I’m a big fan of mantras. These short, often pithy statements can help turn around a sour mood or smooth a confusing interaction.
I’ve shared mantras in the past in this column. The most recent, “Transform bother into benefit,” was remarkably effective when my wife, Jody, and I traveled to Ecuador earlier this year.
I wanted to expand the list. So, I asked friends and colleagues (as well as a certain AI computer tool) for suggestions of mantras they’ve found helpful. Some were jokey, some clichéd, others were surprisingly deep.
Here are 22 mantras that spoke to me.
22 mantras to use in your everyday life
1. Discouraged, not defeated.
When life becomes overwhelming, you don’t have to feel defeated. Discouraged, disappointed, disgruntled and dissatisfied, yes. But defeated, that’s too much.
2. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
This one is often attributed to rocker Warren Zevon. Jon Bon Jovi phrased it slightly differently: “Gonna live while I’m alive. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” (For the record, I disagree with this mantra. I’m a big fan of sleep… now and not later.)
3. Hello [thing that’s bothering you]. I see you, but I won’t give you attention.
I’ve used this to help counter obsessive-compulsive tendencies around “small” bothers like my eye floaters. The fastest way to heal in these cases is, first, to acknowledge there’s something frustrating; and, second – and this might seem counterintuitive – to not pay it any attention so as to further feed the beast.
4. Good enough is the enemy of perfection.
Obsessive tendencies often center around trying to achieve some perfect outcome. When I feel I’m getting stuck on planning an impeccable vacation or buying the ideal flat-screen television, I pull out this mantra.
5. Living well is the best revenge.
This aphorism is attributed to 16th-century poet George Herbert. It’s also the name of one of my favorite songs from R.E.M.’s 2008 album Accelerate.
6. “I know that in a few years I will be dead, and a few years after that, no one will even remember my name. But I am alive this day, and I will not waste it.”
This was written by psychology columnist Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic, a variation on the “If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you want to spend your last day on Earth?” trope. “If you insist on ignoring your own demise,” Brooks notes, “you are likely to make decisions that cause you to sleepwalk through life. You may not be dead yet, but you’re not fully alive either.”
7. More joy, less oy.
Short and to the point. After all, who couldn’t use a little more exultation?
8. Motivation is crap.
When I start writing a new book, I’m not always inspired. So, I have no choice but to wake up every morning and spend an hour writing before breakfast. If you wait for motivation to come, nothing will ever be achieved.
9. Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
What a great one-liner for being authentic.
10. This too shall pass.
This one never really worked for me. And yet, the person who suggested it is someone who has suffered unspeakable tragedy: the death of a daughter by terrorists. If he can feel that way, can’t we all?
11. Be a coper not a moper.
Easier said than done. But, hey, it rhymes.
12. Fake it till you make it.
Another rhyme! I used this one in 1989 when I was hired by an IT firm that ran its computers on MS-DOS. Only problem: I didn’t know DOS. In the two weeks before I started work, I pored through tutorials on mastering the Microsoft operating system. By the time I reported for my first day, I was a DOS doyen.
13. There is no such thing as failure. It’s just research and development.
Israeli entrepreneurs have long embraced this mantra. Failure isn’t a badge of shame. It’s just a step along the way to eventual success.
14. When life hands you lemons, grab the tequila.
An intoxicating update to a familiar cliché.
15. Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
It’s a wicked variation on Albert Einstein’s classic if misquoted definition of insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.”
16. It will all work out in the end. And if it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.
So says Sonny Kapoor, the fictional hotel manager in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies. Or, as Mark Twain once espoused, “Mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
17. You can’t outrun the fork.
That is, you can’t exercise away what you overeat. I generally avoid any activity that might lead to my being impaled.
18. Health is a process, not an outcome.
Dr. Lucy McBride wrote this, meaning, health is not a set of lab tests or a single visit to the doctor. It’s about the three A’s – “having awareness of our medical data; acceptance of the things we cannot control; and agency over the things we can.”
Finally, I asked the AI tool of the hour, ChatGPT, to suggest some mantras. It was surprisingly insightful.
4 mantras to use in your life, courtesy of the AI chatbot ChatGPT
19. I am capable of handling whatever comes my way.
20. I am resilient and will bounce back from this setback.
21. I am not defined by my past but by my present actions and future potential.
22. I embrace uncertainty as an opportunity for growth and discovery.
Whether artificially generated or from the mouths of real-life humans, I hope some of these mantras work for you as well as they have for the people – and computers – who riffed on them.
The writer’s book Totaled: The Billion-Dollar Crash of the Startup that Took on Big Auto, Big Oil and the World is available on Amazon and other online booksellers. brianblum.com