Ah, affirmations. Nothing will make me run from a room faster than a person that wants to talk about how positive affirmations have changed their lives. (I’m looking at you, Miracle Morning accountability groups!)
To me, conversation about the power of affirmations is a signal that we’re about to start talking about “the ‘hoax’ of global climate change” and ‘the powers of essential oils to cure cancer” next and I just am not interested in entertaining that bullshit. Plus, affirmations are all about eliciting a feeling…oh my word…feelings? No way. I’m out.
But, Gary John Bishop has written an entire book on affirmations that didn’t make me want to puke, so I felt compelled to share it. It’s titled: Unfu*k Yourself: Get out of your head and into your life.
If you are a Stoic, you will appreciate this book. It’s all about how to live your life better while focusing on things you have control over…like your self talk. O_o
I know, “Self talk? Ew!!” Yep. Agreed. But stick with me on this one.
Disclaimer: There’s not a lot of science referenced in this book. In fact, I think there is only a hint of a reference to a study on self talk findings and I have no idea if that was good research or not.
“Your self talk is fu*king you over in ways you can’t even imagine” – Bishop
On self talk, Bishop mentions that Albert Ellis found that how we talk and think about our experiences shifts the way we feel about them. The way we talk to ourselves and others impacts our behavior in the moment.
Nothing too earth-shattering with that premise. If you’ve ever read anything on the power of language, you know that the words we use shape our existence.
The idea that the self talk we use shapes how we perceive things is not too far out of the realm of possibility either. And, if that’s the case, how do we make our self talk as good as it can be?
How to improve your self talk
- Make the choice to talk in a way that is helpful rather than harmful. For example, “problems” are “opportunities”.
- Be more assertive rather than narrative.
- Don’t talk about what you’re “going to do” or “what you will be”.
- Don’t use “should” or “try”.
- Instead use phrases like, “I am,” “I embrace,” and “I accept or assert.”
As Bishop points out, there is a massive difference between “I am relentless” and “I will be relentless.”
Affirmations to try if affirmations make your skin crawl
Each chapter of Bishop’s book is about a different affirmation to try. Here they are:
- I am willing. (Or, alternatively, I am unwilling.)
- I am wired to win.
- I got this.
- Embrace the uncertainty.
- I am not my thoughts. I am what I do.
- I am relentless.
- I expect nothing and accept everything.
Holy Stoicism, Batman! Wowza! See? Not so painful, right?
Here’s a little about each affirmation and why Bishop thinks that’s the way to go.
I am willing.
Bishop argues that you have the life you are willing to put up with.
Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself. – Epictetus
He and the Stoics argue that even though there are things that happened to you, for which you may have had little to no fault in, you are 100% responsible for how you react to them.
Fate leads the willing and drags along the reluctant. – Seneca
If you use the phrase, “I am willing, but…”, you instantly make yourself a victim. You are not a victim. You are in charge of your reactions.
The world doesn’t stop you from succeeding; you’re not that big of a deal. – Bishop
Yes, but am I willing?
In order to know what you’re willing to do, you have to ask yourself, “Am I willing?”
For those instances in life when you really don’t want to do something but you feel like you “should”, when you are unwilling, Bishop says to tell yourself, “I am unwilling”. It’s powerful. It’s assertive. You’ve drawn your line in the sand. And, it gets rid of any guilt you may feel when that topic comes up in life. No more “I should”. Accept that you’re “unwilling” and move on.
I am wired to win.
Bishop argues that you are winning at the life you have now. You’ve accomplished whatever it is that you’ve set out to do with your life even if it’s just what your thoughts were set out to do. Because you are wired to win.
You don’t want to change! If you did, you’d be doing it! Call yourself out on this shit. – Bishop
If you think to yourself that you have no time to work on that dream of yours, you won’t find the time. You will win that argument with yourself every time.
Every belief we have about ourselves, we prove right every day with our actions.
So, if you’ve been telling yourself a story about why you can’t really do that thing you’ve always wanted to do and you can’t figure out how to get past it, ask yourself, “What is it that I get to be right about if I continue down this path?”
If you can identify what you get to be right about, you can identify the root of your resistance to getting the thing done, which goes a long way in pushing through the resistance.
How to make goals in life
I read a lot on goals because I think it’s somehow going to make me willing to work on them. Ha! (I have a lot of “should” goals.) So, I found Bishop’s take on goal-setting refreshing because it’s not the same ole bs. He says, when making your goals in life, make sure to identify the following:
- Mile markers you will use to recognize your progress.
- Daily actions you need to get it done.
- Changes in mindset that you’ll have to make.
- How your sense of self and your beliefs about yourself will change.
- What your life, if you’re successful, will look like.
I don’t think I’ve ever thought about changes in mindsets or beliefs when it comes to goals. Ever. So thanks for that, Bishop.
From Bishop, “You are wired to win. Define your game, embrace the challenge, and strive to understand yourself in deeper and more meaningful ways.”
I got this.
When you have negative experiences in life, they can get you into a funk. And once you’re in the funk, it can be really hard to get out of it. Here are Bishops suggestions:
How to get over your emotions and out of a funk
- Think about the good times, the most memorable experiences you’ve had in life. Revel in them.
- Think of all the times you struggled. Remember those times when you overcame an obstacle and the problems you faced. (They may be similar to what you’re dealing with today).
- Think about your inevitable death. (Hello, Stoicism, my old friend.)
Going through this thought process will help you get a more reality-based perspective. When you feel bad, step wayyyy back and see if you can get a more realistic perspective of what your life really is.
You can also use those steps when you need to get a different perspective on how to solve the problem you’re working on now. Bishop argues that everything is solvable, you just haven’t figured out the solution yet, and getting perspective is sometimes all you need to see the solution.
Embrace the Uncertainty
This one hit home. If you are like me in that you have a contingent plan for your contingent plan, you may also find this one really useful.
Bishop argues that we are addicted to predicting the future because we want certainty. My multiple contingent plans is me grasping for certainty in an uncertain world.
He argues that this need to be certain comes from our old caveman mentality where we had to be risk averse to survive. These days, risk is not as prominent as the media would like us to think, so we don’t need to be so damn careful all the time.
Those same survival instincts that once kept us alive can now keep us from living because success happens in uncertainty. Uncertainty is where new happens.
He argues that when you do what you’ve always done, you’re just living in the past and how can you do anything new when you’re doing what you’ve always done?
He argues that success doesn’t happen because the person was certain they could do it, but because they didn’t let the uncertainty stop them.
We settle for certainty, but certainty doesn’t exist. – Bishop
Bishop posits that what causes most of our worry is trying to predict the future to feed our addiction of certainty. But, certainty doesn’t exist. The only guarantee in life is that it is uncertain. So embrace that and stop worrying about predicting what will happen. Embrace the uncertainty.
I am not my thoughts. I am what I do.
Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind. – Theodore Roosevelt
Bishop argues (along with the Stoics) that you are what you do. No matter what your thoughts are, your actions make you what you are.
You don’t have to feel like to day is your day; you just have to act like it is. – Bishop
The whole premise with this one is that your thoughts, though important, are not as important as your actions. Thinking “good thoughts” never accomplishes much, but your actions are the fastest way to change your thoughts.
Action may not bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. – Benjamin Disraeli
I am relentless
For this one the basis is that all discomfort breeds change and if change is what you want, then you have to be ok with being uncomfortable. You have to keep going in spite of the discomfort.
Success is rare because embracing discomfort is rare.
Paraphrasing Bishop: Be relentless by focusing on taking one step at a time. With each step you get a little closer even if you can’t see it. It’s ok to get discouraged, but it’s not ok to stop.
I expect nothing and accept everything
Holy wha! If ever there was a summary of Stoicism, that would be it.
Bishop argues that your expectations are screwing you over. Any time you feel disappointment, resentment, regret, or anger, that’s where you expected one thing and got another.
Your expectations don’t do you any good. They blow things out of proportion and dilute your power to deal with issues.
Instead, don’t expect anything. Resolve issues as they come up and accept circumstances as they are and you’ll be a lot happier.
Well, th-th-that’s all folks!
What do you think? Do you feel pumped up to go kill your goals now? Hopefully this info was helpful, if anything, maybe a little different from the same ole stuff you normally see on how to be successful, right? (Hey, at least there wasn’t a suggested “8 steps” you need to do each morning to reach your goals. :eyeroll:)
My next few posts will be on Daniel Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets to Perfect Timing. There were some interesting nuggets in that book that I think are helpful and worth sharing.