My Top-Three Home-Grown Mantras For Feeling Pretty Good About What I Do All Day
September 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
To be clear, I’m not a mantra person – I’m not even a yoga person – but this year has been rough and I find that I’ve inadvertently developed some mantras that seem to be helping me through. Broadly, I find that things are better when I navel-gaze less and actually take steps to move whatever-it-is forward more. So, as you’ll see, the first two are really just about helping myself get out of my head and get stuff done. The third one is about dealing with the results (or non-results) of whatever stuff I did. I’m sure that lots of smart folks have already come up with their own mantras that are roughly equivocal to mine. Still, my own are the ones that I’m currently finding helpful and so here they are for you to use, re-write, riff on or discard according to your own needs and temperament.
It’s not gonna take that long.
This one started out as the perfect get-it-done mantra for household chores: washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, putting in a load of laundry . . . all the stuff I need to do that I waste time avoiding doing. It doesn’t take that long and if I just do it, it’ll be done. However, I find more and more that it applies to many of the things I’ve decided I need or want to do but am still resisting. The toddler will be napping, the clock will be ticking, and I will be paralized by a choice about what items on my to-do list I ought to accomplish. Reminding myself that these tasks probably won’t take that long helps me stop thinking about what I should do and in which order and just gets me doing.
It doesn’t have to feel good, you just have to do it.
I stumbled (haha) onto this one when I started jogging. I’ve never been a good runner and I’ve never particularly liked running BUT I was missing exercise and a jog was the best option for squeezing some in. I was on board intellectually but once I was out running and out of breath and with a stitch in my side, a loud voice in my head would try to get me to stop. I needed to keep going. It didn’t have to feel good in the moment, I just had to do the run (I later developed the sub-mantra: any run is a good run). Recently, I’ve been working on forming a new discipline around working on my craft as an actor and it involves incorporating some new techniques. It makes me so uncomfortable but I believe that doing this work will really help me, so . . . it doesn’t have to feel good (in the moment), I just have to do it. Because that’s the other thing: every run I’ve done has felt GREAT afterwards. I have yet to regret the effort.
Give up the illusion of control.
When my mom’s health was in decline, I shifted into high-gear. I was intense about researching her treatment and healthcare options and advocating for her every day in every conceivable way – from agitating for one doctor to actually pick up a phone and call another, to pestering dieticians to give her more palatable food. Still, her health declined. One day, I heard a voice inside my head say “give up the illusion of control,” and it dawned on me that I couldn’t make my mom well through the sheer force of my will (although I was surely trying), I could only do my best and the hope for the best. It’s the same every day. We can contribute to and impact situations – this mantra isn’t about passivity – but we can only control ourselves. I find remembering this – that the most I can do is my best – very relaxing. At least by comparison.
Drink to forget.
Ah, I jest. This is a faux-mantra but when I find myself – darkly, sarcastically – saying it to myself, even though it’s a joke, it is a good reminder to lighten up, let myself off the hook long enough to take a little break, and then . . . get back to work.
What do you think? Do you have mantras – either your own or someone else’s that you find helpful? What does the most helpful voice inside your head say to you?