Affirmations are positive, specific, goal-oriented statements you repeat in some manner on a daily basis. They take a few minutes a day, and have been credited with contributing to all types successes. In fact, one study showed positive affirmations have improved self-esteem and reduced negative thought patterns in women with depression.
Of course simply wishing for something to happen will not make it come true. But as described by Scott Adams – creator of Dilbert, and a down-to-earth realist – in his book The Dilbert Future, affirmations can bring about surprisingly good, and oddly precise, results. Without going into details, Adams was introduced to affirmations by a classmate, and while remaining extremely skeptical, tried the process on three vastly different areas of his life (romance, exam scores, and the stock market). All three experiments led to highly improbable, very positive, and quite specific results, which turned him into an affirmations believer (you can hear him tell the incredible story in his interview with Tim Ferriss).
So why do affirmations work? It might just be the case that people committed enough to repeating their goal day in and day out are also more likely to work hard to achieve it.
But another way of looking at it is affirmations help to focus your mind on a desired outcome, so you will take more notice of opportunities that can bring you closer to achieving that goal.
Simply put, the more time you spend focusing on something, the more likely you are to unconsciously notice things related to it even when you’re not actively thinking about it, which can lead you to act in seemingly intuitive, but quite focused and accurate ways.
How runners can benefit from affirmations
What makes affirmations so attractive is that they require you to do very little – only focus for a few minutes every day. There is really no downside to trying them, and the potential payoff is huge.
So if you have a goal that you’re working towards, such as a fitness challenge or a certain race distance, it might be worth a shot to add affirmations to the mix. Of course, you still have to train and work at your goal. But affirmations can help you to overcome difficulties that you might otherwise find impossible – and you might well be surprised at how effective they are.
How to use affirmations
Think of a goal you want to accomplish, perhaps one you think is a bit out of your reach, and make it specific – e.g. running the half-marathon in 1:45 if your training plan is meant to get you to a 2:00 finish.
Now take a piece of paper, and write down 15 times something like: “I, [name], run a 1:45 half marathon”.
That’s it for the day – and now repeat the same thing tomorrow. Go about your training as usual and see what happens on race day.
You can also use affirmations for more short-term goals, or ones that aren’t time-constrained at all. I encourage you to play around with them, stress-test them, be as skeptical as you want, and just see if they can be a helpful addition to your life. All you need is a piece of paper.
Written by Varia Makagonova.