I’ve a bit of an admission to make…one that I’ll admit feels somewhat embarrassing to make publicly known…you know this guy:
No, not Al Franken, Stuart Smalley, the character Franken plays in this rather old SNL sketch. Yeah him…well, my admission is that I start most of my mornings, if not all, doing something rather similar to this little video here, the self-affirmation.
I remember watching these sketches as a kid and finding Franken’s rather effeminate character amusing in the way he viewed the world as though it was possible to change everything with a simple affirmation. Something about his optimistic outlook, although promising, just seemed really darn silly. Of course, it would get taken to incredibly silly levels as the sketches would continue.
As I got older, I remember reading a book written by Dilbert creator Scott Adams about his rise to fame and how he managed to become successful. Toward the end of the book (I believe, I’m working on really old memories here, folks) he offered a suggestion regarding something he did (which is not his own creation and is something many folks have been doing for quite some time) where he would take out a piece of paper, determine what it was he wanted most, and write a sentence stating that he was going to get it (ex. I will win the award for stupidest way to draw a tie) over and over again. I want to say he would write these things 100 times…each day…until he got it. And, of course, he’d be adding on more items rather frequently, so he could have hundreds upon hundreds of repeated sentences, depending on how many goals he had. Slightly different than the self-affirmation, but still the basic concept is the same…reminding yourself of your goals so that you are more likely to continue on the path toward reaching them. In Stuart Smalley’s case, his goal was really about fighting depression. He would remind himself that he would not allow himself to be defeated by his depression each time it began to surface, just like Scott Adams would basically hypnotise himself to keep at his own goals.
Reading Scott’s premise on how to attain your goals through stating them repititiously did not really change my views towards the basic affirmation concept. It still just seemed like wishing upon a falling star or something, you know, magical, that you would use to get you to your end goal.
Fast forward to the version of me who is older and working in a dead end job and, you know, has lofty goals that, by all means, should not be reachable…and you’ll find a man who views these things quite differently.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I stand and look in a mirror stating some sentence that I’ve repeated so many times now that it has no actual meaning. Absolutely not. In fact, I didn’t really realize that what I was doing was similar to this at all until this very morning, as I did it for the first time of the day.
You see, I get rejected…a lot. As an author, as an employee, as whatever. Rejection is really just another part of life. I get it. However, sometimes when you get rejected, or just have to deal with really adult-like stuff, the instant reaction is to just shut down, turn off your brain and allow whatever background processes are there to work through the issue until you reboot having completely ignored whatever issue is there. This may work for some people; it’s definitely served me well over the years.
However, as a person who has many goals, this can also be a rather dangerous way to live, as when I shut down, I can get to the point where I do absolutely nothing at all. When I finally wake up from my rejection-induced stupor (rejection being a cover-all word as rejection isn’t always an accurate term for what induces this state), I find that weeks have passed by and I haven’t done a single thing, no cleaning, no writing, no working, no nothing.
Just looking simply at the fact that I have four writing projects going on at the same time right now, you can see how frustrating it can be to wake up and realize it’s a month later and I haven’t spent any time moving them forward at all.
It’s things like this that made it take so long to complete my first novel, THE LEGEND OF BUDDY HERO. I would get to a point where I just thought it was all crap, or when I was attempting to find representation (with the version of the novel that absolutely should NOT have received representation) and could find no one who even wanted to take a read, and I would just shut down, do nothing at all. In fact, there could be up to 6 months where I would do absolutely nothing with the book. It took me 4 years from the point in which I officially started it (which is not when I actually started working on it, but that numbers a little bit harder) before I finally released it officially into the wild. This wasn’t because of 4 years of dedication toward figuring out how to write. It was 4 years of procrastinating because I was fighting this idea of being defeated over and over again.
Which is where my ‘affirmation’ comes into play. I hate feeling defeated and it’s so easy to get that feeling. So whenever I see myself wanting to just hide in a corner, I find myself stopping and thinking through my goals on a rather basic level (although they usually go further into dreams of grandiose proportions) and simply saying, “Today I’m going to win.”
That’s really all I can do at this point is focusing on winning each day, hoping that each daily success will ultimately bring me to the goals I have in mind. It’s silly, I’m well aware. But it helps. In fact, I use it many many times a day, whenever I decide to shut down, I just remind myself of my need to win. I’m competing with the entire world, and I fully intend to win.
Speaking as someone who’s battled depression for a very long time, I can tell you that this simple idea is the one thing that has consistently kept me moving forward when my brain tells me to stop.
So, sure, I may not have become the next J.K. Rowling (yet…), and may not even have publishers or filmmakers pounding down my door. But I won yesterday, and I fully intend to win today.
And I hope you all win as well.
Have fun out there!