What To Do When Affirmations Don't Work

There are some days when I feel like a fraud. I catch myself teaching one thing and practicing another. I forget what I know to be true, get scared or knocked off track, and fall into old habits that don't work. We all do. That's life. The trick is to catch yourself. 

Here's an everyday example of what I mean. 

For the last three months, I've been complaining about not seeing deer in our backyard. Now, if you've been with me for a while, you know I'm crazy about deer. I love their elegance and beauty and feel such delight whenever they come to visit. I'm always on the lookout and usually snap photos to post on Facebook or to text to friends.   

Here are four little darlings who found a clear patch of grass in our yard last winter...

For the last few months, I've been talking about not seeing any deer. Every time I looked out a back window, I'd say things like, I never see deer anymore, I think they've moved out of the neighborhood, or what if I never see deer again?  

One afternoon, while complaining to Michael, I stopped mid-sentence when I realized what I was doing. I was constantly affirming the opposite of what I wanted. (That's what complaining is, by the way). 

After a quick thump to my forehead, I knew what I needed to do: Start affirming what I wanted. Since I was always looking for deer and affirming my disappointment, I used this bad habit to create a good one. Every time I looked out over the back lawn I told myself, I love seeing deer in the backyard; I'm so happy the deer come to visit; deer love to be here because they feel safe and cared for. 

In addition to affirming what I wanted, I began to feel grateful for the deer already being here (than you Gregg Braden). Out loud, I often said to myself: Thank you deer for coming to visit. Thank you for enjoying our grass. Thank you for being here and sharing the land with us. 

Finally, I made a point to stay the course. This step was critical. I'd been using affirmations and feeling grateful for more than a month and hadn't seen one deer. I was starting to get discouraged and began thinking things like, I must be doing something wrong, or my affirmations don't work. Sound familiar? 

Then, I remembered something Louise Hay often told me, "Some people say affirmations don't work, but it's usually because they stop using them."  

Of course! I needed to stay focused on my experiment by feeling grateful and affirming that the backyard was filled with deer. By week six, the energy started to shift and I began to get evidence that my intentions were working. (This is important to notice and document when doing this experiment!) 

First, I received the most beautiful email from a member of my online community, Patricia Rodriguez. She had the extraordinary experience of witnessing a baby deer being born in her backyard. Here's one of the photos she sent right after the birth. Can you imagine?

And here's the new angel, up close!

Next, my handyman Derek, a man with gentle, loving energy, was working on the back deck when a deer visited him. "She came out of the tall grass," he explained one afternoon, "and she must have watched me work for at least ten minutes." 

Okay, I was getting close - real close. 

Finally, one night last week, while sitting on the deck reading, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  I put down my book and looked up to find three young deer (triplets, I think!), meandering across the lawn. I stood up slowly, grinned from ear-to-ear, and silently thanked them for visiting.   

I didn't even reach for my camera. I knew this moment needed to be captured by my heart, not my iPhone . 

My experiment was focused on the lack of deer in my life. Yours might be the job you still don't have, the rocky relationship you wish would heal, or the strong, fit body you'd like to inhabit. The process is the same. If you keep complaining about not having a job, the problem with your partner, or the fat on your hips, you're giving energy to what you don't want.

Take Action Challenge

Choose one thing you feel is missing from your life and renew your commitment to affirm its presence. Feel grateful for having that new job or new apartment. Use any moment of doubt as a reminder to renew your affirmations while you go about taking action to help make it happen.

This week's video came from my husband. I love people who care for birds and animals.You can find it here. Thanks, Michael! 

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Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson is the author of The New York Times bestselling books, Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, Stand Up for Your Life, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace and her new book The Art of Extreme Self Care. She was the first president of the International Coach Federation and holds one of their first Master Certified Coach credentials.

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