The Muhammad Ali Approach to Affirmations
Last year for Christmas I bought a ‘Big Life Journal’ for my two boys. It’s a guided journal with a series of research-based activities and resources to help kids build positive “growth-based” mindsets. The one we got was for “tweens/teens”, but there are different versions for younger kids. My eldest took it as a hint that we didn’t think he was good enough. Which wasn’t the point at all, but I can see how he got there.
Recently I’ve taken to looking through our now teenager’s abandoned copy and seeing its emphasis on your dreams and what you want to become. One of the messages coming from this and other products of its ilk is that you will spend a lot of your life working, so the only way to be truly satisfied in life is to love what you do (to paraphase Steve Jobs just a bit!). Explore your interests, discover what you love doing, envision how to spend your life doing these things, then plan a way to give this dream to the world.
Yeah, right. Okay, what if life gives you Parkinson’s? Huh? Is there a chapter on coping with sucky diseases?
Aside from chronic illness and other obstacles, the more you get through life the harder it seems to do the things you love. The message when I was growing up wasn’t ‘do what you love’ but ‘get a skill that will get you a job’. So, you pursue a career path built on what your parents/teachers/you thought might be a money earner. Everyone screamed at you “Don’t do that!” when it looked like you might spend time doing or studying things that interested you, rather than be useful in the job market. Then you have kids and suddenly your responsible for their happiness and wellbeing too! You’ve got to work to earn money, but also spend time with your kids, keep the house clean and cook nutritional dinners that everyone wants to eat! Aargh! Mission impossible!
Then a book comes along and says all you gotta do is be positive, identify what you love doing, and think about and plan for how to go about living your dream life. I can see why my teen thought “Bollocks!” to that! His life up to this point has been highly restricted by the limitations of others. I have been physically limited most of his life, as well struggling with anxiety and depression. I haven’t been the sort of Mum who could take him outside and play or do fun things, or take him many places. This led us to rely on the electronic, indoors type of activities that gave allowed me to cope with my limitations (for me carrying out normal every-day activities was extremely difficult and energy intensive) and to also do what needed to be done. And now I spend a lot of my time yelling at him to get off the computer! The irony!
Life is full of restrictions and it is true that none of us have control over any of it! But here’s the funny thing…now I’ve started to find the Big Life Journal helpful in changing my mindset about my life’s possibilities. I mean it’s not too late to start right!
One thing I’ve discovered from the journal is that affirmations might be another powerful tool for my toolbox. While paging through it I came across a page on Muhammad Ali, and the way he “began with a thought, repeated it, and let belief follow after.” He said that “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”
To be honest, I’ve never been much on affirmations (I read Louise L Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life in my twenties, gave it a bit of a whirl, and then decided it was a crock of [censored]!)
And I started learning karate after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s without any kind of belief I could do it. And here I am still doing it nearly two years later. I may even achieve brown belt in the near (fingers crossed!) future. Affirmations or self-belief haven’t got me here. But they could well play a role helping me continue. I’ve been shocked from time to time how easily it is for me to lose it, even after all this work on myself! All it takes is a wee break from exercise, a bit of lost sleep, and suddenly I’m battling the Big Black Dog again.
I’m willing to start work on this affirmations business. There seems to be a power in concentrating your attention on an idea over and over again in your mind, and to feel the idea spontaneously start to realise itself. Not just the idea, but the action it leads to. It all seems to flow from the belief you create in your mind.
Worth a try anyway, am I right? I’m going to start work today on what affirmations I want to use. I like “I’m the Greatest!” Doesn’t leave much out does it?
Have you used affirmations and found them helpful? Leave a comment with your thoughts.
Kitty Fitton is a motivational speaker, MC and comedian. She is also a full-time blogger and writer. She is mother to four small people and was very cross to discover she had Parkinson’s Disease.
Find out more at her personal site below.
Emma Kyriacou is a real-life ninja. Taking up Karate to help fight her Parkinson’s Disease, she’s co-founder of Good Moves and is passionate about promoting exercise to improve mobility and neuroplasticity. (Is that a word? It should be.)
Find out more at her personal site below.