Contrary to popular belief, a self affirmation will work to motivate you, but there’s a catch: it is only effective if you have high self-esteem.
According to a 2009 study, present-tense positive affirmations had a positive effect on people with high self-esteem but a negative effect on people with low self-esteem. The researchers found that people with already low levels of self-esteem who made present-tense (“I am…”) positive affirmations actually ended up feeling worse than people who made positive statements but were also allowed to consider ways in which the statements might be inaccurate.
Therefore, if you have low self-esteem, repeatedly telling yourself how great you are won’t help you because, deep down, you don’t believe what you’re saying. It’s important to keep that in mind before you start yelling out affirmations every morning.
However, if you’ve got your mind right, and you’ve got confidence in yourself and your abilities (i.e. self-esteem), then choosing a positive self affirmation from the list below could be a great way to boost your motivation.
50 Positive Self-Affirmations
Think of this as a menu of options. Each morning, immediately upon rising, select a few and say them out loud and/or write them down. Doing this will set the tone for your day and get you moving in a positive direction.
- I am successful.
- I am confident.
- I am powerful.
- I am strong.
- I am getting better and better every day.
- All I need is within me right now.
- I wake up motivated.
- I am an unstoppable force of nature.
- I am a living, breathing example of motivation.
- I am living with abundance.
- I am having a positive and inspiring impact on the people I come into contact with.
- I am inspiring people through my work.
- I’m rising above the thoughts that are trying to make me angry or afraid.
- Today is a phenomenal day.
- I am turning DOWN the volume of negativity in my life, while simultaneously turning UP the volume of positivity.
- I am filled with focus.
- I am not pushed by my problems; I am led by my dreams.
- I am grateful for everything I have in my life.
- I am independent and self-sufficient.
- I can be whatever I want to be.
- I am not defined my by past; I am driven by my future.
- I use obstacles to motivate me to learn and grow.
- Today will be a productive day.
- I am intelligent and focused.
- I feel more grateful each day.
- I am getting healthier every day.
- Each and every day, I am getting closer to achieving my goals.
- Through the power of my thoughts and words, incredible transformations are happening in me and within my life right now.
- I am constantly growing and evolving into a better person.
- I’m freeing myself from all destructive doubt and fear.
- I accept myself for who I am and create peace, power and confidence of mind and of heart.
- I am going to forgive myself and free myself. I deserve to forgive and be forgiven.
- I am healing and strengthening every day.
- I’ve made it through hard times before, and I’ve come out stronger and better because of them. I’m going to make it through this.
- I do not waste away a single day of my life. I squeeze every ounce of value out of each of my days on this planet—today, tomorrow, and everyday.
- I must remember the incredible power I possess within me to achieve anything I desire.
- I do not engage with people who try to penetrate my mind with unhelpful thoughts and ideas—I walk away when a person or a situation isn’t healthy for me.
- I belong in this world; there are people that care about me and my worth.
- My past might be ugly, but I am still beautiful.
- I have made mistakes, but I will not let them define me.
- My soul radiates from the inside and warms the souls of others.
- I don’t compare myself to others. The only person I compare myself to is the person I was yesterday. And as long as the person I am today is even the tiniest bit better than the person I was yesterday—I’m meeting my own definition of success.
- Note to self: I am going to make you so proud.
- I finish what matters and let go of what does not.
- I feed my spirit. I train my body. I focus my mind. This is my time.
- My life has meaning. What I do has meaning. My actions are meaningful and inspiring.
- What I have done today was the best I was able to do today. And for that, I am thankful.
- One small positive thought in the morning can change my whole day. So, today I rise with a powerful thought to set the tone and allow success to reverberate through every moment of my day.
- I set goals and go after them with all the determination I can muster. When I do this, my own skills and talents will take me to places that amaze me.
- Happiness is a choice, and today I choose to be happy.
How to Use Self-Affirmations
Daily self talk is a simple and highly effective self-affirmation technique in which you begin each day by talking to yourself (i.e. your non-conscious mind) as if you were talking to someone that was eagerly ready and willing to receive and carry out your orders, instructions, or suggestions.
Here’s how it works: Instead of speaking to yourself as a single individual, speak to yourself as if you were divided into a group of three: your thoughts, your emotions, and your body. Use a self affirmation from the list below to guide you or to help you create your own self affirmation.
For Your Thoughts
Thoughts, listen up! Stop being so scattered. Stop wasting your time and energy with fears, doubts, worries, and past memories that don’t do us any good. From now on I want you to think positive, powerful, purpose-driven thoughts. Think about love. Think about beautiful and inspiring things. Think about how we’ll overcome our obstacles and crush our goals. Think about our vision for the future and our plans for achieving it. Think about helping others and contributing to the greater good. Think about new ideas. Think about ways of improving. Think only of thoughts that I can use to better myself. If any other thoughts come along, look at them, kick them out, and go back to useful thoughts.
For Your Emotions
Emotions, listen up! Stop dwelling on fears and anxieties, the pain and problems from the past. Stop holding on to anger, guilt, resentment, jealousy, and similar emotions. When any of these emotions arise, go ahead and feel those feelings for a little bit, and then let them fly away and replace them with empowering feelings. I want you to dwell upon empowering emotions, successful feelings, good feelings, happy feelings, conﬁdent feelings, loving feelings, and feelings filled with optimism. I want you to experience these kinds of emotions as often as possible moving forward.
For Your Body
Body, listen up! You are phenomenal, and you do all kinds of wonderful things like pump blood through my body, replenish and rejuvenate my cells, and allow my heart to beat over a hundred thousand times a day — all without me ever even having to tell you to do so. But now I want you to do everything even better. I want you to increase our energy. I want you to increase our strength. I want you to increase our health in every possible way, so that we do everything at the highest level and maintain a perpetual state of peak performance. It’s time to be even more skillful and graceful in all you do, to utilize every ounce of food and air even more effectively than you already do, and to stop any habits that inhibit our strength, energy, vitality and health. And body, I want you to relax more, feel pleasure more, enjoy life more, and give more pleasure to others.
Thank you Thoughts, thank you Emotions, thank you Body, thank you for being the unstoppable force of nature that I am!
Self-affirmations don’t have to be aspirational in nature; you can use them for maintenance, too. For example, you might already consider yourself a confident person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t consistently use a motivational affirmation like, “I am confident” to reminder yourself to keep that confidence-train chugging along. After all, that’s what personal development is all about in the first place — maintaining a constant and never-ending dedication to lead yourself — to keep growing and getting better every day. Personal development is not a one-and-done game; it’s a one-on-one game with yourself that never ends.
Also, keep in mind that affirmations aren’t a science. In actuality, you may get cheerful compliance from yourself (or your subconscious) with some affirmations, push-back with others, and straight-up resistance with others.
So what do you do?
Keep affirming your greatness.
Keep giving yourself the commands you want carried out until you get results…
And then keep going.
More Tips on Creating a Self Affirmation
Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).
The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.
And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money.
And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.
Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.
So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.
Table of Contents
Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation
“To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”
Generally speaking, we all need motivation.
An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.
Why? It’s simple.
There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.
If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?
Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.
The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.
When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.
Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it:
“Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.
If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams
Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation
If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:
Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation.
One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.
Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point.
By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.
Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”
In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.
Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.
6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation
So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?
There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.
The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do.
It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills.
Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.
You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours
2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose
Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you. What is intrinsically rewarding for you?
And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”
Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:
“I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”
Inspirational, isn’t it?
Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.
Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism.
When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.
4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something
A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.
But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.
Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.
For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.
Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.
5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)
The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.
There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).
If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.
All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .
6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason
Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically.
The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.
A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.
The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for.
And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.
Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:
“If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”
Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.
Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.
In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.
And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?
Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.