From the May 1999 issue of Startups

Remember Stuart Smalley? You know, the guy on Saturday Night Live who'd gaze in the mirror and, with a plastered smile, recite aloud, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And, doggone it, people like me." Don't let this spoof put a bad taste in your mouth about using affirmations: They really do work--when you do them properly.

Ask Ken Gootnick, 36, president and founder of It's All Greek To Me, a Simi Valley, California, company that develops imprinted products for promotional, collegiate and souvenir markets. Gootnick regularly uses positive affirmations to cultivate a mind-set that pushes him toward his goals. "When you repeat affirmations, you feel more positive about your life and the day ahead," he says. "You foster self-esteem and a feeling of confidence, and people want to be around you. Everything begins to come together."

"Come together" it has for Gootnick, who started his company at age 19 as a sophomore at UCLA. He's since grown it into an enterprise with 230 employees and projected 1999 sales of $30 million. He gives a lot of credit to his own consistent use of affirmations.

Talking Points

How do you create affirmations that work for you? Ron Guzik, a motivational speaker and business consultant in Glendale Heights, Illinois, and author of The Inner Game of Entrepreneuring, a book that shows readers how to achieve the various psychological qualities entrepreneurs need to succeed, offers the following four tips:

1. Make affirmations personal. The purpose of using affirmations, according to Guzik, is to reinforce a personal trait that you want to see developed or changed in your life. For example, if you're a chronic procrastinator, repeat to yourself something like "I'm on top of things, and I follow up on projects with energy and attention to detail."

2. Use the present tense. "Many of the people who do brain research today believe your day-to-day actions come out of your subconscious mind," says Guzik. "Positive, present-tense affirmations are about trying to encourage, reinforce and build the subconscious beliefs you want to have in the future."

3. Be specific. Guzik likens using affirmations to setting goals. "You don't want generic or vague goals," says Guzik. "You want a specific target you're aiming for; then you focus your consciousness and attention on that target. It's the same thing with your affirmations."

4. Invoke feeling. "Many times when people have goals, what they really want are the feelings they get when they achieve their goal: the feelings of pride, satisfaction and accomplishment," Guzik observes. "When you use affirmations, try to bring those [feelings] into the process."

Mirror, Mirror

When should you use affirmations? The most critical time is when negative thoughts start to creep into your mind. "Often the things we say to ourselves are not encouraging, not supportive, and there's a lot of feedback from the outside world that, generally speaking, is not positive," Guzik notes. "Affirmations are a way of counteracting [negative self-talk] with positive things you're moving toward--things you're trying to achieve."

Guzik also suggests planning time in your day to recite affirmations, preferably three times a day: morning, afternoon and evening. This way, you stay focused on what you want to achieve throughout the day.

Stuart Smalley aside, Guzik admits he always repeats his affirmations in front of a mirror. Whether you choose to say your affirmations in the shower or in the car as you commute to and from the office, the main thing is that you do it on a consistent basis. To that end, Guzik advises, "Choose a routine that works with your life."

Mirror Mantras

New to affirmations and don't know where to begin? Motivational speaker and business consultant Ron Guzik suggests repeating the following "starter" affirmations to yourself:

  • I'm doing something every day to move my business forward.
  • I learn from everything that happens around me and to me.
  • I retain my power when I take responsibility for my actions.
  • I am more productive when I focus on solutions rather than the problem.
  • I fail only when I stop trying.
  • My limits are largely self-imposed; I can change that.

For more affirmations, consult Guzik's book, The Inner Game of Entrepreneuring (Upstart, $18.95, 800-829-7934).

Sean M. Lyden (seanlyden@mindspring.com), owner of The Professional Writing Firm Inc., writes frequently on leadership, motivational and sales issues.

Contact Sources

It's All Greek To Me, (805) 584-0777, kgootnick@iagtm.com

What psychological obstacles to success are you trying to overcome? Tell us at bsumag@entrepreneurmag.com