Are affirmations just wishful thinking? This is a very legitimate question. When doing a classroom lesson on affirmations, I always take some time to clarify the difference between wishful thinking and intentional thinking. I make it very clear that intentional thinking paves a path that leads to our most valued aspirations and potential. While wishful thinking, on the other hand, is like navigating the ocean without a compass and no clear destination. It’s also analogous to the difference between a wild guess and an inference. One is based on random phenomenon, while the other depends on evidence.
So, what’s the point of using affirmations at all? Affirmations work as reminders of our intentions in life – a vision of who we want to be and how we want to live. They can also be used to acknowledge what is happening right now in and around us. There are ways to use affirmations and ways not to use them. This is that gray area where the insistence on “positivity” can be counter-productive. In emotionally charged situations, for example, we don’t want to suppress what we are feeling, but rather objectively identify what’s happening so we are able to move past it. In this case, we could say, “I am feeling angry right now”. As we bring that label to our experience, the emotional grip it has on us begins to lessen, and we are able to come back to a state of neutrality with greater ease. Acceptance of 'what is' can be very liberating!
Like most things, intentionality also requires action on our part. We must walk in the direction of our goals and put ourselves in situations that allow our desired qualities of life to emerge. We can’t be brave if we never take a chance on the unknown. One of the last things I say after every lesson is, “There is no substitute for effort”.