Affirmations or ‘self-talk’ is a common and simple way in which you can improve your performance. You can use it to help you improve your memory so that you remember the Road Code quicker and more effectively, reduce nervousness when under pressure taking a test, increase confidence in your actions and improve specific skills (such as changing gears or reversing). All of those are useful to give you a better chance at passing your driving test, whether it’s the theory test for your learner licence or the practical test for your full licence.
Affirmations work in a very simple way: you feed a positive, present-tense statement repeatedly into your subconscious mind and eventually it starts to influence your conscious mind. The technique has been used for hundred and maybe thousands of years and can be considered a form of meditation.
How do you use affirmations?
The two ways in which you can use affirmations when going for your driver’s licence are:
- Provide a short-term boost to your confidence and calmness right before your driving test (whether it’s the practical or theory test)
- Provide longer-term memory and confidence improvements
An affirmation is simple a short, positive phrase that you repeat over and over again to yourself. You can use two or three affirmations at one time, but don’t dilute your efforts too much; focus on one or two things you’d like to change and work on those. In the case of your driving exam work on the things that you think are most important to that as opposed to becoming distracted with other things about yourself that you want to improve, but are unrelated.
How to make up your own affirmations
There are just 3 simple rules:
- The affirmation must be easy for you to remember and say – preferably just a sentence or two
- The affirmation must be worded positively – you can’t use negatives in your affirmation
- You must state the affirmation as if you have already achieved what you want – it’s written and spoken in the present tense.
Therefore, this is a good example:
“I remember and recall the Road Code easily and perfectly”
And this is a bad example:
“I haven’t got a bad memory”
Now all you have to do is identify the specific areas you need to improve in. Let’s say you are generally good at driving but parking is letting you down at the moment. You could create affirmations such as:
- I always make the correct judgments when parking
- Parallel parking is easy for me
- I’m calm, relaxed and competent when I parallel park
How does the affirmation work, and why can’t you use negatives?
There is not one single elite sportsperson that gets a medal at the Olympics that hasn’t used affirmations, along with visualisation and other methods (which we’ll cover in another article). Affirmations are a form of brainwashing, but not in the negative sense. In the past, cults and some religions have used repeated phrases (either spoken by the person or spoken to the person) which affirm a certain belief and eventually the people believe it. Examples of cultural mantras are easy to find. Fortunately you can use it for your own benefit.
The affirmation works by gradually displacing one belief and replacing it with another. Ultimately, your subconscious mind is the part of the mind that controls the majority of what you do – you don’t consciously move your mouth when you speak, or even consciously decide what to say, it all comes from your subconscious and your conscious mind is just the filter.
The subconscious doesn’t understand the difference between positive and negative and will just take a statement as being positive even if it has not or no or never in it. For example, I am not useless at parking is just heard by your subconscious as I, useless, parking.
The subconscious doesn’t really have a concept of time, either. The reason why you can’t use “I will be more confident” is because it doesn’t give a specific time; the reason you can’t use “I want to be more confident” is that it will keep you in a state of wanting and not being.
How much time do you need to devote to affirmations to have success?
There’s no set time, but let’s cover off two very specific ways you can use affirmations and have success.
Extremely short term
Right before your driving test you can use affirmations for 5-15 minutes to give you an instant boost. Salespeople use this technique all the time: they psyche themselves up by telling themselves they are making sales and that they are confident and persuasive on the phone. This can help change the state of your body (this is now bordering on neurolinguistic programming (NLP), which we’ll cover in a separate article, too). Any changes are likely to be short-lived if you have other core beliefs that fight against what you are affirming.
Medium to long term
Five or ten minutes of affirmations per day over a few weeks or months can change your entire mindset. The amount of time is difficult to say because it depends on how much of a change you have to make, how deeply held your existing beliefs are, and whether you have any other people (or cultural influences) in your life that are feeding you negative statements which damage the effects of the affirmation.
Making sure your affirmations work
First, define the exact outcome. For example, you want to be more confident and relaxed while driving.
An affirmation won’t work if it is cancelled by a related belief that renders it ineffective. For example, you might affirm that you are rich, but if your underlying belief is that money is the root of all evil, then you will never be rich.
An affirmation has much less chance of working if you don’t believe it will work.
Your affirmations must conform to the rules above – positive, present tense statements
Having some kind of routine with affirmations seems to work best. What you will find is that once you get into the habit of doing them that you will be inadvertently doing them while you are waiting in line in the supermarket.
Give affirmations a go, and when you’ve passed your test, choose another area of your life that you’d like to improve and see how much of a change you can make.