I love The Secret…
As a marketing phenomenon, it’s the latest in a string of successful personal development programs that teach you an important lesson: the reality you create starts with what you think.
And this is a hugely successful message to sell to people. After all, who doesn’t want to believe that you can just think of something, and it becomes reality?
Great! Sign me up!
Not only that, they’re able to line up celebrities and big life successes who’ve seemingly used this as the foundation for their success. “I moved to Hollywood and became a famous actress.” “I decided I wanted to be on TV, and now I host a talk show.” “I envisioned myself on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans, and now I’m a rock star.” “I thought every day about building a billion-dollar business, and now I have one.” And so on, and so forth, et cetera, et cetera…
The tool that’s most often offered up as the way to put this into action is some variation on the daily affirmation.
You come up with a list of things that will be true once you’ve reached your goals. You write them down. And you read them out loud every day, trying to implant these truths into your subconscious.
The idea is that once your subconscious believes that these things are supposed to be true but recognizes that they aren’t, it will start to “attract” them into your life.
Some people believe this in a very woo-woo, magical way. Others simply believe that this shifts your efforts and attention in such a way that you start to create the reality.
I’ve seen some pretty compelling anecdotes of people who follow this daily affirmations method…
And plenty of sales letters and marketing campaigns touting variations on this secret are full of stories. The person who wanted a new car, and got a $30,000 windfall. The person who imagined a new home, and got an unexpected promotion at work that let them afford it.
Heck, I even know someone who created a vision board featuring a picture of a Tesla, and after looking at it for a few months had grown his business to the point where he could easily buy one.
If you want to believe, you will find a TON of evidence to support that belief.
But at the risk of busting your bubble, I’m going to tell you: affirmations are not enough.
Thoughts are the seeds that sprout into huge changes in external reality. Thoughts have the power to make a huge impact.
But a seed, without the right conditions, won’t germinate. Without fertile soil, water, and sun, a tiny acorn will never grow into a mighty oak.
What The Secret and other similar products do beautifully is show you what can come of a seed. What they hide, because it’s the dirty truth about how life works, is the soil, water, and sun that are also there in every case where it’s not dumb luck that someone visualizes then gets what they want.
So, let’s get to the major question of this essay…
What’s more powerful than daily affirmations?
In short, questions.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to be a highly-paid copywriter.
Instead of just getting up every morning and telling yourself, “I make $100,000 per year as a copywriter,” while everything else in your life tells you that you haven’t made your first buck yet…
— What would have to be true for me to make $100,000 per year as a copywriter?
— How do other copywriters who make at least $100,000 per year behave, and what about that behavior can I emulate?
— What value can I offer as a copywriter that will make clients happy to pay me $100,000 per year?
And so on…
Instead of stating the big thing you want to be true, start asking what else has to be true in order for that one thing you want to be an inevitable result.
Or maybe you, too, want a Tesla?
Instead of just putting a picture of a Tesla S 90D up on your wall and envisioning yourself driving it, start asking yourself what needs to be true.
— What cash do I need to have set aside, dedicated to the Tesla, to be able to comfortably buy it?
— What are all the skills and capabilities I have that would help me generate that kind of cash?
— What offers can I make in the market that will give me the excess income I need to be able to have that cash within X months?
Getting specific here really starts to break down the vague idea of what you want into a series of milestones you need to get to in order to meet your bigger goal.
Questions help you take the future you most desire and work backward to what you can do now…
I like to split up questions into long-term questions and short-term questions.
Long-term questions involve what needs to be true to meet your big goals — especially goals on a time frame of at least a year. These are less about what to do today, and more about what needs to be true in the future. They are also a way to identify anything that clearly stands in your way, that needs to be overcome for your goal to come to fruition.
Long-term questions can include things like:
— When I’m lying on my deathbed, what do I want to look back on my life and see that will make me feel most fulfilled and happy with the life I lived?
— What do I need to make sure I’m taking care of myself, my family, my community, and causes I care about?
— What would I like to have around me that will bring me real joy beyond the act of getting it?
They can also include things like:
— Where do I want my business to be within the next 10 to 25 years?
— What impact do I want to have on the world?
— What big goals do I want to accomplish?
Long-term questions should also be more specific, especially as they relate to nearer-term benchmarks:
— What do I want my business revenue picture to look like in 3 years?
— What are the key measurables that will tell me the business is meeting its objectives?
— What will be true in the business in 3 years, to support the specific targets and our progress toward the long-term objectives?
— What strengths do we have that will help us get there?
— What challenges currently stand in the way of us meeting our long-term objectives, and how can they be overcome?
And so on…
Short-term questions turn these longer-term goals and objectives into actionable plans and tasks that will move you forward. These are how you translate your bigger vision into immediate action that carries you forward. And on a very immediate basis, these are how you decide what you need to accomplish today.
Some short-term questions that bring big future goals toward the present include:
— What do I want my life and business to look like one year from now?
— What will the revenue picture and measurables be one year from now, that will have us on track for our longer-term goals?
— What big goals need to be accomplished this year for us to be on track?
Then, bring that backwards further, focusing on quarterly goals:
— What can we accomplish this quarter that will put us at or ahead of pace to hit our one-year goal?
— What are the single-most important items that need to be done by the quarter’s end if we’re going to meet our one-year goal?
— How will we know we’re on track? What will be true?
— What issues stand in the way of us accomplishing those important items?
From here, your short-term questions can get even more granular:
— (My favorite:) What will I do today to make measurable progress toward my most meaningful goals?
— What is my intention for today?
— Where was I uncomfortable yesterday? What obstacles are coming up? Where am I struggling to stay on track?
— What are my biggest procrastination points, and what do I need to make true to bust through them?
— What are the top three items I will get done today, before I go to sleep?
— What other tasks need to be accomplished today, or as soon as possible?
— What am I most grateful for in my life today?
If you’re asking these questions, you’ll be amazed at how much more you can achieve…
I have nothing against affirmations. I’ve actually moved past using them, and instead create plans based in this kind of question-and-answer approach. But if they’re what you need to recognize that anything you create in the world starts first in your mind, use ‘em!
I’m not perfect, and my planning is often more ambitious than my productivity. However, the simple act of planning and using questions to accelerate my progress has dramatically accelerated my success in so many different areas.
I ask a ton of questions of myself. I pay a coach to ask me these important questions, and hold me accountable to the answers. I try to apply the question-based approach throughout my life, and with my clients.
It’s become the most powerful tool in my toolbox.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,