Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Raise your hand if, at any point in high school or college, a motivational speaker told you to say out loud to yourself in the mirror: "I'm Special!" 5 times in a row, 5 times a day. Or some equally simple and saccharine affirmation like this.

My hand is in the air. Both hands... Someone probably gave me the positive thinking lecture annually, at the very least, from 16 to 21.

Now, raise your hand if, you actually followed these instructions.

Uh huh. Me either... At the time, I'd sooner have cut off my hand and thrown it in the ocean. Positive thinking lectures are given when they are most necessary and, unfortunately, when our teenage brains are least accepting and most certain that repeating a postive thought aloud, taping it to our mirror, or even just consciously thinking it, is the most ridiculous possible thing to do. I would go so far as to say that this sort of presentation "affirmed" for me only that adults were old, had lost too many brain cells, and were to be respected much as you "respect" a small child - for their good intentions and not for their wisdom.

Ok, maybe you were slightly less cynical than me, but you must have felt at least a little silly about the concept right?

So seriously, can we change how we think? Is there power in positive thinking? Is there anything special about saying things out loud? Or is this something adults say to teenagers because teenagers are occasionally annoying and this method is a relatively harmless win-win of either annoying them or making them look ridiculous?

I read somewhere recently that people have 45,000 to 51,000 thoughts a day. So, if there are 1440 minutes in a day and 51,000 thoughts that is 35ish thoughts a minute - only it is probably significantly more during our conscious hours. However you do the math, that's a lot o' thoughts. Research shows that, for the average person, 80% of these thoughts are negative and 90-98% of today's thoughts will carry over to tomorrow. (Wow. We are extreme creatures of habit. Whoa.)

So, if so little changes is it worth trying to change? Yes, of course - even this "realist" (aka pessimist in denial) can't say positive change is bad. And the truth is, it's not going to be THAT hard. It's estimated to take 21 times to form a habit. It seems like a lot, but the deliberate statements aren't going to be the ones that join the lost 10%. I'm pretty sure the forgotten 10% must be things more like "that cloud looks like an elephant" and "soup or salad?". The statements we think on purpose should easily make the replay list and the odds are in favor of the replay list. And a single, deliberate, statement must be more than one thought. A single statement probably invites...

thoughts to develop a positive statement thoughts to refine the statement thoughts to convince yourself it's not the stupidest thing you've ever said thoughts to remind yourself that it's ok to look silly thoughts about whether someone will hear your positive statement thoughts about whether it counts for more if you say it to someone  thoughts while actually saying it thoughts about how you can't believe you just did that thoughts about what people who heard it think thoughts about what people would think if they had heard it thoughts about whether you should do it again thoughts about who you should say it to thoughts about having so many thoughts about a positive thought thoughts about the positive thought thoughts about if it is true thoughts about if it will change anything thoughts about how many times it will take to change something thoughts about what to do to make the positive thought an action thoughts about words and actions thoughts about positive thoughts being contagious...

I know, you get the picture. (I'm particularly good at rambling though!) Still, just one little statement gets you all those positivity points. Score!

Also, I need to preach for just a second. I believe that God spoke the world into being. I also believe we are made in His image. So, if I claim to believe these things than I'd be an enormous hypocrite to believe our voice is without power, especially in our very own brains.

Still, I feel more than a little ridiculous going to the extreme of speaking affirmations aloud to myself.

Here goes though...

Stand in front of your mirror with me friends!

"I'm special."
"I'm special."
"I'm special."
"I'm special."
"I'm special."

Yeah, I can't do it without making faces either...

We can start smaller though right? Can we write our favorite quote/bible verse/thing someone said to us on a post-it and stick it somewhere awesomely obscure and all our own? (There may, from time to time, be post-its under things on my desk...) Sing the lyrics to your favorite childhood song obnoxiously loud alone in our cars? (PSA: Texting AND Father Abraham are dangerous while driving. Think before you "right arm" or this may be the last time you "turn around, sit down".) Think about how grateful we are our favorite food exists? Think about our favorite people to eat that food with and how cool it is to have them in our lives? Drink coffee - tell the girl who sold us the coffee that she makes our day better? Baby steps! Then, sometime next week/month/decade, when we are very, very brave we can tell the face in the mirror that it's cool, pretty, smart, important, loved, give it a fist bump and get on with our freakishly optimistic day.

High five to you freakishly optimistic and content Megan of the future!

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