One of the things that prompted me to want to write this blog was that I had realised that talking to yourself was not a sign of madness. It can actually be a sign of a conscious choice to move in a direction other than the one you might normally drift in. Talking to yourself, done right, can make a huge difference to your day – because starting your day by reminding yourself of the person you want to be can help you to make choices during the day that move you in that direction.

Some people call this ‘affirmation(s)’. Careful if you look this up, though – you can get a lot of mixed messages. Some affirmations can be really pie in the sky and not actually help you make choices. It’s also been shown that just telling yourself that you will achieve something (‘I will become a millionaire’) may get you feeling good but it doesn’t actually make you more likely to do it – partly because you get the same high that you would get if you already did it. It’s even worse when you say things as if you were there already, which you’ll also see (‘I am a millionaire’) because your brain will dismiss what you say because it knows it’s not true.

This article’s pretty useful about the non-benefits of pure ‘positive thinking’ too. Articles like this make me want to be very clear that I’m not talking about just ‘trying to think positive’ or ‘looking on the bright side’, nor other self-delusions like ‘I am the king of the world!’.

So there’s a ‘wrong’ way to do this. What’s a better way?

Start with a commitment.

Decide what you’re committed to achieving, and start an affirmation with something like “I am committed to…”. This makes sure that you aren’t trying to fool yourself. You’re much less likely to be able to lie to yourself when you talk about your commitments to become something rather than your state of being. Of course, you have to have decided on something you want to commit to first, or the words will still be empty.

Starting your day starts to slowly ‘rewire your brain‘, and does a few things for you.

First, it sets out the pattern for choices you make during your day. I have found that the days I’ve done this have gone better, and not always because I achieved more or had good things happen to me. The difference was in my reactions to the circumstances I found myself in. Faced with a situation that I normally would have been annoyed about, I was able to remember ‘I can choose to let things go that I can’t change. Circumstances don’t control me. I choose to be upset or content about a situation.’ Some of the time, at least! And this would yield less complaining and more acceptance, and I’d feel miles better about the day.

Second, it lets you be deliberate about your long-term direction. If you have something you’re trying to work on, whether it’s a habit or a business idea, then reminding yourself of your commitment every day will tend to encourage you to make some progress on it each day if you have the chance. It takes it from the back burner and puts it to the front, meaning you’re more likely to take a positive action towards it or an opportunity because your mind is primed to see these things. You’ll find you get more done and drift through life less.

Third, you can start to feel better about who you already are. I’ve found that words are powerful and you tend to grow into the way you see yourself. Start the day seeing the good in you, the progress you’re making, and the positive ways you want to improve, rather than beating yourself up for your failures. You’ll find that you have more inclination to take on the challenges of the day.

None of this really sounds like madness to me. What about you? Do you have any ‘affirmations’ or helpful positive stuff that you already use? Do any new ones spring to mind? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter (@thingsyouare) – or in private to