Affirmations vs Reminders… Which works best? – Integrally Alive Podcast

What do you need to remember today, to be sure to have no regrets going to bed tonight?

We go on to start the year with a sustainable mindset: We’ve seen the importance of rest and how to do it effectively to be in a good state in order to set sustainable goals, thanks to a few of the principles from permaculture, then we made sure to define success with flexibility.
Finally we aligned our attention, with our intention.

What if we had real-life subtitles

A few years ago, a brilliant series of short-movies went super successful on french TV: “Bref”. One thing that made it special, is they often would show the interactions between two people on two levels.
For example the character would go to a job-interview, and at the end, when he would go, the dialogue would go like this: The voice-over would say something like “He said to me:’We’ll call you back.’ And I heard: ‘Go to hell.'”

It was very funny, because it was real: How many times do we hear things that don’t match the behavior of the person saying it?

Here is a classic:

  • “Hi, how are you doing?”
  • I’m OK.
  • Are you sure?
  • “I’m fine!”. [exasperated voice]

What would you write as subtitle here? “I am not OK and I don’t want to talk about it, so stop asking questions.” would be my version. And that is the problem with affirmations.

Are you congruent with your affirmations?

When you say affirmations, how does it feel? Is there any mismatch between what you say and your sense of truth, or are they perfectly aligned? In other words: Do you honestly believe what you say?

That is congruence: no inner resistance whatsoever between our verbal, and our non-verbal communication. And that is true for communication with others, and with ourselves, alike.

Let’s imagine Bob’s affirmation is:”It becomes easier and easier to exercise.” But his reality is:”He sees himself as someone who don’t exercise, and has to motivate himself to do it, because it is difficult, and unpleasant.”

Then each time he says his affirmation, he is basically reminding himself that he doesn’t believe it is true. Which accentuate the gap between his current behavior, his Self-image, and his goal, his ideal Self; and as a result, makes him feel worse, not better, and doesn’t encourages him to do the behavior he wants to develop.

It’s like receiving a compliment when you know the other person doesn’t mean it, but only says it to please you. How does it feel? Worse than if they said nothing, right? Your intellect is OK with this idea, but your whole body reacts to the non-verbal communication, physically, emotionally. And your emotional state influences your thoughts an awful lot.

Unapologetic affirmations?

So if you are going to use affirmations, you need to become congruent about it: you need your emotional Self to believe and be happy with what your intellectual Self is thinking. You want to feel a big “Hell yes!” in your body!

Congruence goes of course way beyond affirmations, and to some extend, I would argue that once you reach a state of congruence, you don’t need affirmations.
Sometimes during a session, all I do is facilitate my client into this state of congruence, because sometimes that’s all that is needed for change.

It is very powerful because it reaches and actualizes the Self-concept: our organized and consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about our-self.

How can you do this?

Use reminders instead!

First, check what you want. With the previous episodes, you should have a clear idea of this now.

Then, compare that to your Self-concept. Ask yourself:”What is true now, that makes my intention possible?

And each time you come up with something, check with your emotional state when you think of it. Are your emotional Self and your intellectual Self congruent, do they agree on that? If so, go to the next step.

Now what would be a way to sum it up, that maximizes the congruence? A sentence, or a word, that will act as a reminder of that congruent intention.

For example, if your goal is to exercise to be healthier. What is true now, that would help you exercise more?
“I feel good when I’m exercising.”
“Each time I exercise I build momentum to be healthier.”
Which you could sum up into “I exercise and build momentum.”
It doesn’t mean anything to anyone else, but when you read or say these words, you are reminded of your intention, and you have a supportive emotional state that makes you want to exercise.

And the last is super important: When you say or read those words, you should feel a big “Hell YES!” in your whole body. If you don’t, continue to play with different words until you do.

What do you need to remember today, to be sure to have no regrets when you go to sleep tonight?

Now this is not an affirmation of something that you’re trying to believe.
This is a reminder of something that is happening already, and that you want to continue.

What do you need to remember today, to be sure to have no regrets when you go to sleep tonight?

All the episodes of the “Start a sustainable intentional year (and decade)” series:

Resources cited in the conversation

Virginia Satir: Communication and Congruence (excerpt) — A Thinking Allowed DVD

In this video, Virginia Satir, a pioneer of NLP, gives great examples and applications of the importance of congruence in communication.

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Stay tuned for the next episode, à bientôt. 😉