This week, on a panel of powerful business leaders, one ABC executive shared her means to success by changing her thoughts. She explained she once was a worrywart; and for years would break out into hives all over before exams. After her first semester in college she told herself, “I won’t have hives,” and the hives stopped thereafter. "It sounds oversimplified, but I realized worrying didn't help anything." I agreed with her; changing was that simple.
In two years, changing my mind had changed my life. At the life-questioning age of 23, I noticed a nagging void despite living an apparently full life. Life was good and easy, but it left me feeling empty, anxious and unfulfilled. My education and job had ushered me into a totally new status, one I considered reserved exclusively for those unlike me (not black, not a woman, not LGBTQ, not from a meager background). I was traveling the world, had a place to call my own, and wanted for naught. Yet still, despite being better off, I found myself shrinking into a comfy nook I'd carved out, fruitlessly safeguarding myself from returning to a life of instability, discomfort or pain.
Here’s the magic of a mantra. If you stop saying it this doesn’t mean you stop thinking it. Mantras remain with you. And I used the mantras from my childhood to force myself out of my hiding place--without even knowing it.
These affirmations reminded me I was safe and secure, and had a larger purpose to serve. They came church and mentors. They helped me pitch for and get a promotion instead of complaining about zero recognition; inspired me to travel internationally—at times on a whim—instead of thinking I couldn't afford to take time off; encouraged me to improve my relationship with my mother instead of believing we were too set in our ways; challenged me lose and keep off 25 pounds instead of declaring the track or gym my enemy; and prompted me reunite with my love of creative expression instead of hopelessly waiting for inspiration to strike.
Every line in my mantra intentionally challenged thoughts that wanted me to shrink, retreat, or hide.
How to Create Your Mantra
First, recognize one size doesn’t fit all. Your mantra, one line or more, should be relevant and necessary to your best self, which, in my opinion, is the person you already are. You just need to get past the contradictions to get to the truth.
Start with the positive thoughts that counter your casual, enduring, not-so affirming beliefs. Or start with beliefs that were passed down to you from family and friends. Choose words that are most opposing to your conscious beliefs or what you’re typically told as truth. For example, if you genuinely believe you never get what you want, create a mantra that says otherwise.
Let your mantra do the work. Making the decision to change your thoughts, change your mind, change your actions, and, ultimately, change your life isn't a easy one. You'll have to get out of your own way, and allow yourself to train your thoughts to become mentally strong. Write it down once a week or every day. Put it in your wallet. Say it aloud in the bathroom mirror. Place it by an affirming photo. Make a consistent effort to commit your mantra to memory.