*This post is (an updated version) from David’s book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer”
In the late 1990s, I did something that would change my life forever; I attended my first ever personal development seminar. From that day on, these events have been an staple in my ongoing journey of self-education.
For it’s time, the event featured a gold star line up beginning with newbie author David Chilton, plugging his self-published finance treatise, “The Wealthy Barber”… you may have heard of it? It’s a brilliant little book that sold over two million copies and set many folks (including me) on the path to financial success. You may also remember David from his three seasons as a “dragon” on the popular television show “Dragons Den”. Yeah, he’s that guy.
Our second speaker that day was Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury. Mark spoke in depth about how he uses visualization to “see” his goals before he’d achieved them, peppering his talk with examples from not one, but two Olympic games that he earned his medals in… Impressive! Unfortunately, while en route to the seminar, I’d pounded four cups of coffee, so all I could personally visualize during his talk was the next bathroom break. Sorry Mark.
Rounding out the trifecta of speakers was business philosopher Jim Rohn; and to be honest, the only thing I knew about him was he gave some dude named Tony Robbins his first shot at being, well, Tony Robbins. Along with everyone else attending, I was about to learn that there was more to Jim Rohn than simply mentoring the 90s Infomercial King.
While David and Mark gave terrific speeches, it was Jim who stole the show with his common sense philosophies, “Gee, shucks” demeanour and “no b.s.” ideas, in both content and delivery. In fact, he was so gosh-darn persuasive that day, I figured not following his advice would be a mistake; and since I’m still following it almost thirty years later, I’d say that was a good call.
While Jim doled out nugget after nugget of wisdom that morning, one idea I distinctly remember was his saying we should, at all costs, avoid viewing the world through rose-colored glasses. Doing this, he insisted, makes our problems appear less dire than they are, which can result in our developing unrealistic expectations of what’s needed to correct them. This kind of false hope helps no-one.
No, to achieve actual results, Jim said we must be 100% honest about our problems – warts and all – and tackle them from there. Anything less, and we’re just fooling ourselves.
While this logic made sense to me, for one woman it didn’t. She thrust her hand in the air, waving it as frantically as if she was trying to flag down a bartender at some trendy Manhattan nightclub. Jim acknowledged her and asked if she had a question. She blurted out it wasn’t so much a question but a statement, then began rambling on about how she totally disagreed with this idea for one simple reason. It discredited her daily ritual of chanting affirmations.
She continued, saying she begins each day by chanting affirmations for each her goals, stating them in the positive, and as though she’d achieved them already. She proudly and confidently stated this morning ritual “trained her mind to attract” success; when in reality, all it achieves is a bit of mid-morning exercise for her vocal chords. Unfazed, Jim asked her for an example; and I remember thinking, “Oh boy, here it comes”. She didn’t disappoint.
She said each morning she stood before a mirror and chanted that “maintaining my ideal body weight is easy and effortless ”. She explained this sent positive energy into the universe, which would in turn used its power to help her achieve this goal. Unfortunately, all this chanting was doing was serving up a universe-sized helping of false hope and whimsy. The proof of this was crystal clear in her explanation.
Not to be unkind, but it was abundantly clear that maintaining her ideal body weight was obviously neither easy nor effortless for this very large woman; but rather than addressing her health concerns with radical practices like diet and exercise, she felt affirmations were the golden ticket that would melt away her unwanted pounds, and fix God knows what else wasn’t working in her life. Spoiler Alert: They weren’t, and aren’t.
Jim thanked her and then offered his take. He said that affirmations are really just rose-glasses to view things better than they are, all Polly-Anna like, and that alone they wouldn’t create the desired changes she, or anyone, truly wanted. For genuine change to occur he said, people must take action; action that can only begin once they are 100% honest about what their current situation is. Establish this, and then it’s easy to make a plan to create the changes we truly want to see starting from there.
He conclude by saying that if folks still want to chant affirmations, then they should chant something that reflects their current situation with 100% clarity and honesty. If someone is fat, they should chant “I’m fat!” or if they are broke, they should chant, “I’m broke!” and use these as starting points to build their plans. He summed the whole idea up by saying, “Start from wherever you are, and with whatever you’ve got”.
Was it harsh? For sure. Was it truthful? Absolutely! Was it better advice than to support someone trying to trick themselves into believing affirmations alone will achieve success? I vote 100% and unequivocally YES.
For me, the message that morning was loud and clear: Before implementing any change, we must ditch our rose-colored glasses and be completely honest with ourselves about whatever our current situation is, warts, doggie poop-bags and all. Only once we confront our truth can we begin to work towards the fresh, baggage-free results we desire.
What I appreciate most about this bold, cut and dried approach is there’s no fluff. By cutting to the bone of the matter, it encourages folks to get real and deal with their problems head on, with no bubble-wrap padding. Because the only way to achieve actual results in anything is not by pretending things are better than they are, or that some mystical force will automatically take care of problems with no effort from us. It’s by being realistic about our situations and taking the right actions to correct them.
For example, if we hate our crappy jobs, then let’s just admit it! Loud and proud, let’s bellow from the mountain tops, “I hate my crappy job” to establish our position, and then make a plan to get the job we want to have. This will be a million times more successful than bleakly chanting, “asking two hundred people each day if they want fries with that fulfills me as a human being” through a forced smile each morning. Scouts honour!
Personally, I’ve used this “start where I am” approach many times, and in areas including debt repayment, goal achievement and overcoming many personal issues. I understand that as, Dale Carnegie says, “If it is to be, it’s up to me”. This begins with my being 100% honest with myself about what my problems are, and what I’m prepared to do to fix them in order to move forward.
I can also attest it’s not always easy; but then again, it’s not supposed to be, and for good reason.
While getting real and facing our problems head on can be painful, lying to ourselves will be much more painful in the long run, because we won’t see results. Ditching those deceptive rose-colored glasses will provide a no-bullshit, real life place for us to build or create from. And seriously, isn’t the complete truth the only place to start? You bet it is.
Besides, whenever we are 100% honest about where we are starting from, there are two enormous benefits: First, because we take direct action, we see our desired results sooner; and second, we never need to do any more silly chanting rituals; unless, of course, we’re chanting “I wake up to the world’s most perfect cup of coffee”…
Finally, an affirmation I can get behind; no (rose-coloured) glasses required.
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 112,000 times, and his book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer” has 37 five star reviews on amazon.ca.
David lives in Victoria B.C. and spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.