“I am good enough.  I am smart enough, and dog gone it, people like me!” 

Unfortunately for many leaders, the word “affirmations” conjures up memories of the Stuart Smalley segment on Saturday Night Live.  Although, Stuart proclaims these statements, you get the sense that he does not truly believe them, coming across as generic and lacking confidence.  While hilarious, positive psychology has advanced light years since this segment’s popular days in the 1990’s.  Over the last 20+ years, much improved information on our brain’s ability to internalize what we choose to tell it has yielded some impressive research and outcomes.

Positive thinking is not just a fad, it’s a must have for today’s leader.  It is one of the best tools to manage conflict, to coach employees to success, and to solve today’s complex business problems.

The leaders I coach often share these tools and techniques to improve their own positive thinking skills:

  • Power posing
  • “Will” and “am” statements
  • Visualization

Power posing

With nearly 40 million views, Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk outlines some proven ways to bolster confidence through body positioning.  By positioning our bodies to be bigger outwardly, rather than inward, our stress hormone, cortisol decreases, and our testosterone levels increase.  Although her research has been difficult to replicate, I personally believe wholeheartedly in it.  For me, when I have felt overwhelmed, or did something for the first time, or lacked confidence thinking someone else was better than me, I have power posed with positive affirmations, and felt a calmness and confidence wash over me.

For big speaking events, I often find a private area (i.e. restroom stall) and power pose citing my positive affirmations to myself for 1-2 minutes.  I felt silly doing it the first time, yet as I share this story openly with clients and they do the same before a big negotiation or during a crisis at the office, they share how much better their results were.  I believe it works because we are rewiring our brain to think of possibilities versus fear.  Our primitive brains are wired to feel fear to drive survival decisions.  Yet, when I am standing up in front of hundreds of people in an audience, fear can be crippling.  That is, if I let it.  Instead, taking control of those emotions and harnessing them with a strong body position and bank of go-to positive affirmations that I believe and are true, helps me to regain control and clarity.  This is critical to my ability to connect and inspire an audience.  Fear is not helpful to connect and inspire.

“Will” and “am” statements

To quiet fear further, and bolster confidence, the words we use matter.  Our positive affirmations must be genuine and true.  Think opposite of our friend, Stuart Smalley.  You must believe what you are telling yourself.  The best positive affirmations are rooted in your innate beliefs about yourself, based on past successes, or attributes that you have been recognized for before.  To formulate a solid affirmation, choose your words carefully.  Use the words “will” and “am,” rather than “can” or “try.”  It is important that the affirmation is said in present or future tense.  I like to have a bank of positive affirmations locked and loaded for times when I am stressed, nervous, or something does not go as planned.  Here are some of my favorites over time:

  • I will have a lasting impact on the lives of women and leaders that I coach
  • I am a confident, strong woman that accomplishes my goals
  • I set a positive example for future women leaders

As you can see, positive affirmations are highly customized to the individual.  I channel these statements often to fuel my confidence.  It reminds me of why I do what I do.  When the affirmations are aligned with your purpose, the results compound.  For me, developing leaders and coaching women to build winning career game plans drives me.  While that is my purpose statement, I am further driven by the results of that purpose, articulated in these statements.  It is critical that we know what our triggers are, and that we craft statements that promote those feelings.  If reading the statements give you goosebumps, you’re in a good place.

For more information, check out a popular blog from our archives – How to Choose the Words that Create Positive Impact.

Visualization

Most of us are visual learners, meaning that we learn by seeing over doing and hearing.  To further tap into that visual learning mechanism, visualization is a powerful technique with our positive affirmations.  When our brain has a visual marker to map to, we are far more likely to change behaviors and take action to making that future vision of success a reality.  Utilizing your bank of positive affirmations, with a fine power pose on display, compound the positive energy by closing your eyes and visualizing yourself achieving the success you want to achieve.

Before speaking engagements, I often do this, visualizing the audience smiling and sharing positive feedback and stories in the discussion.  I see it happen before it happens.  My brain mentally maps to this as a possible outcome, and my behaviors naturally align to support this end result.  It’s self-fulfilling.

When life gets hairy, and hands me a not so good day, I also have some other visual techniques I utilize to refocus my brain on the positive.  I keep thank you cards in a drawer in my office – my beloved “kudos drawer.”  It always brings a smile to my face to read past notes of client successes or personal gratitude, especially in the face of a bad day.  I also use a vision board on occasion.  Currently, I am writing a new book on gender equality, and have a visual board to keep track of my goals with images of successful and happy women to motivate me should the naughty writer’s block paralyze me temporarily.  The vision board helps draw me back into what my purpose is and gets my brain back in gear.

Remember, confidence comes from within.  Women and leaders that utilize positive affirmations, strike a power pose, and visualize success, are more successful at work.

What are you positive affirmations?

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