Even though we’re already several days into 2019, today is really just the beginning, for all of us. And we can prevent the wrong thoughts and beliefs from getting the best of us as we move forward with our lives. We can train our minds to make the very best of the present moment, even when our circumstances are far less than ideal. All it takes is practice.
The mind is like a muscle, and just like every muscle in the human body, it needs to be exercised to gain strength. It needs to be trained daily to grow and develop gradually over time. If you haven’t pushed your mind in dozens of little, positive ways over time, of course it’ll crumble on the day things get overwhelmingly stressful.
The best way to start training your mind?
Affirmations. They are one of the simplest and most powerful tools for staying on track in life. A mind well trained with the right affirmations has the right thoughts queued up and ready for retrieval at a moment’s notice.
One of our course students, who graduated with a PhD a couple years ago from one of the most prestigious universities in our country, is now an executive for one of the world’s fastest growing tech companies. Throughout grade school and high school she desperately wrestled with a form of dyslexia that made reading and writing a monumental challenge. She spent kindergarten through 12th grade in language-based ESE classes. And during a parent-teacher conference when she was in 10th grade, one of her ESE teachers informed her parents that it was extremely unlikely she would ever receive a high school diploma.
So how did she do it? How did she push herself to rise up and overcome the odds? “Affirmations,” she confirmed with me when I interviewed her recently for a new project Marc and I are working on. “The daily affirmation rituals you and Marc set me up with, and held me accountable to, changed everything! While it may sound cliché to some people, it’s absolutely not—affirmations are powerful tools! I literally told myself that the naysayers were wrong about me. I told myself exactly what I needed to hear, every single day, to move my life forward.”
If you’d like to begin (or enhance) this ritual in your own life this year, here’s a handpicked selection of affirmations I often suggest to our course students as starting point:
- “The biggest and most complex obstacle I will ever have to overcome is my mind. If I can overcome that, I can overcome anything.”
- “I cannot control exactly what happens in life, but I can control how I respond to it all. In my response is my greatest power.”
- “I have to accept whatever comes my way, and the only important thing is that I meet it with the best I have to give.”
- “I will stop focusing on how stressed I am and remember how blessed I am. Complaining won’t change my reality, but a positive attitude will.”
- “Being positive does not mean ignoring the negative. Being positive means overcoming the negative. There is a big difference between the two.”
- “I will not get caught up in what could’ve been or should’ve been. I will look instead at the power and possibility of what is, right now.”
- “I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. It’s about not letting my fear decide my future.”
- “I will get back up. Again, and again. The faster I recover from setbacks, the faster I’ll get to where I’m going in life.”
- “My next step in the right direction does not have to be a big one.”
- “Patience is a genuine expression of confidence, acceptance, serenity, and faith in my own ability. It’s a sign of strength. I will practice it.”
- “When I find that I don’t have time for what matters, I will stop doing things that don’t.”
- “I can always feel the genuine, positive power that flows from my decision to rise above the petty drama and distractions that don’t really matter anyway.”
- “Instead of getting angry, I will find the lesson. In place of envy, I will feel admiration. In place of worry, I will take positive action. In place of doubt, I will have faith.”
- “There’s nothing selfish about self-care and self-love. I can’t give what I don’t have. When I enrich my own life, I’ll be life-giving to others too.”
- “When the grass looks greener on the other side, it’s just life’s way of reminding me to water the grass I’m standing on.”
- “From now on I will be too busy watering my own grass to notice if yours is greener.”
- “I will focus on making myself better, not on thinking I am better.”
- “I will practice gratitude, even in the midst of frustration and despair, so I can better see the positive possibilities around me.”
- “Happiness does not start when ‘this, that or the other’ thing is resolved. Happiness is what happens now, when I make the best of what I have.”
(Note: Marc and I dive much deeper into affirmations and other powerful self-coaching tools in our New York Times bestselling book.)
2 More Smart Ideas for 2019
As I’ve mentioned already, mindset really is everything! And while the affirmations above are powerful when practiced consistently, let’s be honest… Sometimes negativity can still get the best of us. So, how do we outsmart our own negative tendencies so we can stay on track? There are many ways, but Marc and I often recommend two additional practices to our students…
1. Practice questioning your stories.
You know what they say, don’t believe everything you hear nor everything you read. Don’t believe the gossip columns in the magazine, the doom and gloom predictions from your co-workers, or the “shocking news” that you hear on TV… until you have verified it.
Well, the same concept applies to your inside world—your thoughts.
We all have stories about ourselves even if we don’t think of them as stories. Case in point: How often do you pause and logically contemplate what you really think about your relationships, your habits, or your challenges? How often, on the other hand, do you just blurt out whatever fleeting emotion comes to mind first – i.e., the pre-recorded story you’ve been holding on to – without even thinking?
Stories can be short, such as “I’m not a good writer,” “I’m not good at yoga,” or “I have intrinsic procrastination problems.” If we were to dig deeper, you’d be happy to go on and try to explain why that is the case.
So the uncluttering exercise here is to question your story. For instance, let’s take the writer example. Ask yourself: Why do I think I am not a good writer? What would it look like to be a good writer? Can I describe my current writing in a way that serves me better?
You will be surprised how often the questioning process helps you emerge with a much better and more accurate version of your story. Give it a try!
2. Practice running your thoughts through three key filters.
Sometimes you are in a hurry, and not having a great day to boot. On days like this, there’s a mental decluttering exercise I use that’s super quick and keeps you in check…
I’ve been in arguments with my husband in the past and one of the things I regret is not filtering my words before saying them. At the time, I did not have the right tools, except “Be nice!”, which does nothing for you when you are feeling the opposite of nice. Some years later, I ran across this simple trick and it helped me shift my behavior. Here’s how it works:
Before you utter anything, run your thoughts through three key filters and don’t speak unless you get three resounding YES responses:
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it helpful?
For example, let’s say a running thought in your head says that your partner doesn’t care about you, and you are about to shout those words out because he or she didn’t do the last chore you requested. Question that thought first: Is it true that my partner doesn’t care about me? Is it kind for me to say or think this? Is it helpful for me to say or think this?
Remember you can’t take your words back. What’s more, you will never regret behaving in a true, kind and helpful way down the road. So make it a ritual in your life in 2019.
Now, it’s your turn…
Marc and I would love to hear from YOU!
Which affirmation mentioned above resonates with you the most right now, and why?
Anything else to share?
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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