Why do we do what we do each day? We make thousands of decisions, speak thousands of words, and think thousands of thoughts, all in just 24 hours. Even when we're sleeping! I’ve learned that we all run on programs, kind of like a computer. We have foundations, things we believe about how to live life, that run in the background as we go about our days. The real question is, are they chosen on autopilot? Or do we choose them intentionally, so that our words, thoughts, and actions come from a place of how we want our life to be? In this post, I’ll share with you a way to bring more intention to the programs running in the background of your life.
An unbelievably talented writer, author, and speaker, Gretchen Rubin introduced me to this idea. She coined the term "secrets of adulthood" in her book The Happiness Project, one of my all time favorites. As she was embarking on a journey to become happier in everyday life, she found that having a set of foundational principles helped gently guide her life in the way she wanted it to lean.
I like to call mine mantras: a sentence, a few words, or a phrase that gently reminds you how you want to live your life. Here are some of my essential mantras (in no particular order) and some ideas on how to start your own list:
If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t happen.
Saying no creates more space for saying yes (Melissa Ambrosini)
Nothing changes if nothing changes (Melissa Ambrosini)
How you spend your days is how you spend your life
Do no harm but take no sh*t (Rachel Brathen, Yoga Girl)
The days are long, but the years are short
Ease works just as well as effort (Sadie Lincoln)
Don't dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.
It’s not your job to like me, it’s mine (Byron Katie)
Anything that costs you your peace is too expensive
Choose the bigger life (Gretchen Rubin)
You are your own best teacher (Sadie Lincoln)
Ready to come up with your own? Here are a few guidelines for picking your own essential mantras:
Find them everywhere. Friends, family, books, TV shows….literally anywhere and everywhere. If you can’t think of any in the moment, put a piece of blank paper on your fridge or make a note in your phone and write out anything you come across that really resonates with you.
Some mantras will be aspirational. Meaning, you may not be living all of them out in your life consistently and that is TOTALLY OK! The whole point of picking your mantras is taking things off autopilot and consciously choosing to adjust your life accordingly.
You’re going to fall down- just get back up again. Meaning, you won’t live out your mantras every minute of every day. Dump that perfectionist chatter and know that every time you're mindful of your mantras, win lose or draw, you’re moving in the right direction and here’s the best news: there’s no finish line.
Look at them daily. Build your mantras into your life so that you can easily stay mindful. Post them on your fridge (like me!), your bathroom mirror, in your car, or on your phone.
Edit often. Add, subtract, change. Have a list of 100 or a list of 3. There really are no rules, and this is the story of your life.
Sending you love as you pick your own essential mantras. I hope this practice serves you as much as it serves me!
PS: check out Gretchen's original work here and stay tuned for more on all of the teachers I quoted in this post: https://gretchenrubin.com/2009/09/secrets-of-adulthood/