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The Affirmation Prescription

You know what is it – an affirmation?

It’s a statement you make about you. You usually say it to yourself, because no one else would ever believe it. But that’s really not the point. You use affirmations to convince yourself that you’re better, nicer, smart, richer, sexier, taller, kinder, and a whole lot more lovable than common sense would warrant. And, if you say it enough, you eventually believe it.

At least, that’s the idea.

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Ever since kindergarten, I’ve started my morning by saying, “I’m the best me I can be, and everyone is going to give me half their peanut butter and banana sandwiches at lunch, and they’re not going to pull down my pants when I climb on the jungle gym at recess.”

After 50 years of using this affirmation on a daily basis, I’m really close to believing it. And some day, I know, the other senior vice presidents at the bank will stop pulling down my pants at recess.

If you don’t know what kind of affirmation would be right for you, Jeff Hayden, a contributing editor at Inc., has come up with a list of “11 Affirmations Successful People Repeat Every Single Day.” I don’t know if this is true; I don’t know any successful people, but I’m willing to take Jeff’s word for it. He’s always been really good about sharing his peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

“I can’t do everything today, but I can take one small step” is the first of the recommended affirmations. The idea here is that you shouldn’t “let hesitation and uncertainty stop us from acting on our ideas.”

I agree. Say your goal is to be the worst employee at your company without getting fired. Considering the colossal ineptitude of the management team, it is unlikely that you can accomplish this task in one fell swoop. Instead, take one small step – like putting on your PJs and falling asleep under your boss’s desk at lunchtime – and know that, in the future, you’ll be a lot better at being a whole lot worse.

“I will face a fear” is another motivating affirmation. Hayden admits it is scary to face the unknown, but if you can do one thing every day that is “a little scary, physically or emotionally,” you will surely get “a thrill you may not have experienced for a long time.”

If you can’t pick one fear out of the hundreds of fears you face daily, may I suggest you start off by tackling a world-class, “Walking Dead”-type of fear – the fear of actually doing some work.

This is a truly fearsome fear, since it’s almost certain you will screw up, get blamed and prove to everyone that their suspicions about your incompetence are 100 percent true.

But I guarantee you will get your thrill – a hair-raising trip to the unemployment office.

“I will appreciate someone unappreciated” is a very sweet affirmation. Of course, no one is more unappreciated than you. To hell with the people Hayden says you’re supposed to appreciate – the people “delivering packages, bagging groceries, checking out customers.” Compared to you, they get tons of appreciation – and they get to wear cool uniforms, too.

Still, I do recommend you spend some quality time appreciating you. If Jeff Hayden is right, “you’ll earn the best kind of respect – the respect that comes from making a difference, however fleeting, in another person’s life.” And if management thinks you’re wasting time, busily appreciating how wonderful you are, perhaps they’ll make it necessary for you to get a job where you will be “delivering packages, bagging groceries, checking out customers.”

Then you can wear a cool uniform and everyone will appreciate you.

“I will be OK with less than perfect” is the affirmation you hope your boss is saying to herself every morning, when she sees that you’ve turned your work station into a goof-off station. (That was really good affirming, by the way, when you affirmed that bringing your PlayStation 4 to work was a totally great idea.)

“No product or service is ever perfect,” Hayden writes, and how he knows so much about you is truly amazing. “Do your best, and let it go,” is his affirmation prescription. “Your customers and colleagues will tell you what needs to be improved.”

It’s true, and it’s the perfect segue to the “I will try to do better” affirmation, which you already make about once an hour.” Keep affirming that, I say. Someday, someone may actually believe you.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com.

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