The joy and power of a good mantra
Celebrating the simple statements that cut through overwhelm and ease the stress of everyday living
‘You think you live in the world, but the world lives in you.’
I’ve come to rely on mantras more and more over the years. They’ve served to help me navigate the overwhelm and uncertainty of a creative career, support myself as a working mum, and they always remind me of truths that go beyond the incredibly noisy world we all live in. The best ones have resulted in some valuable and positive decision-making, never led to anything I’ve regretted, and always make me feel better.
In essence, mantras are short, repeated statements of clarity that work to remind us of essential truths. They can be joyful and encouraging, but challenging too, as sometimes the right decision or way forward can be uncomfortable and painful. However, I’ve come to know that when they resonate with me, I should listen, particularly as I suffer from the chronic condition of overthinking. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in indecision or overwhelm, and mantras are here to help.
If you don’t use mantras already, I highly recommend finding some that resonate with you. Here are a few I have on repeat, and use for both work and life:
Done is better than perfect.
I got this one from marketing guru Jenna Kutcher, and it helps when I’m obsessing over the many tasks, big and small, that I have to do as a professional author. For most of us, it’s important to dig in and try to produce the best quality of whatever it is we’re working on, but there comes a moment, particularly if we’re perfectionists (*raised hand over here*), where we have to let go and move on to the next thing – or else the stress begins to build. ‘Done’ doesn’t always have to mean ‘done forever’, it can just mean ‘done for now’, so that we can set something aside for the time-being. But it can also mean posting that graphic to social media without spending an hour obsessing over font size and colour. Or pressing Send on a Substack article without rereading it a hundred times!
You don’t owe anyone an interaction.
This one is from Brene Brown, and it’s a great guilt-stopper. When we’re overwhelmed by inboxes, to do lists and requests from others for our time, it’s a good reminder to pace ourselves. Just because someone decides to reach out, we are not automatically obligated or in their debt. Of course we want to reply and support everyone we can, but if we don’t have a strategy for doing this, and some good boundaries, we will quickly find our lives consumed by other people’s priorities. (And note to authors: we should NEVER waste unnecessary time on those unsettling people who write negative reviews and tag us in – they get an eye roll if they’re lucky!)
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Perfect for us writers, because it’s always tempting to compare our books/marketing strategies/advances/social media with others, and it’s all one big energy drain. This one is a reminder that while it can be helpful to know what others are doing (e.g. if we need to conduct research or gain insight), it’s essential to stay focused on making our projects the best versions of themselves, and not to measure them by any other yardstick.
Choose discomfort over resentment.
Another Brene Brown gem. This is a great one for authors, who get a lot of requests to read people’s books and do things for free. Many of us are natural people-pleasers who find it really hard to say no, but if we don’t set good boundaries we’ll end up with a long to-do list that prioritises other people’s needs and deprioritises our own work/life. It’s also a good one for those social requests that we’re not so sure about: sometimes it’s okay just to stay home with a good book!
You have two choices, evolve or repeat.
Gulp. Often I really don’t want to learn the lessons that hold me back: whether it’s personal stuff, the weaknesses in my work, or the blind spots in my marketing strategy, etc, etc. But I’ve learned the hard way that if I can’t critically examine where I’m going wrong, I’m doomed to repeat my unpleasant experiences, because the same actions will always equal the same results. This one encourages me to be brave and accept the fears that come with trying new ways of living/working/being. Which reminds me of another mantra that fits here:
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Do I have to? Waaah! But alas, nothing great ever came from comfort zones (okay, I’m just writing in mantras now 😉)
Since I don’t want to overwhelm you with mantras (which kind of defeats the object!), I’ll book-end this piece with another one from the brilliant Wayne Dyer, whose masterpiece Wisdom Through the Ages was my ballast in a horrific storm of severe anxiety and panic attacks during my twenties:
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Maybe I’ve changed the way you look at mantras?! And if you love them already, I hope I’ve added one or two new ones to your collection.
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