Volume 9
Powerful Thoughts VS. Positive Thoughts (and Why Affirmations Don't Work)

I often hear, I try thinking happy, positive thoughts, and it’s just not working. Many folks say, Positive affirmations don’t work. Remember the Stuart Smalley character on Saturday Night Live who made positive affirmations in the mirror? I do NOT want to be THAT guy! Then there are those who say that positive thinking does work and swear by the use of positive affirmations. Guess what – everyone’s right! A positive thought may or may not work. Powerful thoughts, on the other hand, do work. This Forward Thinking Gentle Reminder discusses the difference between a positive thought and a powerful thought, how to know if a thought is powerful, and some powerful thoughts we can choose to think.
Positive thoughts often do not work or if they do work, they work only temporarily. We’ve all experienced this when we get all motivated to make a change after we have listened to a speaker, read a book, made resolutions, or heard a rah-rah pep talk. Two weeks later, we’re back to the way we were. Many folks use affirmations as a form of positive thinking to no avail. In fact, there are clinical studies that show overwhelmingly, that positive affirmations do not work.
This does not surprise me. Because there is a distinct difference between a positive thought and a powerful thought. Powerful thoughts inspire us, spark creativity, access our highest awareness, and bring us ideas that move us in a direction that serves our purpose.
So how do we know if a thought is powerful or not? Very simply, by noticing how we feel as we think a thought. When a thought is not working for us, we don’t feel good as we are thinking the thought. Our head and neck are tense, our eyebrows are furrowed, our breath is short, our chest and stomachs are tight. And we don’t feel true to ourselves.
When we are thinking a powerful thought, we feel good. We feel at peace. We feel a sense of inner power. We feel lit up and energized. We feel inspired. We feel true to ourselves.
Why Affirmations Don’t Work
We are all about telling the truth. It is impossible for us to be at peace or inspired or to receive ideas on how to bring our “happy thoughts” or positive affirmations to reality if we do not feel true to ourselves. “Happy thoughts” and positive affirmations don’t work when they are not true or sincere.
For example, suppose that I consistently become upset by someone’s behavior because they are yelling at me and I repeatedly affirm, I am happy. If I am not happy, the affirmation will not move me one step toward happiness. If I find myself thinking thoughts such as No you’re not…There’s no way you’ll ever be happy…You can’t be happy until you get out of this situation…or When pigs fly!, then affirming I am happy won’t work because I cannot imagine or believe in the possibility of being happy. If I believe I should be happy and I am masking or distracting myself from my true feelings, then I am happy is not true or sincere and won’t work.
Affirmations will not work if we cannot see what is, for example, intending to go east looking for a sunset. It is comforting to note that when we are thinking powerfully, we know in which direction to look for the sunset.
What powerful thoughts can we choose to think?
There are many thoughts we can choose to think. We are all different. What works for someone else may not work for me. What works for me in one situation, may not work in another situation. This is where self-awareness comes in. It is up to you to choose the thought, say it out loud to test it, feel it, practice it, and make adjustments, until it serves your purpose.
To continue with the above example, it may work to think thoughts that affirm our choice to move in the direction of happiness. Affirmations such as I choose happiness, I am committed to happiness, I now practice being happy, It is important to me to be happy, or It is important to me to live a life of happiness could open us to receive ideas on the next best steps to take.
Alternatively, it may work to think thoughts that are in the form of powerful questions that guide us to our vision or definition of happiness, or invoke the state of wonder. We could ask ourselves, What can I do in this moment (or today) that moves me in the direction of happiness? or, What brings me happiness?, or, What can I do, how can I be to live the word happiness in the moments of my day?
Or it may work for me to think, I am thankful for the lessons learned from the experience, and then affirming my commitment to a new direction.
Adding details, which are focused on what you want, to tell the story can also be powerful, for example: I choose happiness. When I find myself in a state of fight, flight, or freeze, I take a moment to add light. I exhale deeply and, on the inhale, I think to myself, “What can I say or do right now for the greater good? ” I notice my answers and act accordingly. Every ninety minutes, I take a moment to exhale and inhale deeply at least three times. I use my Outlook calendar to remind me to breathe. Every Friday afternoon, I sit down with my favorite cup of coffee or tea and I think about what I am thankful for from the week. I ask myself what steps can I take this week that move me in the direction of happiness. I enjoy my coffee or tea, the music, the ambience, and notice the ideas that come to me. I write them down and put them on my calendar. When I find myself worrying, I exhale deeply and on the inhale I think to myself, “I choose happiness. ”
Whatever you choose to think, say it out loud to test it, feel it, practice it, and make adjustments, until it serves your purpose. Make it a practice to notice how you feel in body and spirit as you think a thought or say it out loud. For those of you in business, notice how you feel as you state your mission statement, your goals, or communicate with your customers or employees.
Do you feel inspired as you are thinking the thought? Do you feel at peace? Do you feel true to yourself? Do you feel that you can make a difference? Do you feel a sense of wonder? If not, there is another way to think the thought to serve your purpose.
We can take positive thinking to a whole new level, by thinking powerfully, and being creative, inspired, and impactful in all we do.  
May you achieve long-lasting personal and business success.

Founder and President