7 Instances Why Your Positive Affirmations Fail To Work


(Photo Credit: Tanakawho)

Perhaps it is that you already know that it is important to think positively, in order to attract more positive outcomes. You know the advantages of focused thoughts and have also ventured into making some positive affirmations for your daily use. Yet, despite repeating them like a mantra for several times a day, you’ve not met with any success.

You’re just about to give up and proclaim that positive affirmations do not work. Some time ago, I thought so too. Until I came across the Palace of Possibilities concept by Gary Craig, (the founder of Emotional Freedom Technique – EFT).

In my post today, I would like to share with you a couple of key teachings from the Palace of Possibilties, with some examples of my own; so that you can be on your way to making positive affirmations properly and quickly.

What Are Positive Affirmations

Affirmations are positive thoughts or statements on a desired state or outcome. The desired state or outcome can cover any aspect of your life such as in abundance, success, relationships or health. One common example of an affirmation is “I consistently and easily make $X a month”. Using affirmations is powerful because consistent thoughts can become realities. Hence, the more often you reinforce the positive, the more it is likely to happen.

While you would prefer to believe that you are a positive person, in reality, it is more like the opposite. On a subconscious level, you may have several negative self sabotaging thoughts and beliefs. These thoughts are usually formed from the various experiences that you have had, the conditioning that you went through as a child, your sense of fair play, your successes and failures and the values that you have been taught and come to adopt. Consistent thoughts make up your belief system, when you give them power and more focus. They form the “writings on your wall” from which you frequently consult in your everyday life.

If the “writings on your wall” tend to be negative and limiting, they can hinder you from taking risks, achieving your dreams or simply being the best that you can be. Here are some common examples of “writings on the wall” that are not very useful:

– “Don’t rock the boat.”
– “Don’t risk getting yourself hurt.”
– “Know where you come from.”
– “You are not all that capable.”
– “Don’t draw too much attention to yourself. No one likes a showoff.”

Positive affirmations are statements that can help replace these “writings on your wall”. In the Palace of Possibilities series, Gary Craig proposed using affirmations to help reinforce positive beliefs after clearing negative emotions and thoughts. He believed that affirmations held the missing step to greater financial abundance, more enriching relationships and to pursuing all possibilities. He examined the reasons why positive affirmations failed to work in several cases.

Why Aren’t Your Positive Affirmations Working?

1. Presence of Tail Enders

Perhaps one of the main reasons why positive affirmations do not work is because of the presence of tail enders. Tail enders are beliefs and thoughts that appear at the end of the affirmation.

Let me give you an easy example to illustrate what a tail ender is. Say your positive daily affirmation is “I easily and consistently make $50,000 a month”. Your tail enders may go like this….

– “But if I make $50,000 a month, I will have friends and relatives come borrow money from me.”

– “But if I make $50,000 a month, I will be known as rich by my friends and rich people are not nice.”

– “But if I make $50,000 a month, I will have to work very hard in my job to earn that and I will have no life left.”

– “But if I make $50,000 a month, my friends will not like me.”

– “But if I make $50,000 a month, women (or men) will want to be with me more for how much I make and not for whom I am.”

The list of tail enders can go on and on. You can have tail enders for just about any affirmation that you use for health, relationships, love, etc. So if you have been diligently saying your positive affirmations but find that they are not working, you may want to ask yourself if you’ve got some tail enders that are sabotaging your initial intent. Tail enders can easily reduce the effectiveness of your affirmations. It takes a while to unearth all the limiting tail enders but once you uncover them, you open up the opportunity to erase them. And you can do this with EFT.

2. Your Affirmation Is A Should.


You may make an affirmation which you do not really want. Often enough, people make affirmations because their parents say so, all their friends are doing so or it sounds like a good affirmation to affirm.

You may even have a tail ender that says this “I easily and consistently make $50,000 a month but I do not really want it.” In this example, it may be that you have other dreams, rather than just a money goal.

It is important that you make affirmations according to what you really want, rather than make them based on your shoulds. Your wants are aligned desires that come from within your soul and not from someone else’s dream.

3. Your Affirmation Is Not Realistic Enough.

If your affirmation appears to be a lofty goal to you, you may inadvertently set up tail enders that says it is too difficult to attain. Let’s use the first example again for illustration. For instance, if you currently make $1000 a month, then making an affirmation on “I easily and consistently make $50,000 a month” may be too much of a stretch to you.

Of course, you can use EFT or any other technique to erase the tail enders. But you may find yourself having to deal with a long list of negative sabotaging thoughts. It may be far easier to set an interim but more realistic affirmation; such as “I easily and consistently make $5,000 a month” and work your way up. You will find that you will have less obstacles to clear subconsciously, as you move up the ladder.

4. Your Affirmation Is Not Exciting Enough.

If your affirmation is not exciting enough, you may lose motivation. Affirmations must have enough “pull” for you to focus your intent on. For instance, from currently making $1,000 monthly, would $5,000 a month be a good enough affirmation for you to work on? I would think so.

Your affirmation also works best if you say it with some emotion. When you can actually “feel” your affirmation, its impact increases dramatically.

One important tip is that it is best that you do not let others know too much about your dreams and affirmations. Announcing them to people who are not very supportive and who have little understanding about what you are doing, can invite criticisms. They may just douse your enthusiasm, causing you to give up on your affirmation. Hence, it is best to keep things to yourself, focus your thoughts and get some results, before sharing your findings with others.

5. Your Positive Affirmation Is Not Made In The Present Tense.

Your affirmation is less effective if you use words like “I will be _________” instead of “I am ________ “. Of course, you may feel that it is inappropriate to affirm something that has not happened yet. But saying things in the present tense will program your subconscious mind to believe that what you affirm is already a fact. Once your subconscious mind believes that it is true, you will find yourself taking actions to make your goal a reality.

6. Your Affirmation Focuses On The Negative Rather Than Accentuating The Positive.

Think back about all your affirmations. Are you formulating them in the positive or in the negative sense? Affirmations made from a negative perspective will only draw your subconscious mind to your old habitual and limiting thoughts. They will not be as effective in bringing about desired positive outcomes.

“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.”
Elbert Hubbard quotes (American editor, publisher and writer, 1856-1915)

7. Your Affirmation Is Not Supported By A Dream.

You may associate dreams as something that is so big but which are unattainable. You pooh pooh the idea of dreaming: why waste time imagining the impossible when dreams seldom come true?

Well, there is much value in daydreaming. And in case you believe so, daydreaming is not just for kids. When you daydream, you connect yourself with all possibilities. The act of daydreaming itself creates a nice feeling when you think “how nice if I would be if I can/am _________”. When you feel good, you start to exude a positive energy vibration. According to the Law of Attraction, you may well start to attract the opportunities that matches the same vibration.

“Dreams are like the paints of a great artist. Your dreams are your paints, the world is your canvas. Believing, is the brush that converts your dreams into a masterpiece of reality.”
— Unknown

Summary: Guidelines To Help Make Positive Daily Affirmations A Success

1. Make affirmations short and succinct, with no tail enders.

2. Base your affirmations on wants and not shoulds.

3. Make them realistic.

4. Make your affirmations exciting enough.

5. State affirmations in the present tense.

6. State affirmations in the positive.

7. Augment your affirmations with dreams.

In short, before you conclude that positive affirmations do not work, go through this checklist first and see if you have made them correctly.

“When combined with affirmations, goals and EFT, daydreams become a magnet which draws us ever forward into the excitement of our tomorrows.”— Gary Craig in Palace of Possibilities, Emotional Freedom Technique.

It is important to have fun while making affirmations. Adjust them from time to time to eliminate boredom. Cover your intent adequately with affirmations by focusing on different aspects of your goal and watch your desires unfold before you.

Further readings can be found here on positive daily affirmations.

Facebook Comments


Lorraine Cohen - April 17, 2008

I used to recommend doing affirmations to clients as a regular practice. Some experienced positive results while many found they failed to work due to the points you raise.

I haven’t seen enough success with affirmations as having a permanent transformational benefit when used alone as a practice. Adding an experiential therapy like EFT, hypnosis & theta healing, Psych-K, Thought Field Therapy or processes that go deep enough to release at the energy (origin level) makes a huge difference in healing.



Kenneth King - April 17, 2008

Very insightful post. I too had experienced frustrations with affirmations over the years due exactly to the reasons you brought up. I do believe affirmations have a bona fide place in developing a positive mindsight, when one avoids the pitfalls you mentioned and doesn’t rely on them exclusively. Taking action, trying and failing, trying again, learining, and staying focused with passion because you are excited about what you are affirming all come together to acheive the desired result when you simply refuse to give up.

Evelyn - April 17, 2008

Thanks, Lorraine, for your pointers. I’m looking into exploring some other healing methods, to see if they work better. You’re right to say that a combination usually works best, as I’ve experienced it myself.

Kenneth, that’s the spirit. Let’s cheer each other on!!!


Jonathan from JonathanMead.com - April 17, 2008

This is a very insightful post Evelyn. You keep hitting the nail right on the head over and over.

I especially thought the parts about “tail-ends” and “wants instead of shoulds” was very relevant for me.

Thanks for another wonderful article,


Vinay Raj - April 17, 2008

Think. Feel. Do.
Truly expressed Evelyn.

JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You - April 17, 2008

I really enjoyed this
Saying things in the negative tense undermine the point
and those tail ends sure are sneaky 🙂 but I am happily lopping them off as of late

great post 🙂

Evelyn - April 17, 2008

Thanks, Jonathan, JEMi and Vinay, I wanted to write this article because I believe that the knowledge that there can be tail enders will help us all. The other tips are also extremely useful to making positive affirmations work for us too!

Love and light,

Mark McCullagh - April 17, 2008

Yes, interesting insights here. Again you get to the root and nail down how our self-talk really affects our outcomes.

Thomas Lomax - April 18, 2008

Hi. Just something to think about in regards to #5…I once contacted Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert cartoon, about this very thing (affirmations in the present tense). In one of his books, the “Dilbert Future” I think, he writes about how affirmations helped him become successful in both the stock market and the syndicated cartoon field. And, he stated them in the future tense (“I, Scott, will…). He told me that he took a hypnosis course where he was told that suggestions to the subconscious don’t work if the subconscious doesn’t believe what you’re saying. So, he found success with “I will…” as opposed to “I am…” Since I’ve also communicated with others who’ve had success with this approach, I’ve come to understand that it really all boils down to what works best for the individual. Author Phil Laut even uses “negatives” in his affirmations sometimes. Go figure. Anyway, your article is still top-notch. Take care.

annalaura brown - April 18, 2008

this is great. I have been using positive affirmations for a while now and they do not always work and this article has helped me to discover why this happens sometimes. thanks

Evelyn - April 18, 2008

Hey Thomas, how interesting to know about the “I will” versus the “I am”. Like you mentioned, there may be negatives relating to the “I am”. Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information.

Hello Annalura, I guess what I’m hoping to point out in my article is not to be too quick to conclude that positive affirmations do not work; they should work if they are made properly.

With much thanks and appreciation for your feedback,

Robert A. Henru - April 18, 2008

There is another perspective that T. Harv Eker shared, instead of affirmation, go with declaration. Declaration is much more acceptable by our subsconscious mind. Declaration is putting a goal there and going towards it.

What’s your opinion on this??
My post sharing about it in …
Start declaring (though you can’t affirm)


7 Reasons Why Your Positive Affirmations Fail To Work | Jimboland Jots - April 20, 2008

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SaiF - April 21, 2008

Hey Evelyn,

This was a great post that clarified a lot of things for me. I’m now going to re-start my affirmations with these tips in mind.


I really needed to see this =) Oh btw, what do you think about Henru’s point of view. I’ve listened to Harv Eker before about declarations but I’m not too sure about it.

What do you think, Evelyn?

The World’s First Teen
Personal Development Video Blogger

Evelyn - April 21, 2008

Hello Robert and SaiF,

Interesting point that you brought up. I’ve quite forgotten that I read this in Harv Eker’s book.

For affirmations, I’ve been following Gary Craig and Louis Hay. Both suggested the use of present tense and stating it, even if the desired state has not occurred yet. My reasoning is that if you are familiar with EFT, it is best to follow with Gary Craig’s recommendation because you have a technique on hand to deal with your list of tail enders. There is no greater feeling that that of freedom, as you clear your negative beliefs layer-by-layer.

Affirmations on their own are powerful tools. But as it is said, affirmations are less effective if you do not believe in them or have a lot of negative emotions sabotaging the intial intent. However, when you combine the use of affirmations with EFT, you are dealing with your beliefs from both ends (clearing your negative thoughts to make way for empowering ones) completely.

Making declarations of intent as suggested by Harv Eker is a good place to start, if you find that you really indeed are disbelieving your affirmation. But it will be good to move gradually to an affirmation (with no tail enders) instead of a declaration of intent.

Some experts are even suggesting not to use statements but to pose your affirmations as questions.

Although the above is what I would recommend, the only true test is experiential. Find out for yourself what works. Test and retest to get a conclusion.

With love,

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Overcoming Lifes Obstacles - August 2, 2008

Great Post! I Never thought or heard of tail-enders before. After reading this post, I see why some of my affirmations failed in the past. Thanks for the eye-opner.

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