The Power of Positive Affirmation


Brian King, Wisemar, Inc.



Have you ever wondered, what is the one key characteristic that distinguishes top performing financial services leaders?  There is transformative power in positive affirmation.  Leaders benefit from self-affirmation; however, the real leverage is when leaders freely distribute affirmation to their employees and peers. 


Everyone benefits from a pat-on-the-back or an encouraging word.  How we see ourselves makes the difference in success or failure.  The way we view our team members impacts their performance as well as job satisfaction.  As we will discover, utilizing positive affirmation techniques drives performance and enhances the impact of leaders.


Affirmations are positive statements describing a desired situation.  As they are repeated, affirmations impress the subconscious mind and trigger desired behavior.  Positive affirmations generate positive action.  The effectiveness of affirmation is dependent upon repetition, conviction, and desire.  You may recall the childhood story about the “Little Engine that Could” which is actually a lesson in positive affirmation.  The little railroad engine was tasked with pulling a heavy load up a steep grade. 



The little engine stated, “I think I can," and puffed up the mountain.  All the way up the incline the little locomotive continued to bravely repeat "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can."[1]  That little engine was using positive affirmation!


This article will provide an overview of the effectiveness of positive affirmation, the two key types of affirmation (self-directed and given to others), as well as some cautions regarding the impact of negative words and statements. 


Affirmation Overview


According to current research, affirmations program the mind in much the same way commands and scripts program a computer.   The repeated words focus the mind and systematically generate corresponding mental images of the desired state.  This impacts the subconscious mind and drives behaviors, attitudes, and habits.  By intentionally populating the mind with positive affirmations, you affect the subconscious mind reshaping potential outcomes or decision-points.


Just as each of us is unique, results vary by person and repetition is truly the key.  In a recent article titled “The Power of Affirmations,” author Remez Sasson indicated that depending on the goal results may be immediate, or could take days, weeks, or months.  Sasson added “achieving results depends on several factors, such as the time, focus, faith and feelings you invest in repeating your affirmations, on the strength of your desire, and on how big or small is your goal.”


One caution is that a few positive affirmations followed by a day of negative thinking neutralize the impact of the positive words.  If you want a positive outcome you must dedicate yourself to positive thoughts, words, and actions.[2]


Minimize Negativity


Some people tend to think the worst.  They repeat negative words, thoughts, and images concerning the situations and events in their lives.  This often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you begin to believe you cannot succeed you will likely fail.  Words and statements build people up or break them down.  The types of words and phrases repeated will determine whether they are going to bring positive or negative results.


Some people repeat critical statements in their minds, unaware of what they are doing. Perhaps you have experienced a time when you kept thinking and telling yourself that you could not do something, that you were too lazy, that you lacked inner strength, or that you were going to fail?  


When repeated, these thoughts embed themselves in the subconscious mind.  Eventually the mind will accept the concepts as truth.  This will subconsciously drive behavior and trigger corresponding events and situations in one’s life. 



So if positive thoughts bring good results and negative thoughts bring bad results, why not choose to be positive?[3]  If your positive and negative statements and behaviors directly impact others why not focus on positive affirmation for your employees and peers.




There is an old saying that when you are down, you should “pick yourself up by your bootstraps.”  While physically that may be a difficult accomplishment, the best place to start is self-affirmation.  After all, you are special and there is no one else quite like you. 


Some authors have espoused the notion that positive thoughts can help one achieve practically anything.  According to Bob Proctor in The Secret, “you will attract everything that you require.  If it’s money you need you will attract it.  If it’s people you need you’ll attract (them) … you’ve got to pay attention to what you’re attracted to, because as you hold images of what you want, you’re going to be attracted to things and they’re going to be attracted to you.”[4]


While the concept is interesting, a more manageable first step is positive self-affirmation.  As we consider self-affirmation, below are some favorite phrases to read aloud.  Feel free to select those that apply directly to you and repeat them daily.


Clear Direction

o   I shape my own future.  What I believe, I become.  What I believe, I can do.

o   I am clear about my mission.  I spend my time accomplishing what is most inspiring. 

o   I have a plan.  I spend quality time daily developing and implementing my plan.

o   I am eager and willing to make decisions and to take action. 

o   I have a sense of destiny and I am destined to succeed.



Results Focused

o   I accomplish difficult and challenging tasks with strength and resolve.

o   It is okay for me to hold others accountable for their own actions.

o   I clearly define the rewards involved in any task and keep sight of those rewards in the difficult and challenging times. 

o   I am a turnaround specialist and no task is too hard for me. 


o   I see things differently and am always willing to look at situations in new ways.


o   I do not waste time or energy carrying around unnecessary doubts or uncertainty.

o   I do not cling needlessly to people or projects that cause me to lose my balance.


o   I am a transparent leader and my strength is my openness and honesty with others.

o   I believe in others and I always seek and believe in their good.

o   I give others authority, leveraging my gifts and influence by empowering them.

o   I take as many people to the top with me as possible.


o   I acknowledge others in public and in private with praise as a number-one priority.

o   I am open to others and their ideas and acknowledge their contributions openly.

o   I communicate clearly and simply.  My yes means yes, and my no means no.[5]


By repeating these phrases, positive self-affirmation naturally occurs.  This will limit self-defeating behavior and focus attention on the proactive steps that achieve positive results.  Since effective leadership begins within, it is important to establish a positive outlook and practice self-affirmation prior to engaging in the affirmation of others.  Otherwise, your words are empty and the intention comes across as disingenuous. 


Affirmation of Others


It is important to affirm others in order to generate positive relationships, develop top-level performance, and achieve desired results.  Ben Franklin once stated, “If you are willing to give up getting credit, you can get anything done.”



An important element of self concept is positive affirmation, which is also referenced as validation or reinforcement.  People constantly seek to validate their self-perceptions by looking for feedback from others.  Affirming behavior refers to the verbal conversations, written communications, and actions from others that reinforce a person's self-perceptions.


Direct feedback occurs when managers provide clear statements such as “you are an excellent employee” or “I admire your integrity.”  Feedback directly reinforces an employee’s perceptions of their value.


However, in some cases, individuals do not receive clear verbal feedback from others.  Instead they infer feedback indirectly via behavior.  This inference process can lead to conflicting signals or incorrect assumptions as to what others are thinking. For example, what does it mean (in terms of an employee’s self concept) when the manager does not select an employee for an important assignment?


While any behavior is subject to interpretation, below are examples that employees will generally view as affirming.


Affirming Behavior


·         Body language or facial expressions with a welcome greeting.

·         Inclusion of employee in events and activities, such as lunch, parties, etc.

·         Asking for employee’s advice.

·         Following employee’s advice.

·         Positive feedback and recognition of skills and worth.

·         Sharing important information with employee or other indications of trust.

·         Choosing to spend time with employee when you have other options.

·         Showing concern for employee’s well being.

·         Taking time to listen to employee’s problems and showing empathy.

·         Showing deference, respect, and acknowledgement of status.

·         Recognizing significant achievements.

·         Remembering important things about employee.


Invalidating Behavior


Invalidators are people who put others down and make them feel inferior, incompetent, or unneeded.  Invalidators may pretend to support employees by acknowledging something positive. However, they always follow this supportive behavior by repeatedly sharing criticism. The invalidator puts employees in a constant state of uncertainty through vagueness and lack of commitment.  


Just when the employee thinks the manager approves of their work, he or she drops the hammer of invalidation with a criticism, insinuation, or implication of employee incompetence.  Think of this as a real-life Dilbert cartoon.  The criticism is often initiated through body language or tone.  This allows the invalidator to claim they were misunderstood when a challenge is likely.



The perceived benefit of invalidating behavior is power and control.  However, invalidation is rooted in low self esteem and insecurity of the invalidator.


Typical Invalidating Behaviors

·         Lack of attention or ignoring employees.

·         Constant checking or other controlling behaviors.

·         Lack of trust.

·         Attempting to control employee.

·         Challenging employee’s integrity.

·         Constant interrupting.[6]




Perhaps we need to just listen a little more closely to the lyrics of Nichole Nordeman in her 2003 hit single “Legacy”:


I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me and I enjoy an accolade like the rest…. I won't lie, it feels alright to see your name in lights.  We all need an 'Atta boy' or 'Atta girl'.[7]


As you consider self-affirmation and daily ongoing positive affirmation for your employees, just think of the meaningful impact you can make.  Everyone wants to be around positive people since they are contagious and bring out the best in others. 


Positive people lift us up when we are feeling low and help us to reach our full potential.  Managers want positive employees, employees want positive managers, and clients enjoy interacting with positive people!  Find that positive person in your workplace and emulate their optimism.


In fact there are various sources that claim the simple act of smiling releases endorphins, lowers blood pressure, and improves overall mental health.  While the results are heavily debated, there does seem to be some scientific correlation that facial feedback does indeed have an impact.  So while smiling probably will not cure severe anxiety or depression, it might just have some positive impact on emotions.  And since smiling is free, just give it a try![8]


Consider what steps you will take today regarding self-affirmation and providing positive affirmation to associates, peers, and friends.  It may just be the most important item on your to do list!



Brian King is President at Wisemar, Inc.  Prior to joining Wisemar, King was Senior Vice President at BenchMark Consulting International.  King’s previous roles also include senior executive roles for two national vendors, senior vice president at Wells Fargo Bank, and product development, marketing, and strategic planning roles within Bank of America.


Wisemar is a management consulting firm providing dynamic solutions for the alignment of people, processes, products, and technology.  The firm specializes in helping financial services clients through business process improvement, change management, and corporate strategy engagements.  Wisemar was founded based on one simple principle – “client satisfaction.” 


Wisemar leverages experienced senior consultants with a structured engagement process to deliver consistent positive results for clients.  Wisemar executives and consultants have worked with the majority of the top 50 US banks; regional, community, and direct banks; and many of the top vendors and partners in the financial services space.  This diverse experience helps provide the framework necessary to deliver innovative best practices to clients to help them improve performance.  Wisemar is headquartered in Charlotte, NC.


For more information, please visit or contact us at 704-503-6008.

[1] Piper, Watty.  The Little Engine that Could.  1954, Platt & Munk.

[2] Sasson, Remez. “The Power of Affirmations,”

[3] Ibid


[4] Byrne, Rhonda, The Secret, Atria Books.  2006. 

[5] Jones, Beth.  Jesus CEO, Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership.  Hyperion Books, 1995. 

[6] Scholl, Richard W. “Motivation, Affirming Behavior” 2004, Schmidt Labor Research Center, University of Rhode Island.

[7] Nordeman, Nichole, “Legacy.”  2003

[8] Nelson, Allison.  “Fake it till you Make It: Can Smiling Improve Mental State?”, October 24, 2008.