Wise Affirmations

—Coaching yourself

Talk wisely to yourself.

IntroductionEdit

Do you hear that voice in your head? Listen carefully to your internal monologue; this is your inner speech. Are you listening? What is the voice saying? Do you believe what the voice is telling you? Why do you believe your inner voice? Is it helpful? Should I take that advice or dispute it? Who is talking? Do your beliefs guide that voice or does that voice guide your beliefs?

Talking to yourself in your head is an ordinary activity.[1] In fact, inner speech is considerably more central to human life than is widely understood.[2] Oliver Sacks claims “…our real identity, lies in inner speech”.[3] Noam Chomsky claims: “You can’t go a minute without talking to yourself. It takes an incredible act of will not to talk to yourself.”[4]

When we are alone, most people are almost constantly engaged in an intrapersonal dialogue within themselves.[5] Inner speech is an important yet underrecognized aspect of how we humans work.[6] In particular, major life decisions, including our important transitions and rites of passage, are formed by inner speech.[7] Almost everything we do with our minds we do with inner speech. Reading, thought, decision making, self-regulation, action, memory, and conversation all draw on the processes of inner speech. [8]

Psychologists are demonstrating that inner speech helps us regulate our behavior, motivate ourselves for action, evaluate those actions, and even become conscious of our own selves.[9]

Because we spend so much time speaking to ourselves, it is helpful to choose inner speech that provides wise advice.

ObjectivesEdit

The objectives of this course are to:

  • Increase your awareness of your inner speech,
  • Understand the effectiveness of inner speech,
  • Provide affirmations you can use help yourself live more wisely,
  • Help you live more wisely.

This practical course is narrowly focused on providing useful affirmations. Students interested in a broader treatment of inner speech are encouraged to complete the companion course accessing inner speech, which is under development.

If you are ready to get started, then skip ahead the list of affirmations for specific goals.

EffectivenessEdit

Research is beginning to show that inner speech can improve performance. Consider this example:

In a 2013 interview tennis player Andy Murry reported “So I started talking. Out Loud. ‘You are not losing this match’ I said to myself. ‘You are NOT losing this match. I started out a little tentative, but my voice got louder. 'You are not going to let this one slip. You are NOT going to let this slip...Give it everything you’ve got. Leave nothing out there.' At first, it felt a bit weird, but I felt something change inside. I was surprised by my response. I knew I could win." He went on to win the US Open becoming Britain’s first male Grand Slam singles champion in seventy-six years.”[10]

Going beyond this anecdote, research studies demonstrate that for an athlete, self-talk can play a role in regulating action and arousal, psyching oneself up, and directing one’s attention under challenging performance conditions.”[11]

Considering the effectiveness of inner speech outside of sports, Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman described how he used inner speech as he conducts arguments with himself in solving scientific problems.[12] In a different typical example, a student was having difficulty while working to solve a math problem when he thought, “I’ll never get it.” “But you’re a genius,” the voice in his head said.”[13]

Planning, along with other executive functions, is aided by inner speech.[14]

In summary, research shows that self-talk is beneficial for athletic performance.[15] Furthermore evidence suggests that self-talk has beneficial effects on cognition (in particular, concentration and focus-related variables), cognitive anxiety, and the technical execution of movement skills.”[16]

Forming Effective AffirmationsEdit

Follow these guidelines to form and use effective affirmations.

  1. Choose affirmations that are aspirational. Set your goals high and do not be limited by negative self-images or self-talk. Dismiss self-talk based on limiting self-concepts such as “I am too fat, lazy, and clumsy to be able to do this” that arise spontaneously. Instead, confidently assert “You can do this.” Allow curiosity to displace fear. Let obstacles become adventures. Very often the stories we tell ourselves make all the difference. "You tell yourself aspirational stories".
  2. Dismiss affirmations that are impossible. Know what you can change and what you cannot change. Although you cannot levitate, nor leap tall buildings in a single bound, you can pass the upcoming exam, complete that project, and abandon bad habits. "You dismiss impossible affirmations." "You use aspirational affirmations".
  3. Use second person pronouns (“you”) to address yourself.[17],[18] For example the phrase “You can do this” is likely to be more effective than the phrase “I can do this”.
  4. Use the present tense. State that you are now in the desired state or are now exhibiting the desired behavior. "You write affirmations in present tense".
  5. Address yourself. Inner speech is inaudible and cannot influence others. "You speak to your self."
  6. Form an identity with the new behavior whenever possible.[19] Rather than “You are truthful” use “You are a truth-teller.” “You are a wise affirmer”.
  7. Use a combination of instructional phrases (“Keep your knees bent”), strategic phrases (“Stay focused.”), and motivational phrases (“You can do this”).
  8. Use phrases to psych yourself up (embolden or prepare yourself), build confidence, provide specific instruction, and reduce anxiety.[20]
  9. Dispute or dismiss any spontaneous negative phrases that are irrational, describe worries, encourage disengagement, or focus on somatic (bodily) fatigue. "You dismiss negative inner speech".
  10. Replace negative phrases with positive phrases. If you find yourself saying “I am too tired to do this” substitute “You have the energy to get this done.” "You replace negative phrases with positive phrases".
  11. Critically examine any spontaneous, emotion-filled inner speech that arises and when it is practical and useful, replace it with helpful, goal-directed inner speech.[21] "You replace negative inner speech with positive inner speech".
  12. Use a combination of covert (silent) speech and overt (audible) speech that is appropriate to the situation.
  13. Affirmations are most effective when used just prior to beginning a task, or while engaged in the task. They are also useful to bolster your resolve to do the right thing in the moment you encounter a choicepoint—a consequential decision or action. "You use affirmations when they are most effective".

Use affirmations with integrity. Understand what you are saying. Study the associated materials that introduce the topic and are often linked from an individual affirmation to ensure you understand the affirmation. Only use the affirmation with the full intention of making that affirmation true.

Affirmations for Specific GoalsEdit

Here is a list of specific affirmations useful for reaching a particular goal.

The affirmations for perseverance, courage, concentration, and calming are useful for achieving a wide variety of goals. Combine these motivational affirmations with affirmations directed toward specific goals in any way that you find helpful.

Follow the links that pertain to your goals.

Suggested ReadingEdit

Students who are interested in learning more about affirmations may wish to read these books:

  • Wiley, Norbert (June 3, 2016). Inner Speech and the Dialogical Self. Temple University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 978-1439913284. 
  • Fernyhough, Charles (April 20, 2017). The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. Profile Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1781252802. 
  • Helmstetter, Shad (June 20, 2017). What to Say When You Talk to Your Self. Gallery Books. p. 224. ISBN 978-1501171994. 
  • Knight, Kam (May 10, 2020). Concentration: Maintain Laser Sharp Focus and Attention for Stretches of 5 Hours or More. Independently published. pp. 223. ISBN 978-1090389718. 
  • Winston, Diana (March 5, 2019). The Little Book of Being: Practices and Guidance for Uncovering Your Natural Awareness. Sounds True. pp. 248. ISBN 978-1683642176. 

I have not yet read the following books, but they seem interesting and relevant. They are listed here to invite further research.

  • Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It, by Ethan Kross

ReferencesEdit

  1. Fernyhough, Charles (April 20, 2017). The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. Profile Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1781252802.  @ 14 of 636
  2. Wiley, Norbert (June 3, 2016). Inner Speech and the Dialogical Self. Temple University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 978-1439913284.  Page 1.
  3. Sacks, Oliver (November 28, 2000). Seeing Voices. Vintage. pp. 240. ISBN 978-0375704079.  as cited by Wiley, Norbert (June 3, 2016). Inner Speech and the Dialogical Self. Temple University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 978-1439913284.  Page 1.
  4. Chomsky, Noam (October 10, 2002). On Nature and Language. Cambridge University Press. pp. 218. ISBN 978-0521016247.  as cited by Wiley, Norbert (June 3, 2016). Inner Speech and the Dialogical Self. Temple University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 978-1439913284.  Page 2.
  5. Wiley, Norbert (June 3, 2016). Inner Speech and the Dialogical Self. Temple University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 978-1439913284.  Page 2.
  6. Wiley, Norbert (June 3, 2016). Inner Speech and the Dialogical Self. Temple University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 978-1439913284.  Page 175.
  7. Wiley, Norbert (June 3, 2016). Inner Speech and the Dialogical Self. Temple University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 978-1439913284.  Page 175.
  8. Wiley, Norbert (June 3, 2016). Inner Speech and the Dialogical Self. Temple University Press. pp. 213. ISBN 978-1439913284.  Page 175.
  9. Fernyhough, Charles (April 20, 2017). The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. Profile Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1781252802.  @29 of 636
  10. From an interview with the London Times, as cited by Fernyhough, Charles (April 20, 2017). The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. Profile Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1781252802.  @86 of 636
  11. Fernyhough, Charles (April 20, 2017). The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. Profile Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1781252802.  @95 of 636
  12. Fernyhough, Charles (April 20, 2017). The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. Profile Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1781252802.  @271 of 636
  13. Fernyhough, Charles (April 20, 2017). The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. Profile Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1781252802.  @272 of 636
  14. Fernyhough, Charles (April 20, 2017). The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. Profile Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1781252802.  @117 of 636
  15. Effects of Self-Talk: A Systematic Review, by David Tod, James Hardy, and Emily Oliver. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, October 2011. Page 675
  16. Effects of Self-Talk: A Systematic Review, by David Tod, James Hardy, and Emily Oliver. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, October 2011. Page 680
  17. The inner speech of behavioral regulation: Intentions and task performance strengthen when you talk to yourself as a You, by Sanda Dolcos and Dolores Albarracin
  18. Fernyhough, Charles (April 20, 2017). The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves. Profile Books. pp. 320. ISBN 978-1781252802.  @95 of 636
  19. Motivating voter turnout by invoking the self, by Christopher J. Bryan, Gregory M. Walton, Todd Rogers, and Carol S. Dweck. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2, 2011.
  20. Speaking clearly … 10 years on: The case for an integrative perspective of self-talk in sport, by Alexander T. Latinjak, Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, Nikos Comoutos, James Hardy. 2019 American Psychological Association. Page 6.
  21. Speaking clearly … 10 years on: The case for an integrative perspective of self-talk in sport, by Alexander T. Latinjak, Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, Nikos Comoutos, James Hardy. 2019 American Psychological Association. Page 8.