Do Affirmations and Quotes Work for You?

In the first and second blog posts of this series we talked about heavy stuff. I shared some thoughts about disappointment and forgiveness, two key human conditions that I’ve observed in my practice that consistently drain and distract people from reaching their full potential (and enjoyment) in the workplace.

Now I’d like to shift gears and to offer you something on the lighter side of the spectrum:  Positive Affirmations … and why they can be useful and self-reflective tool in the workplace.

First, did you ever notice that many offices or cubicles sport insightful, often humorous inspirational phrases or quips? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across “You have to believe it to see it!” especially when I visit R&D teams.

If you do a Google search for personal affirmations or inspiring quotes, you pull up search engine results in the neighborhood of 7.9 million and 4.4 million respectively; up from 2.5 million and 1.6 million in 2009 (I have a thing for data). There are lots of them being posted.

Two things I have noticed about personal affirmations:

1. You can use a personal affirmation or inspirational quote that appeals to you at any given point in time as a self-reflective tool to pinpoint exactly where you are in your heart space and your head space, which ultimately impacts how you show up in your work space.

2. Affirmations can grow dull. A quote that simply rocked your world with its profound ability to capture exactly how you were thinking and feeling might lose its luster over the course of days, weeks, or months (like an old boyfriend or girlfriend you meet in the street and you ponder what you saw ever in them).

Why is this? My sense is that the affirmation or quote that spoke to you so eloquently in the past may no longer be relevant – in your head, heart, or work space. To take it one step further, if you recognize that the trigger appeal of a personal affirmation is a mirror reflection of where you are in your life, then it presents a great opportunity to tune into what you need more of (or less of) in your life to show up as a fulfilled human being and by extension, 100% in your project management role.

Here are three inspirational quotes that may apply to how project managers see the world.  The first could be from someone thinking of suggesting a radical change in “the plan of record”, the second from a team ready to cutover to a new medical records system, and the third could be from any project manager…any day of the week!

1 . “A ship in harbor is safe—but that is not what ships are built for”- John Shedd

2. “ My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened” – Montaigne

3.  “Most things which are urgent are not important, and most things which are important are not urgent” – Dwight Eisenhower

You’ll notice that each quote offers a key message that has the potential to help focus and center your energy in the workplace. The trick is to be mindful of selecting personal affirmations that help you today with a go forward  rather than a fall backward message. For example, self-effacing or cynical quips like “You’re born, you die, and in between you make a lot of mistakes”, might give you pause to reflect at first glance, but they often undermine and deflate in the long run.

As a general rule, it is best to select the personal affirmation that you would like to make come to life, something that acts as a catalyst for the actions, thinking, and feelings you would like to manifest for a better quality life and work life.

Here are three that really “pop out” for where I am right now in my work life:

1. “Forget not that the Earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair” – Kahlil Gabran (Self-reflection: Invite more nature and play into the work day).

2. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde (Self-reflection: Time to tackle the website branding project that has been on the back-burner).

3. “A little rebellion now and then, is a good thing” – Thomas Jefferson (Self-reflection: Have the courage to collect your own data, challenge, and question).

If personal affirmations and inspiring quotes appeal to you, as a self-reflective exercise that can enhance how you show up each day in your work life, here are some tips on how to put them to use:

5 Easy Tips for Using Quotes and Affirmations: 

Look – Be on the lookout for personal affirmations that capture your attention. Then ask: “Why am I so attracted to this personal affirmation and what wisdom does this have to offer me in the work place?”

Collect – Start a signature collection. A laptop is a great place to store inspiring quotes that you come across during your work day. Plus, for the creative types (like me) you can always expand your horizons by collecting inspiring photos and music. For example, I have a YouTube song that I listen to each day because it immediately catapults me into an amazing work space; I also have a collection of panoramic photos that constantly invite me to step back and look at the big picture.

Track – The quotes and affirmations that attract you today may or may not attract you tomorrow, or next year. This is because you may have other challenges and opportunities on your plate. This being so, tracking your year-to-year affirmation and quote appeal is an excellent way to honor where you’ve been, how you’ve grown, and to solidify what you’ve learned as a project manager.

Share – People often relish an opportunity to share personal affirmations and inspiring quotes. At first, I suspected that this tendency was simply an act of kindness and generosity. After observing many, many people (including myself), I now know that the sharing stage is an important part of a self-reflective process akin to putting a stake in the ground and saying: “Yes, I have walked this talk in the workplace … and if I can do it, you can do it too.”

Lead – Use the affirmations that encapsulate where you want people’s heads and hearts to be when they read your emails. Lead by affirmation. You can quote me on that!


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