Affirming your best self.

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What do you tell yourself that you cannot do?

Faced with the demands of work or learning it is easy to slip into a negative pattern of self-talk. I can't do Maths; I can't get up early; I can't do mindmaps; I can't revise; I can't lead projects, I'm more of a follower. The list can go on and on. You may be able to think of a few that you tell yourself. Patterns like that develop over time. They become self-reinforcing.

Let's take an example: I don't work well in a team. There's a belief that could have started with something quite small. Over time the evidence of little incidents accumulates, the story gets told in your head and maybe to others too. In the end a belief is created and it reinforces itself. The person is asked to take on a project and told which people they will be working with on it. Already the thought processes are in overdrive, setting up the conditions for the belief to be true  after all, we don't like to be inconsistent, even about negative beliefs, because they are ours, part of our identity.

Now let's ask a simple question about a belief like I don't work well in teams. Can another person with your intelligence, abilities, etc do what you can't? If the answer is Yes, and it usually is, then the difference between can't and can is a belief, and beliefs can be changed.

Beliefs can be changed with a power combination of two factors. Firstly, acquire evidence to support a new belief. For example, recall times when you have used skills that would be required to support a new belief. In the case of I don't work well in teams that might be times when the person has collaborated with others effectively outside of work: arranging the family holiday, sorting out a child's birthday party or replacing a kitchen. Secondly, acquire current evidence by taking small step actions that employ the desired skill set. In this case that might be setting up a wiki to brainstorm ideas with colleagues, asking a couple of colleagues to help in arranging a staff charity event, or joining a five-a-side team for a bit of informal soccer on a Friday after work. Thirdly, employ the power of positive affirmation.

You may have spent many years building up a negative belief, so it could be unreasonable to think that positive affirmation will change it in a moment. Instead, think of the positive affirmation as a way of weakening and then replacing the old, negative belief.

There are five steps for effective affirmations:

1. State the affirmation in the positive. confident and effective team worker.

2. State it in the present. I am a confident and effective team worker.

3. State it frequently.

4. State in it different formats and situations. Write it on index cards that you put around your home and at work, have it as wallpaper on your phone, say it 50 times while you're on the running machine, etc. Whatever works for you.

5. State it with emotional intensity.

Where do you want to spend your life? Working at reinforcing the negative or working at believing the positive? Doesn't that mean that you should be using a technique that's been around for almost a hundred years?

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