are short statements whose primary role is to enforce positive thinking.

Some believe positive affirmations are a magic bullet while others dismiss them as baseless pseudoscience.

The real truth, however, lies somewhere in between.

Researchers have not conclusively proven that affirmations enable us to manifest what we desire, but they are based on many psychological processes backed by scientific studies.

Affirmations and neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity research looks at how the brain alters its structure, functions, or connections in response to internal and external stimuli.

Studies show that affirmations can strengthen positive neural pathways in the brain and decrease our reliance on negative pathways that no longer serve us. 

Neuroplasticity can also be used to explain how when we believe a desired future state will occur, it is more likely to eventuate.

This is caused by the brain’s occasional tendency to be unable to tell the difference between imagination and reality, and the good news is we can use this to our advantage.

Imagine you need to prepare for an important job interview. First picture yourself confidently striding into the interview room, answering the questions with purpose, and impressing the panel.

When you do this, you activate many of the same areas of the brain that would be activated had you experienced the situation in real life.

When affirmations are repeated often enough, the brain starts to take them as fact. Over time, self-belief increases and your actions usually follow.

How to use affirmations

Here is how you can use affirmations to your advantage and maximize their effectiveness:

  1. Identify self-defeating behaviors – take some time to determine which emotions, thoughts, or behaviors are not in your best interests. 
  2. Speak affirmations out loud – compared to reading, speaking your affirmations out loud increases the likelihood of new connections or desirable activity in the brain. Incense or candles can also be used when repeating affirmations such that any time they are lit, beneficial areas of the brain are reactivated.
  3. Use present tense – avoid terms like “soon”, “later”, or “better” when creating your affirmations. In other words, replace “I will be fit and eat healthier soon” with “I am a fit and healthy eater” and remember that affirmations are more like assurances and less like objectives that need to be ticked off.
  4. Avoid negative terms – do not create affirmations with negative terms (even if the intent is positive). For example, the affirmation “I am not a nervous and hesitant interview candidate” may be detrimental because it focuses on what you are trying to avoid. Always base your affirmations on positive outcomes.
  5. Direct, simple, and specific – to ensure your conscious mind has agreement from your unconscious mind, make the affirmation as direct, simple, and specific as possible. For example: “I earn a full time income working 25 hours a week from home. I make positive contributions to my company and I enjoy extra time to spend with my husband and kids.”
  6. Take action – simply stating an affirmation can boost your confidence and motivation, but actions speak louder than words. If you want to run a business based on one of your passions, register the business or buy the domain name.
  7. Add visualizations – another way to increase the effectiveness of affirmations is to visualize what you want in your subconscious. If it’s a new vacation home, picture a secluded cabin in the woods. What you can smell, hear, see, and taste? Make it as real as possible.

Affirmation examples

Below we have listed some affirmation examples in various contexts.

Business affirmations

  • I believe in myself and in my ability to succeed in all that I do.
  • As I become more successful, I am able to help more people.
  • I am a wonderful business coach and my schedule is always booked with clients who want to work with me.
  • Money is no longer a problem for me because I have more than I will ever need or desire. I donate a sizeable portion of my income to charity and I am still free to do as I please when it pleases me.
  • It is my chance to shine and I will accept the financial rewards my business affords me.
  • My ideas sell because I believe in them.
  • I let go of self-doubt and pessimism whenever I encounter an obstacle or unfair colleague at work.

Health affirmations

  • My food choices are healthy and balanced.
  • I am a person that invests time in my physical and mental health.
  • I enjoy moving my body on a daily basis and I listen to what my body tells me.
  • I am always open to new opportunities or ideas to improve my health.
  • My breathing is slow and steady and I release negative thoughts.

Family affirmations

  • I commit to spending time with my family even when there are pressing issues at work.
  • When I spend time with my family, we make happy memories that will last a lifetime and become closer.
  • Every member of my family has unique strengths and weaknesses and contributes to the family unit in their own way.
  • I am a person who does not break promises made to family members.
  • My family is accepting of the fact that I am not perfect and offer unconditional love anyway.

Key takeaways:

  • Affirmations are short statements used to enforce positive thinking. Some believe positive affirmations are a magic bullet while others dismiss them as baseless pseudoscience. 
  • Affirmations strengthen positive neural pathways in the brain and decrease our reliance on negative pathways that no longer serve us. They can also be used to imagine desirable future states and activate the same areas of the brain that are activated had the state been experienced in reality.
  • To maximize the effectiveness of affirmations, the individual must start by identifying thoughts, behaviors, or emotions that are holding them back. Once formulated, it is important to speak the affirmations out loud, use the present tense, avoid negative terms, and add visualizations.

Main Free Guides:

Connected Business Concepts

First-Principles Thinking

First-principles thinking – sometimes called reasoning from first principles – is used to reverse-engineer complex problems and encourage creativity. It involves breaking down problems into basic elements and reassembling them from the ground up. Elon Musk is among the strongest proponents of this way of thinking.

Ladder Of Inference

The ladder of inference is a conscious or subconscious thinking process where an individual moves from a fact to a decision or action. The ladder of inference was created by academic Chris Argyris to illustrate how people form and then use mental models to make decisions.

Six Thinking Hats Model

The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.

Second-Order Thinking

Second-order thinking is a means of assessing the implications of our decisions by considering future consequences. Second-order thinking is a mental model that considers all future possibilities. It encourages individuals to think outside of the box so that they can prepare for every and eventuality. It also discourages the tendency for individuals to default to the most obvious choice.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is a business strategy that involves approaching a problem from a different direction. The strategy attempts to remove traditionally formulaic and routine approaches to problem-solving by advocating creative thinking, therefore finding unconventional ways to solve a known problem. This sort of non-linear approach to problem-solving, can at times, create a big impact.

Moonshot Thinking

Moonshot thinking is an approach to innovation, and it can be applied to business or any other discipline where you target at least 10X goals. That shifts the mindset, and it empowers a team of people to look for unconventional solutions, thus starting from first principles, by leveraging on fast-paced experimentation.


The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman since 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.

Bounded Rationality

Bounded rationality is a concept attributed to Herbert Simon, an economist and political scientist interested in decision-making and how we make decisions in the real world. In fact, he believed that rather than optimizing (which was the mainstream view in the past decades) humans follow what he called satisficing.

Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias where people with low ability in a task overestimate their ability to perform that task well. Consumers or businesses that do not possess the requisite knowledge make bad decisions. What’s more, knowledge gaps prevent the person or business from seeing their mistakes.

Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor states that one should not increase (beyond reason) the number of entities required to explain anything. All things being equal, the simplest solution is often the best one. The principle is attributed to 14th-century English theologian William of Ockham.

Mandela Effect

The Mandela effect is a phenomenon where a large group of people remembers an event differently from how it occurred. The Mandela effect was first described in relation to Fiona Broome, who believed that former South African President Nelson Mandela died in prison during the 1980s. While Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and died 23 years later, Broome remembered news coverage of his death in prison and even a speech from his widow. Of course, neither event occurred in reality. But Broome was later to discover that she was not the only one with the same recollection of events.

Crowding-Out Effect

The crowding-out effect occurs when public sector spending reduces spending in the private sector.

Bandwagon Effect

The bandwagon effect tells us that the more a belief or idea has been adopted by more people within a group, the more the individual adoption of that idea might increase within the same group. This is the psychological effect that leads to herd mentality. What in marketing can be associated with social proof.

Pygmalion Effect

The Pygmalion effect is a psychological phenomenon where higher expectations lead to an increase in performance. The Pygmalion effect was defined by psychologist Robert Rosenthal, who described it as “the phenomenon whereby one person’s expectation for another person’s behavior comes to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

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