I recently attended a personal leadership retreat where we learned to replace limiting thoughts with affirmations. I’m delighted to have this new tool in my box because the voice in my head sometimes grows tiresome. Despite living an abundantly delicious life and having a heart that mostly sings, there are moments in each day that really steal my power.
What is a limiting thought? A belief, attitude or idea that derails you from showing up fully in your life. It’s a negative thought that you hear in your head, like a tape playing over and over, shaped by time and your personal experience and the people who influence you. In psychology, we refer to the ‘ego’, which often produces these limiting stories in an attempt to protect us. In coaching, we talk about the ‘gremlin’, like a little devil of a thing that sits on your shoulder voicing it’s opinion in what’s often a sabotaging tone.
The root of limiting thoughts is fear.
The power to shift these limiting thoughts to positive affirmations requires courage.
What is an affirmation? Affirmations are attitudes, beliefs and ideas that honor who we are. They can shift our energy, physically, mentally and spiritually. They have the power to create amazing and awesome things in our lives. An affirmation is a declaration of our truth.
Affirmations enable me to turn toward the light. When I am facing the light I am in tune with what is real. Affirmations set my spirit free and I move through my day feeling vibrantly alive.
Have you ever seen someone’s facial expression and body posture change simply as result of the thoughts running through their head? I see it often in my restorative yoga class – our instructor’s inspiring words moving us from the busy energy we bring in from our work and lives to a quiet place that softens and opens us.
Try This! Feel the shift
- Wherever you are, pause. Notice what’s going on inside you and how you are feeling physically.
- Tune in to your breath. Feel it moving in through your nose. Let it gently move out through your mouth. Don’t try to change it; just notice it.
- Think about a joyful time in your life. Take yourself back there. See the experience in your mind’s eye. You might even close your eyes. Keep breathing. In, Out. In, Out.
- When you are ready, gently come back. Slowly open your eyes. Let go of your vision.
- Notice how you are feeling, inside and out.
- Consider how you felt before and after the pause and visualization. You might try this in a room with someone you trust. Ask them to watch you as you complete the exercise and to share what they saw.
One of my recurring limiting thoughts is “You don’t fit in. Maybe you don’t really belong here.” By pausing during the retreat, I had the opportunity to notice all the times that belief has held me back at work. By declaring it a limiting belief and sharing it with others, I started to remove its power. By consciously designing a new thought, I leaned into what’s possible. I’ve replaced the limiting thought with a positive affirmation: “I honor that I am unique. It’s because I am different that I add value.” Each time I catch the ego/gremlin playing the old tape of limitation, I overwrite it with the new song I want to sing.
Try This! Create a positive affirmation
- Think about where you feel challenged, get stuck, resist, get angry – something that limits you. If nothing comes to you, simply set an intention now to find a limiting belief and pay attention over the next 24 hours.
- Once you’ve identified a limiting belief, put it into words and write it down. Say it out loud. Notice how that makes you feel.
- Consider what alternative thought would free up your energy, make you feel empowered and strong, let go of resentment, or push away any fear. Write it down. Keep it short so that it’s easy to remember.
- Frame the intent in the present. Write it as if it is already true. For example, “I will care for my body” becomes “I care for my body.” “I will be more open and vulnerable” becomes “I am open and vulnerable.” “I will be inspired by beauty” becomes “I am inspired by beauty.”
- You can also make declarations of beliefs you want to hold that make you feel alive, energized, positive. For example, some of my other affirmations include: “It’s OK to leave things incomplete and unfinished at the end of the day.” And “Taking time for me is a gift I give to myself and others.”
This post is dedicated to my inspiring, entrepreneur friend Shelly Horswill, owner of Wellfinity and creator of The Spirited Woman’s retreat. Thanks for helping me challenge my inner voice.