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Affirmations are Baloney. Here’s the Real Consulting Confidence Builder

If you recite, “I’m worthy of success” every morning, will your consulting business grow? Not likely. Instead, adopt the three mindset techniques below that can make a real difference.

Your attitude is critically important to your success and, of course, your personal happiness. Recent research reveals that a positive outlook precedes heightened productivity and accomplishment.1 You achieve more because you’re in good spirits.

Plus, studies indicate that buyers of services (like consulting) are more likely to choose you over a competing consulting firm if you are more confident. (If you’re more confident and you come to meetings with truffles, you’re a shoo-in for the project.)

So, should you listen to daily affirmations to boost your self-esteem and confidence, as many self-help gurus, books and websites proclaim? No.

Listening to an hour of affirmations every morning for a month is guaranteed to do one thing: waste a full day of your life.

Proponents of daily affirmations misunderstand the evidence and dangerously misread the science.

Experiments in neuroplasticity suggest that your thoughts can change the structure of your brain.2 However, regularly, religiously hearing (or speaking) a positive statement won’t make you think it. In fact,

  1. If you don’t believe a positive statement, you may mentally access contrary evidence and reinforce your negative self-image.
  2. Attempting to drown out negative feedback with positive “self-talk” can inhibit you from learning from your mistakes.

Net: simply listening to affirmations won’t help.

Are there exercises that can reliably boost your self-esteem and confidence and, therefore, open the door to better results for your consulting business?

Yes. Here are three:

3 Mindset Exercises that Work

1. Reflect & Project

Learning stems from reflection—mentally and physiologically connecting thoughts. Such as tying, “I am confident in the value of my work” to memories of clients offering praise for your deliverables.

Every Friday afternoon, choose up to five beliefs you would like to strengthen (e.g., I am self-confident) and assign one belief to each, upcoming weekday.

Every weekday:

  1. Reflect on your assigned belief statement:
    1. What evidence do you have that the statement has been true in the past?
    2. Write down your evidence in at least one paragraph of prose.
  2. Project your assigned belief into the future:
    1. What would it feel like for your belief to be absolutely true in the future?
    2. Mentally rehearse what a situation would look like if your belief were true in the future. What would you do and how would you act?
    3. Write about your projected experience.

You can delete your writing when you’re done. Journaling helps embed the thoughts in your brain.

2. Acknowledge & Recommit

Scientific evidence shows that trying to ignore or drown out negative thoughts is ineffective; however, focusing on what you value and desire produces meaningful change.

Every Friday afternoon reconfirm (or refine) what you truly value and desire from your consulting practice. For instance: flexibility to spend more time with your family, or financial security, or a lasting legacy. Then update your plan to achieve your goal. What are the concrete, granular next steps?

  1. Acknowledge negative thoughts when they occur. If you hit an obstacle, such as losing a project, don’t deny it hurts. Admit that sucks and feels rotten, then…
  2. Recommit to your plan and the granular next steps you need to complete.

3. Listen with Respect

One reason self-affirmations (a.k.a. autosuggestion) are ineffective is you don’t believe the messenger. Yourself. For good reason. You know your thoughts are biased and your views are distorted. Also, you realize that your clients are the true arbiters of your value (in terms of consulting).

At least once per month, solicit the input of someone you respect who is familiar with your work. Find someone who:

  1. Has walked your road before you. You instinctively trust and believe someone who has “been there, done that.”
  2. Is willing to listen attentively.
  3. Will point out your mistakes in a positive frame with direction on how to improve. (Berating you doesn’t generally help.)
  4. Will offer honest praise and support when it’s warranted.

After your feedback session, Reflect & Project. Connect your learning to evidence, rehearse future success, and write it all down.

There’s no doubt that improving your mindset can enhance your consulting business.

Whether or not you’re able to follow my recommended practice of massive, daily chocolate consumption (purely to boost endorphins, of course), you can absolutely utilize the three exercises above to boost your profits and happiness as a consultant.

Is there a positive belief you’d like to work on starting this coming Friday? Maybe even some belief you already hold but want to reinforce?

Publicly committing will help you stay accountable and will inspire other readers, so please share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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9 Comments
  1. Robin Goldsmith
    August 2, 2017 at 10:26 am Reply

    Agreed that consciously lying to yourself won’t work, but that’s not what affirmations are supposed to be about, though no doubt some promote them mindlessly as you suggest. We know that many people indeed do tell themselves things to their detriment like, “I’m not worthy of success.”

    Our thoughts shape our behaviors and create limitations or openness. We can choose, and overcoming long-entrenched self-talk messages is difficult but not impossible. Granted it’s not mechanical and requires emotional commitment along with mouthing words, which is what your three techniques bolster.

    • David A. Fields
      August 2, 2017 at 11:33 am Reply

      No one thinks affirmations are supposed to be consciously lying to yourself; however, unfortunately, there are millions of people who believe that just listening to positive statements will create desired change.

      There are uncountable sources promoting that idea too–just do a search on affirmations. You’ll not only find free resources with hundreds of trite sayings, you’ll find companies willing to sell you audio files of positive affirmations that, supposedly, will improve your life, health, wealth, and solve the North Korea problem if you listen to them enough.

      What you underscored is that changing your mindset requires emotional commitment and, importantly attention. The bulk of learning doesn’t happen during an experience. It happens when we reflect on the experience. All three steps are really designed to help create active reflection.

      Your comments were on point, as always, Robin.

  2. Gloriana Hunter
    August 2, 2017 at 11:02 am Reply

    Just what I needed to read this morning. Thank you.

    • David A. Fields
      August 2, 2017 at 11:35 am Reply

      You’re welcome, Gloriana. We all need to read reminders like the ones in this article on a regular basis. Heck, that’s half the reason I write them–so that I’ll remember them too!

    • Katharine Halpin
      August 2, 2017 at 12:47 pm Reply

      Gloriana, great to see you on this thread. You Rock my friend!

  3. Denise J Martin
    August 2, 2017 at 11:43 am Reply

    I would add that language specifics are important in every endeavor. We are always using language -your 3 recommended actions involve interactions with self and a respected mentor via self-talk/external talk – but we routinely fail to consider the power to determine behavior that words have.

    There are many many examples of where word specifics make a difference, but let me cite just one here. If you recommit by saying to yourself “I will get (specific whatever) done today” that’s very different than referring to yourself in the 2nd person and saying “David, you will get this done today”. I won’t go into the reasons why here, but try it and notice the effect.

    Language specifics are VERY important to achieve best results – not just in self productivity but in all interactions.

    • David A. Fields
      August 2, 2017 at 11:54 am Reply

      You’re absolutely right that small nuances in language can make a huge difference. The example you cited is particularly interesting and I hope numerous readers experiment with phrasing self-talk in “You” language vs “I” language.

      Another interesting aspect is balancing the fine tuning of language with the need to take action. Better language can sometimes produce dramatic improvements in results. The first, most important step, though is to get into action.

      Outstanding addition to the discussion, Denise.

  4. Charles Reese
    August 2, 2017 at 2:32 pm Reply

    I agree with Robin that your understanding of affirmations is fairly light. The SNL skits in the 90’s did a lot to distort the concept. Affirmations are not all that different from what you call reflect and project. This is semantics, but you think affirmations; not listen to them. Affirmations are far more effective if they are specific. You are correct that an affirmation will not work if you do not believe the statement. I and a number of people around me have used affirmations successfully. Reading your suggestions, I think they would work well, too.

    • David A. Fields
      August 2, 2017 at 4:16 pm Reply

      As I’m sure you realize, the topic at hand isn’t really my personal understanding of affirmations (I’m quite conversant with research in the area). It’s how other people use and perceive affirmations and, even more to the point, what people can do that will actually help. Provocative title and premise versus the point and purpose.

      Fortunately, even if the article characterizes affirmation as indistinguishable from pudding, as long as readers take on the prescribed actions, progress will be made.

      I appreciate you chiming in, Charles.

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