Lately (as I’ve mentioned) my mantra is, “Is this strategic, or just cathartic?” I’m training myself to repeat it when I feel tempted to say something really stupid during a tense discussion or basically any interaction on Twitter. So far, I mostly say it to my friends when they’re about to say something stupid. And after reading this article by M.J. Ryan, author of Habit Changers: 81 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realise Your Goals, I realised I already have lots of mantras.
My favourite mantra—“You ok, you ok!”—is from an old viral video where a little girl repeats it to her crying baby sister. My wife and I find ourselves saying this gently to any little kid who’s, say, deciding whether to cry after falling down. We also say it to each other, with the shifted meaning of “no problem!” or “you’re not bothering me!”
I’ve coined a few of my own for specific occasions: when my wife and I were staying somewhere that turned out to be kind of a dump, I told her, “It’s like we’re camping.” For the rest of the trip we repeated that to each other to manage our own expectations. Apparently I’m a lot better at mantras when I’m directing them at someone else! I should probably work on that!
Years ago, the 43 Folders productivity wiki collected users’ mantras. My favourites on this list are the less Deepak-Chopra-ey truisms, the ones like “Bang the rocks together” (instructions for a budding civilisation from Douglas Adams), “Can it wait 15 minutes?” and “With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine.”
So what’s your mantra? I’d really like to hear the most embarrassing, prosaic, but actually useful ones, the ones you won’t see in a self-help book. What do you repeat to yourself under your breath? What’s your “serenity now”?
The big sister in the video above is even more famous for her “daily affirmation,” which contains its own kind of mantra. Granted, if you’re not four years old like Jessica, your mantra probably shouldn’t be “I can do anything good, better than anyone!”