As an undergrad student at Miami University, my biggest dream revolved around going to Harvard Law School.
I studied my butt off to get As in every class. I strategically became president of a couple of student organizations to improve my leadership experience and resume. I even paid hundreds of dollars an hour for phone calls with an excellent law school admissions coach.
I declared the dream and then executed almost perfectly to achieve it, so far.
But, when it came time to study for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)—the most important aspect of law school admissions—I faced a problem.
Although I confidently excelled in all my college classes and college exams, I had no confidence when it came to standardized test-taking. Back in high school, I didn’t do as well as I wanted on the ACT and SAT, and this failure still hung over me years later.
Since the ACT and SAT results, I always thought of myself as a poor standardized test-taker. This is because I blamed my poor scores on the lie that I wasn’t good enough. In reality, I didn’t succeed on those tests because I literally spent a total of zero hours preparing.
So, due to my personal doubts about standardized test taking and knowing the LSAT is arguably one of the hardest tests, I mentally psyched myself out in the beginning of my LSAT training.
When I took my first timed practice test before any preparation, I scored a 158 (the LSAT is on a scale of 120 to 180, with 180 being the top score). That’s actually a pretty good score for the first time taking a timed LSAT, as some people get a lower final score after months of practice.
But, my negative thinking saw a 158 as a terrible score that was galaxies away from where I wanted to be, which was a 175 or higher. Days later, studying became this dreadful process where I continually battled my negative thoughts and doubts about the LSAT.
I would negatively self-talk things like, “I’m not a good standardized test-taker,” “I’m not intelligent if I have to study this much,” and “Maybe I’m not good enough for Harvard.”
After a couple of weeks into LSAT prep, I realized that the negative self-talk only hurt my commitment, focus, and motivation. Negative self-talk directly blocked me from pursuing my dream.
The Power Of Positive Affirmation
So, I decided to do the opposite and give myself positive affirmation each day before I opened my LSAT books. I would tell myself, “I’m a great test-taker when I prepare the right way, that’s why my GPA is so high,” “I’m studying this much because it’s the smartest strategy,” and “I’m getting into Harvard Law, I know it.”
This positive self-talk was amazing for my productivity and my enjoyment while I studied. My positive thoughts about studying led to strong actions, and these actions developed into a repeated cycle of positive LSAT results. I soon regained the passion and progress to reach my goal of Harvard Law.
After my third practice LSAT, I turned my initial 158 into a 164 (which was the 89th percentile for that test). Then I mastered the logic games section (one of three types of sections on the LSAT) and moved onto the logical reasoning and reading comprehension with a new energy.
Once I experienced the total difference between negative thinking and positive thinking in my LSAT studying, I couldn’t get enough. I used positive affirmations in other areas of life and found success in blogging, working out, and going outside my comfort zone.
Ultimately, my dream of going to Harvard Law School—and law school in general—changed the more I learned about myself and what I want out of life. (If you’re curious about why I decided not to go to law school, this post goes into more details.)
To this day, people still ask me, “Brian, were the hundreds of hours you spent studying for the LSAT a waste?” My response is, “No, for many reasons. But, mainly because I learned the power of positive self-talk through that experience.”
Examples Where Positive Self-Talk Works
Most of you aren’t studying for the LSAT, but you can use positive self-talk in all areas of life to break through your mental barriers.
Giving a class presentation
Don’t self-talk thoughts of messing up and embarrassing yourself in front of everyone. And don’t dwell on the thought that you’re going to forget what to say and there will be an awkward silence for thirty seconds.
Instead, tell yourself: I’m going to ace this presentation. It’ll be as easy as talking to my mom about what’s for dinner. I am enough to do this.
Applying for internships
It’s easy to get discouraged with the thought of competing with thousands of other applicants for only a couple positions. Also, when you submit your resume and get rejected, negative self-talk will leave you feeling unmotivated and deeper in the hole.
Instead, tell yourself: I’m going to find the perfect company. These organizations will soon realize that I’m the best candidate out there. All my hard work in school is coming together for my dream internship.
Going on a date
Negative thinking will leave you second-guessing your appearance, your ability to have a good time, and yourself. Also, self-doubt could lead you to read into the communication too much and make a fool of yourself in front of the other person.
Instead, tell yourself: They’re already interested in me to go on a date in the first place. And this date is a win-win, we either have a great time or I know they aren’t for me.
Even if your positive affirmations are not completely true, positive self-talk will help you reach your goals 1,000 times more than negative affirmations. Because when you repeatedly tell yourself that “I am enough” and “I can do this,” then you empower yourself to accomplish what you want. And with enough practice in positive self-talk and small wins, you free yourself over time to accomplish your biggest dream.
Choose to think positive and your life will be a self-fulfilling prophesy in your favor.
Readers, does your self-talk hurt your or help you each day? Can you think of times when you let negative thinking get the best of you? What are some examples in your life where positive affirmation would make a big difference?