07/22/2012 10:56 am ET Updated Sep 21, 2012

Affirmations Decoded

We have all heard about affirmations. The Secret made them a household name, and any new age guru will tell you to use them. But can affirmations actually change real things in our lives? Can our material reality be altered simply because we utter some words?

Who Lives Your Life?

Think back to yesterday morning. Between now and then you must have eaten 3-4 meals, gotten dressed and undressed a few times, drove somewhere and back, made 10 or so phone calls, and hopefully had a few social interactions.

You can remember those things happening, but can you really take responsibility for initiating them? Did you take the time to determine the right way to do each one? I bet that while you can look back and recall those actions, it is almost as if you are watching someone else taking them. Meet your "twin" -- the twin that could always run faster, think clearer, and the one that beat up on you when you messed up. Meet your subconscious.

It's no surprise that you remember doing only a fraction of what you actually did. This is because your subconscious takes actions on your behalf most of the time. It talks for you, moves your arms and hands, walks, drives, gets you dressed, opens doors and (hopefully) puts the seat down after you go. Your subconscious is like a business partner that controls 95 percent of your life.

Explaining the End Result

The end result of all of your actions is your reality. All the little things you did during the day, and the day before, and the one before that, amount to everything you have today. But wait, wasn't it the subconscious that took most of those actions? Isn't the subconscious, then, responsible for what we have? And in that case, what was it thinking and why did it bring us to wherever we are?

As the Talking Heads song goes: "You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house; You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife." Your subconscious does nothing randomly. No action is taken by chance. Every action is according to the master plan.

As it happens, you are the master, and that master plan is nothing other than your core beliefs. What are your core beliefs? Look around you. Look at what you have, don't have, what makes you sad, happy, grateful, hateful. The entirety of your life is a perfect reflection of your core beliefs.

How Beliefs Are Formed

Many people believe that some distant trauma or memorable event formed our beliefs, and in order to clear them up, we have to dig deep. However, this is not necessary, because our beliefs are being recreated and reaffirmed all the time. What you thought last week and last month is responsible for your beliefs today, and what you are thinking now is responsible for your beliefs next week and next month.

Your thoughts, self talk, reactions, and what you identify with throughout the day all blend to form your beliefs. If there is a lot of doubt, worry, anxiety, frustration and fear there, you can expect those feelings to be later reflected in your life. Therefore, we can deduct that the flavor of our reality is being spiced by our thoughts, though it takes a few weeks to occur. Imagine ordering food at a restaurant you go to every day, and only receiving something that you ordered weeks ago. You would most likely not even know that there was any connection between what you ordered and what you got... and you would most likely say, "This place is horrible, I get something random every time!"


Self-talk and thoughts are what indirectly make your reality what it is. Affirmations are controlled self-talk. Affirmations are the self-talk that, like all self-talk, will become a part of your reality -- but unlike most self talk, it actually matches what you want! Imagine: You have a way to directly affect the plan the subconscious uses to form your reality.

You can't choose to have your thoughts not affect your life. The quality of your thoughts matches the quality of your life, every time, with no exceptions. There is no luck and there is no chance. There are things that are incidental, but not the things that matter. Those are planned out.

Affirm, and Affirm Often

So you see, affirmations are not just another thing to do. Affirmations (and visualizations) give us direct access to the plan of our reality. Not in a year, or eventually, but anytime from now to next month or the month after. It's important to keep in mind that for hours and hours throughout the day your subconscious is hearing the same thoughts that it's used to. Your affirmations and bursts of positivity are drops in the bucket of doubt, anxiety and frustration. To make affirmations work you need to be consistent. You have to find a few that work and say them a hundred times per day for a month or two. This way they will slowly take over and your life will begin to change.

If you need a program, try Scott Armstrong's The Best Affirmations Handbook. I did and it really works!

For more by Hanaan Rosenthal, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.