A skeptic’s guide to accomplishing the impossible using affirmations.
This is episode #1 of my “Build a Lifestyle Business from Scratch” project. The goal is to start a new business and build it to $1K monthly profit in 120 days or less. If you want to follow my updates over the next 120 days, click here.
An Introduction to Affirmations
In this guide I am going to show you a simple tool anyone can use to turn improbable goals into a reality.
This tool sounds so goofy that I laughed the first time I heard it described. But it reminded me of something my dad used to teach me as a kid, so I listened.
I’m talking about “affirmations”. This is a broad terminology, often used by New Age types, that simply means to continually “affirm” your goal until suddenly it comes true. I prefer a more tactical approach for several reasons, and I’ll explain why in a minute.
Be aware I am not the first person to use affirmations in this way. Other practitioners include Scott Adams (the creator of the Dilbert comic strip), Naval Ravikant (founder of AngelList), Tim Ferriss (the one and only), and perhaps most famous of all Bart Simpson.
All of them claim incredible and unlikely results from affirmations. In this interview Scott Adams tells how he scored a 94 on the GRE (a 20-point boost to his previous score) using affirmations instead of studying.
Before we get into specifics though, let me say this. I know that I will lose a lot of readers with this post. It’s sure to generate a collective eye roll from every corner of the internet. I share it on the off chance that it can help even one person achieve their goal.
I also share it because it is the first step in my quest to Build a Lifestyle Business from Scratch, and I promised to document everything. So here it is.
Based on everything we know about the universe this shouldn’t work. And yet, somehow it seems to. There is one particular goal I have worked on every day for over five years, seemingly making no progress at all. But within 90 days of using affirmations, weird things started to happen.
For example, the single biggest obstacle stopping me from achieving my goal completely disappeared. There was no reason or indication that that should have happened, but it did. Since then my path to achieve that goal has been littered with weird lucky coincidences.
Unfortunately I can’t share more details and I can’t claim triumph yet, but it’s extraordinary to have made more progress in three months with affirmations than in five years without.
Still you’re not going to find much evidence for this tool in the latest peer-reviewed scientific journals. But if you’re a skeptic like me, you can collect all the evidence you need by just trying it for yourself.
How to Use Affirmations
Most of you won’t care about the scientific theory behind affirmations. You’re more concerned with the tactical. In other words, how do you use affirmations to get what you want?
Please understand I don’t believe that by writing down your goals you can conjure a magical force that will bend the universe to your will. I am a scientist at heart. But at the end of the day, I’m more interested in whether something works than why it does.
If you’re the same, here is the quick tactical guide:
- Choose an affirmation
- Write down your affirmation 15x every day
- Visualize it coming true
- Repeat for six months
- Watch cool stuff start to happen
That’s it. This is the protocol suggested by Scott Adams in his book How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big. I like this method because it is highly tactical (rather than a nebulous theory) and you can easily measure your results at the end of six months.
Now let’s unpack the specifics.
How to Choose the Right Goal
In my opinion, the more improbable or outrageous your goal is the better. After all, if you’re going to choose a fairly reasonable goal, you don’t need affirmations. It’s the improbable nature of the goal that requires a deeper level of focus. That’s where affirmations come in.
You probably already know what your goal is. If not, you probably don’t want it bad enough to bother with affirmations.
You can try anything, but you might be surprised how hard it is to practice affirmations every day with a half-hearted goal.
My goal at the moment is to earn $1k monthly profit from a new business. Your goal could be to pay off your debt, live in the Caribbean, or star on a TV show. It should be bold, outrageous, crazy, unlikely, or all of the above. But it should be something you want deep down.
How to Write Your Goal as an “Affirmation”
I don’t think the exact wording matters, but I follow this format “I [Name Here] will…”
For example: “I Chris Jones will make $1,000/month from a new business.”
Do You Have to Write It Exactly 15x?
Again, among those who practice affirmations, the exact number doesn’t matter. You could probably write it down 10x a day or 50x a day and still get the same results.
The key here is that writing down anything 15x a day is inconvenient — far more inconvenient than you would expect. You have to mentally go out of your way to do it, and that’s the important part.
When I decided to try affirmations for myself, I thought “Psh. Easy.” In reality it’s much harder to be consistent than you would expect. And consistency is what makes affirmations truly potent (more on that later).
For a couple of months I failed miserably to write my affirmations every day. I would do great for three days, then I’d get busy and forget, or promise myself I would do it later, etc. But then of course I would never get around to it.
Then I made an important discovery. Physical reminders work; mental reminders don’t.
I decided to make myself a real notebook — prepared with fifteen numbered lines — print out the pages, and staple them together. I even gave myself a place to record results from my affirmations (see below).
My goal was just to save myself a little time every morning, but I accidentally achieved something even better. That homemade “notebook” sat on my desk in my bedroom and served as a physical reminder of my goal every morning. It had a little heft to it and took up enough space on my desk that it was hard to ignore.
After that I never missed another day.
If you want to try affirmations for yourself, you can use my notebook. Click here to download it (it’s free). Then you can print it out and put it together at your convenience. (I print it on both sides to save paper.)
Now, could you type your affirmation instead of write them? Probably. Again, the exact method doesn’t matter.
I prefer to write it down with a pen and paper, because it takes a little longer and requires a more conscious effort. If your goal is to lodge this idea as deep in your brain as possible, then those are both good things.
How to Write Your Affirmations Every Day for Six Months Straight
At some point you might face potential burnout. Every day for six months? Most people wouldn’t even commit to eating their favorite flavor of ice cream every day for six months.
If you really want your goal, you need to give yourself (some) time to make it happen. My advice to keep the fire burning every day is to write down your results — weird coincidences, unexpected opportunities, and the like. If you download my affirmations notebook, there’s a place for you to record such results built right in.
How to Know if Affirmations Are Working
The fifth and final step of using affirmations is to sit back and wait for cool stuff to happen.
Affirmations are not like playing the slot machines, where you pull the lever over and over again until you win the jackpot. Affirmations will work differently for each individual, and success may manifest itself in many different forms.
But I’ll share personal experience with affirmations to give you an idea of what to look for. Affirmations may work differently for you, or they may not work at all (although I think that’s unlikely).
A little while after people start practicing their affirmations daily, the universe starts churning out unexpected opportunities and coincidences almost like clockwork. It’s still up to you to take advantage of these opportunities, but my experience has been that stuff starts falling in to place.
So once you start, just sit back and enjoy the fireworks. It can be quite entertaining.
Why Do Affirmations Work?
I believe that there are a number of plausible explanations for why affirmations seem to work, and I’ll share them below. However, if you want results, you’ll be more concerned with if they work rather than why they work.
If you’re skeptical, I encourage you to test it yourself. Trade in the time you fritter away on social media every day and write down your affirmations instead. After six months you can always go back to scrolling Twitter or Instagram if it doesn’t work.
The Law of Confession
When I first heard someone describe affirmations as a tool for achieving a specific goal, my immediate reflex was to call “bullshit”. I’m a hardcore skeptic. But it reminded me of something my dad used to teach me, so I listened closely.
Growing up my dad used to teach me all sorts of “principles of success”. One of them is the Law of Confession. “If you want to achieve something, you should say it out loud,” he would tell me.
According to my dad, even if your rational mind doesn’t believe it, your sub-conscious is always listening. And if you can get your sub-conscious to believe it, then anything is possible. So say it out loud and repeat it as often as possible.
Huh. So this pocket wisdom I’ve been carrying around from my dad all these years is now beginning to find some scientific support.
Your brain is presented with billions of pieces of data every day. However, most of it isn’t useful to your survival or your happiness, so it gets shut out. Only a tiny percentage actually gets through and becomes a part of your day to day experience.
The part of your brain in charge of what gets in is the reticular activating system (RAS). In other words, the RAS is the brain’s gatekeeper and chooses where you put your attention or your focus.
It’s a nifty little device, and is the only thing that allows us to live in such a complex world without going mad. But remember, the human brain evolved for survival, not to become an astronaut, get drafted in the NBA, or win American Idol.
Dreams and aspirations rarely ever get past the gatekeeper, because the RAS has a strong bias toward rudimentary survival.
The RAS automatically responds to things like your name, threats, information you need immediately, and novelty (anything new or different).
It’s not really looking for golden opportunities, million-dollar ideas, or luck.
That’s why when you’re in a crowded room where everyone is talking loudly, you can still hear when someone says your name. Your RAS filters out the hum of the room, but filters in the sound of your name. Amazing
Here’s one more. You know how when you buy a new car, and then suddenly it seems like everyone else went out and bought the same car? They didn’t. That’s your RAS at work. You notice other cars like yours, because that’s where your focus is.
But on the other hand, you often miss out on opportunities that would have made you rich or successful. We can all think of at least one missed opportunity that would have changed our life if only we had been looking for it.
Affirmations allow you to hack into your RAS and turn your brain’s focus to your dreams and aspirations.
Think of it like “tuning” your mind to hear and see cool opportunities that will help your achieve your goal. (Remember, your RAS is programmed to ignore them.)
What Does Steve Jobs’ Turtle Neck Have to Do with Success?
We all know that success cannot be attributed to just a single factor.
Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day for years. Steve jobs was also successful. But are the two related?
Research says yes (maybe).
We now know that the human mind is a limited resource. The more you spend that resource on trivial decisions such as what to wear, the less you’ll have leftover to devote to everything else — including your world-changing business.
But we also know that Steve Jobs’ success can’t be attributed to that one factor. There was also his leadership style, his creative genius, and his superhuman attention to detail.
That’s how success works. It’s always a confluence of factors. Things like talent, skill, work ethic, habit and of course luck all play a part.
Every entrepreneur understands the challenge of managing all of the various factors of success at the same time. Just when you feel like you’re beginning to master one, you nose dive in the others. It’s a juggling act that never ends.
But there is one factor that seems to exert influence over all the others — a lead domino that knocks over all the other dominoes without you even having to try. And that factor is focus.
Think about it. When you have focus, everything difficult become effortless. All of your habits feel like second nature.
Your talent flourishes. New skills come to you like a Jedi master.
Work ethic no longer requires willpower because what you need to do suddenly aligns with what you WANT to do.
And luck seems to continually spit out new opportunities for you every day. It’s like legal mind control.
Of course, if you’ve ever tried, you know that you can’t simply will focus into existence. You might be able to power through a few days of extreme focus, but it’s not a renewable resource.
Eventually it fades, and you end up back where you began. Except now you’re burnt out.
Affirmations is a hack to the human brain to generate an endless supply of focus that never seems to flicker or burnout. It’s like nuclear energy for your mind.
Don’t get me wrong, you aren’t superhuman. You still have the same amount of focus that you always had. But now you are in control of where you spend it.
Saving Your Focus for What’s Really Important
Typically we fritter away focus in a thousand different directions: debating politics on the internet, refreshing email, watching Youtube videos, wondering if Chipotle is going to be out of guacamole again tonight (ugh). Practicing affirmations is a way of spending your focus on what matters every day, before your brain blows it on frivolous stuff.
Again many of you are groaning at the thought of writing down your goals “Bart Simpson”-style.
Could such a trivial practice now magically make you achieve a goal you’ve already been chasing for years? Yeah, quite possibly, and I’ll tell you why.
Traditionally we accept a mind over body model of action. If you want to accomplish a task, first you have to figure out how to do it mentally, and then you send little commands to your body to act it out. But science has recently expanded our understanding. Your body can also exert influence over your mind.
Body > Mind or Mind > Body?
Think about the last time you had a powerful hunger craving. It was all you could think about until that craving was satisfied. Your body quite literally changed your focus and you had no control over it at all.
Cravings are sudden and unpredictable. Is it possible to harness that power for good? I believe it is. We also know that physical habits can change our mental state in much the same way that a powerful craving can.
When we feel happy we smile. But studies show that if you purposefully smile even when you’re unhappy, your mind will swiftly respond by releasing serotonin (happy hormones) in your brain. Same with whistling. You can’t be mad and whistle at the same time. Next time your anger gets the best of you, whistle the tune to Disney’s Robin Hood. I personally bet you $500 the rage will pass quickly.
Affirmations is a simple tactical practice you can use to achieve Jedi levels of focus that never seem to fade. Again, I’m only speaking from personal experience here, but my results were so positive and so swift that I now share it with everybody.
Increasing Your Luck
Right now I’m documenting my quest to build a lifestyle business from scratch and earn $1K monthly profit from it within 120 days. Many reading this also want to start your own business, but the following could apply to any improbable goal.
If you are following my quest, you probably expected me to start by generating a profitable business idea. That’s the first step of any business right?
The problem with starting there is with any new business there’s about a 96% chance of failure. It’s true, look it up.
Think about that for a minute. Ninety-six percent of businesses will ultimately fail. That means that an average entrepreneur only has about a 4% probability of success.
Now it’s time be brutally honest with ourselves. Are you an average entrepreneur? Some of you reading this probably are. A few readers may even be above average, but a lot of you are below average too. How do you know where you rank?
According to Intuit, the average small business with no employees earns $44K. Once you throw in businesses with employees that number goes way up. But for a solo startup that’s average.
Where does that put you? I know that my first year in ecommerce I earned only $13,642.25. It was an okay start, but nowhere near “average”.
You might think I’m calling you out or that I’m telling you that you suck, so let me be clear. You don’t suck. Far from it. But being able to be brutally honest with yourself is an important skill.
New entrepreneurs need to understand: when trying to earn a full time income from ecommerce, the deck is stacked massively against you.
Set aside your dreams and aspirations for a moment and look at your business purely in terms of probability. Basically, you’re playing cards at a table that is rigged to give you only 4% odds of winning. How do you feel about those odds?
If you’re like me then it probably makes you angry. Why does luck seem to always favor the 4% of successful people over the rest of us?
There is certainly a degree of luck in any millionaire’s success. But have you ever noticed how some people seem to manage their luck a lot better than others?
Using Affirmations to Rig the Deck
A few people seem to always beat probability no matter how high the odds are stacked against them.
Although it’s impossible to make luck, you can certainly manage it.
For example. Many famous actors will tell you that they received their first big break by sheer luck. A chance encounter with a producer in a coffee shop. Or working as an extra and then against all probability being asked to fill in for a main actor who suddenly falls sick.
But before they could receive any of the good things luck tossed their way, first they had to put themselves in a position to receive it. They had to live in L.A. Think about it. Could any of those serendipitous breaks have occurred if the actor lived in Nebraska?
So before I get started building my lifestyle business from scratch, before I even brainstorm my first business idea, I want to do everything in my power to rig the system for myself. Stack the deck in my favor.
I don’t want to be at 4% out of the gate. What if I could 10x or 20x my probability of success before I even started?
That would mean 4 out of 5 businesses I start would be successful. And you only need one to be a homerun and you can live the rest of your life however you want.
How do I manage my luck? It’s not hustle. Hustle is a given. You have to work hard to be successful (duh). But lots of hustle ends in failure. You can’t rig the system with hustle. Instead I use affirmations to increase my odds of success, and I can start doing that before I even have an idea for my business.
If Hustle is the first principle of success, think of Affirmations as hustle’s second cousin.
As always, this entire project will be free, but if you find it helpful, consider giving a share on your favorite social media.
If you are curious about the effectiveness of affirmations, share it on Facebook and start a discussion.