But despite the ribbing affirmations have taken, they have some serious scientific backing in the form of neuro-linguistic programming. This system was founded in the 1970’s by two neuro-scientists from the University of Santa Cruz, John Grinder and Richard Bandler. After studying the behaviours of the most exceptional and successful psychotherapists, they theorized that success can be achieved by increasing positive behaviours and decreasing negative ones. (University of Hawaii, 1990) They then incorporated the work of linguists such as Alfred Korzybski and Noam Chomsky to understand Meta models: language patterns that unintentionally limit understanding and outcome possibilities. (Centre for Coaching Certification, 2012) To understand how this works, think of a dog who is kept in the yard with an “invisible fence”, an electronic barrier that senses when the dog tries to cross it and delivers a mild shock through the dog’s collar. Negative thought patterns (Meta models) are like an invisible fence: when we try to change a habit, we are unconsciously knocked back into our “yard”, our set patterns of behaviour.
Many successful writers and celebrities use some form of affirmation or visualization to achieve success, such as Norman Vincent Peale, Anthony Robbins, Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. However, the use of affirmations is not limited to the rich and famous. Most life and career coaches, as well as some psychotherapists, are trained to listen to their clients and identify their language patterns to screen for Meta-models. They can use the client’s goals to write positive affirmations using the client’s own words in a positive, non-limiting way. The client then listens to the affirmations regularly and posts them around the home and office in order to facilitate change and reach their full potential. Used properly, affirmations are an invaluable tool to achieve success.