My mother had this line she repeated over and over when I was growing up and letting little things bother me… In the whole scheme of life, it really doesn’t matter.
At the time, it drove me nuts. I felt it was the most unempathetic response to what seemed like very real teenage tragedies like not getting to go to a party, or not having what I want for dinner or a book not ending the way I wanted it to… oh the problems I had those days!
But I realise now my mother was trying to teach me about keeping things in perspective – allowing small things to stay small things and not be catatrophised.
It’s actually a pretty useful Mantra – and those words still echo on my mind at times in life when small things threaten to dominate my thinking. I have internalized it – without realizing it, those words became something I aspired to as well.
When you think about it, words are powerful. I explored this in my recent article on self-talk, and we considered how much damage negative thinking can have on our self-esteem. When we talked about changing negative internal dialogue we mentioned mantras briefly, but I think it is worthy of more explanation.
As an English teacher, the power of words has always fascinated me. Rightly chosen words can convince us of things we never thought we would warm to. They can resonate in our minds like the most beautiful poetry. They can make us fall in love, and kill off that love just as quickly. They can change our minds – even the most strongly held opinions can crumble with the right words. Words can and do inspire each and every day.
A mantra can be a powerful example of positive self-talk, and can have particular resonance as you repeat it to yourself over and over. Sometimes they are famous quotes, or famous sayings. Sometimes they are lines of poetry… beautiful words with beautiful meanings.
Some use mantras for meditation to help focus… but I prefer the first kind – the personal motto that guides you.
Choosing a mantra can help you focus your energies and prioritise a behaviour or an attitude that you want to develop. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy – identifying something as a mantra makes that attitude more likely – even if it is not your attitude at the time (like mine wasn’t as a teenager!)
As my mother now knows, words also have the power to shape the attitudes of others. During World War II Winston Churchill’s mantra was shared with all the British public – ‘We’re all in this together”. This would have been repeated by countless people countless times per day to help them focus on what was important. Perhaps all of Melbourne has had a mantra without even realizing it throughout this pandemic: Staying Apart Keeps Us Together.
I enjoy the power of words so much you can even finding my wearing my mantras at times. There are plenty of places out there that put wise words onto jewellery or coins or other items you can take with you everywhere, and they do serve as a lovely reminder of all those priorities and goals you have.
In terms of my favourite mantras, I am a big fan of quotes – some complex and some simple. Here are ones I wear often.
Be The Change – Gandhi
Imagine – John Lennon
I Am The Master of My Fate, I Am The Captain of My Soul – William Ernest Henley (from the poem Invictus, the mantra of Nelson Mandela)
Amor Fati – from the Stoic Philosophers (Love your fate, and embrace it as a chance to learn)
Is there something in your life that you could use a little more of right now? Are there words that embody this that resonate with you and might keep you focused on your goals? Maybe a Mantra would work for you then. We’d love to read all about yours!