AJS South Africa


A journey to find happiness…

When we are growing up in the world and trying to find our place in it, believing in oneself comes more easily for some of us. Call it naivety. Call it innocence. Call it self-assuredness. 

Some of us just seem to be born with an innate self-belief, with gumption, confidence, and a belief that we can conquer the world. One day at least. 

And when we forget the possibilities that lie before us, when we express self-doubt or fear, we find that sometimes we have others around us to shine a mirror on who we are and who we can become, helping us see what we are capable of – that we can be anything we want to be. If we just put our minds to it. 

Often, it is our families, or our teachers and mentors that remind us that we are important. That we are worthy. That we can do and be anything.

The most heart touching example of this can be seen in this beautiful clip from the movie The Help – 

“You is kind.

You is smart.

You is important”.

Such simple words. But extraordinarily important affirmations. Believing this for ourselves can change our entire world. For the better. 

But somewhere along the line as we move through our lives, as we go through each unpleasant experience, as we experience failure, missteps, or mistakes, as we experience heart break – we forget who we once believed we were. We lose that childhood innocence of being “unbreakable”.

We forget that we once believed – with all our hearts – that we could fly. That we could touch the sky. If we really wanted to. 

And just like simple words of affirmation can change our world for the better, simple words of self-doubt and fear can have an equal and opposite negative affect on our lives.  

But what are affirmations?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, an affirmation refers to “a positive assertion”. And an assertion (a synonym for an affirmation) means an “insistent and positive affirming, maintaining, or defending (as of a right or attribute)”.

And according to Mind Tools, Affirmations “can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often, and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes”.

Now, we know what you might be thinking – this is a whole lot of “mumbo jumbo”. The soft skills in life are often considered hocus pocus and a bunch of time wasting “skills” that take away from the bottom line. But this could not be more wrong.  

The truth is, Living a life with Purpose and in our own personal journeys to find happiness we are influenced by a number of external factors, influencers, mitigators and experiences. Things that influence how we see the world and our place within it.

And one of these is how we see ourselves. Really. Not just how our hair looks or how our lipstick “pops” during Teams calls. We mean, how we see ourselves deep inside – do we really believe in ourselves? 

Mind tools puts it this way – 

“You might consider affirmations to be unrealistic “wishful thinking.” But try looking at positive affirmations this way: many of us do repetitive exercises to improve our physical health, and affirmations are like exercises for our mind and outlook. These positive mental repetitions can reprogram our thinking patterns so that, over time, we begin to think – and act – differently.

For example, evidence suggests that affirmations can help you to perform better at work. According to researchers, spending just a few minutes thinking about your best qualities before a high-pressure meeting – a performance review, for example – can calm your nerves, increase your confidence, and improve your chances of a successful outcome. 

Self-affirmation may also help to mitigate the effects of stress. In one study, a short affirmation exercise boosted the problem-solving abilities of “chronically stressed” subjects to the same level as those with low stress. 

What’s more, affirmations have been used to successfully treat people with low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health conditions. And they have been shown to stimulate the areas in our brains that make us more likely to effect positive changes in regard to our health”.

And we would assume that reducing stress and encouraging improved self-esteem whilst combating depression and other mental health issues is not a strain on the bottom line but rather a way to ensure that the bottom line improves. 

There is value in believing in yourselfThere is value in giving yourself a gentle pat on the back. And there is most certainly value in believing that you are worthy, that you are important and that you can succeed. At any age.

Because words matter. Positive words and therefore positive affirmations will have a positive effect on you, providing an improved and overall positive outlook on your everyday life. Yes, there are a lot of positives in that one sentence. But it’s on purpose.

Positive affirmations have a positive effect. And that’s the point. 

It is also backed by science 

Our brains have what is known as neuroplasticity

This refers to “a brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. Plasticity refers to the brain’s malleability, which is defined as being “easily influenced, trained, or controlled. Neuro refers to neurons, the nerve cells that are the building blocks of the brain and nervous system. Thus, neuroplasticity is when nerve cells change or adjust”.

Thus, neuroplasticity can be seen as our brains ability to rewire or restructure itself when it needs to adapt. In other words, as we learn and as we grow as individuals, our brains will also continue to develop and change throughout our lifetimes. 

Therefore, by thinking positively and by utilising daily positive affirmations, we can “train our brains” and alter how they work. Just like with any repeated physical exercise. And as they say, “Practice makes perfect”. With time, and with constant repetition of positive affirmations, you can rewire your brain to respond to tricky situations in a positive way. Rather than simply defaulting to the negative. 

In an article titled Positive Affirmations in the Workplace: Impact, Tips and Examples, they say the following – 

“Positive affirmations, also known as mantras, are statements used to provide encouragement and motivation for yourself and others to become better at a certain activity or skill. If you’ve ever reassured yourself of your ability to do something before doing that activity, that is a positive self-affirmation. Encouraging a friend or sibling that they can do something is also the use of an affirmation”.

Fair enough, right? 

But how can positive affirmations really help you?

As paraphrased from the Indeed article mentioned above – 

1.     Repeating daily positive affirmations can improve your skills – and by so doing, can help you become more proficient at the tasks necessary for your professional success because you are drowning out the voice telling you “You can’t” i.e. “I can totally do this”.

2.     Repeating daily positive affirmations can sharpen your focus – affirmations can help you cancel out all the negative noise and focus on the tasks required to positively impact on your contributions to your organisation’s overall goals i.e. “I am a valuable member of this team”.

3.     Repeating daily positive affirmations can improve interpersonal relationships –affirmations can help promote positive reactions and feelings towards others and is crucial when working in a team requiring close collaboration i.e. “My colleague’s success is also my success”

4.     Repeating daily positive affirmation can reduce stress – staying positive within yourself can help break obsessive thought patterns and dwelling on negativity. Therefore, instead of focusing on not meeting a deadline, focus instead on finding new ways to resolve the problem i.e. “This is fixable”.

5.     Repeating daily positive affirmations can bring about a renewed perspective – by expressing gratitude for your role (and job) and being positive about a task at hand can improve your overall outlook. Don’t focus on the fact that the coffee isn’t great at the office, focus instead on being able to purchase your own imported Costa Rican coffee at home i.e. “I am blessed to be where I am”.

6.     Repeating daily positive affirmations can increase job satisfaction – “if you can use mantras to boost productivity, improve your goal-setting and interpersonal skills, master new proficiencies and enhance decision-making, your job satisfaction can increase. Practicing positive affirmations can help raise levels of optimism and happiness about your work or career outlook”.

So, what are some examples of positive affirmations?

Roy T. Bennett sets out the following affirmations which you can adapt and apply to your daily lives –

1.     “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”

2.     “Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”

3.     “Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.”

4.     “Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down.”

Or if you are looking for something simpler– 

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important”. 

Seeking affirmation

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with life, to get bogged down by our constant (and sometimes ever growing) to-do lists and all the other frustrations that come with “adulting” and being a professional. 

But by honestly believing in yourself, you can tackle all of these things with confidence, positivity and resilience.

As Henry Ford said – 

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

And at AJS, we urge you to know that you can.  

Finding purpose, meaning, fulfillment and happiness throughout your life is a journey you will undertake over a lifetime. And it will be filled with innumerable steps. 

But as Lao Tzu said – 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

And believing in yourself is only one of them. 

– Written by Alicia Koch on behalf of AJS

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