We’re always asked to share personal motivation techniques -- little tricks and hacks that we can use to stay engaged, focused and productive. One of the easiest yet most effective methods I’ve used is to create a personal power mantra.
What is a Mantra, and Why Does It Work?
A power mantra is a quote or phrase that helps you feel empowered and motivated. It’s the thing you tell yourself often to help you get through both good and bad days, and reminds you that you can power through anything. It’s a psychological shortcut that triggers your most powerful, best, highest, and most resilient self.
Mantras work in part because they tap into your implicit memory using a technique called priming.
Your implicit memory allows you to remember things, like past experiences, without having to really think about them. Implicit memory is why you can ride a bike or tie your shoelaces decades after originally learning the skill. It’s also why you might be able to sing all the words to a song or recognize it after just the first few notes.
Priming, a subset of implicit memory, automatically associates words, phrases or images with other words or images. For example, imagine associating the color yellow with “school bus.” The next time you see a yellow rectangular vehicle, your brain’s signals might say something like, “Hey, that could be a school bus.”
By associating a power mantra with feelings of resilience, courage, or badassery -- your best self -- you can dial up those feelings almost on command, putting you in the right state of mind to tackle a problem.
How do you choose a power mantra?
Your power mantra is something that is personal to you. It could start with something like a quote or song lyric that resonates with you, or a phrase that motivated you in a dark or troublesome period. You can then evolve that quote or phrase so that it becomes something that makes you feel empowered and strong.
In high school and college, one of my mantras came from the lyrics of a Red Hot Chili Peppers song called “Scar Tissue”:
I’ll make it to the moon if I have to crawl.
In my head, this meant, “You’ve got the power and resilience to pursue your dreams -- no matter how long it takes you or how much effort you expend.”
Since 2015, I’ve had a quote on my officebar wall from Babe Ruth:
Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.
This power mantra reminds me that each day starts anew. No matter how hard I’ve worked, or how masterfully I’ve performed one day, I need my A game every day. No settling, and no complacency.
And since 2016 or so, I’ve added a third personal mantra, which I learned from my colleague Kelley Lujan:
Comfort in discomfort.
In my day-to-day life, I manage a lot of uncertainty. Half the time, it feels like I’m making up the rules as I go along because I have no previous experiences or examples to draw from. But by finding joy in that tension, and relaxing into the knowledge that growth is uncomfortable, I can jettison some of the anxiety and fear that would otherwise paralyze decisionmaking.
What’s Your Power Mantra?
Inspiration is not a competitive sport. My hope is that by sharing my power mantras and what they mean to me, you’ll feel confident sharing some of the words, phrases, quotes and lyrics that make you feel empowered and productive.
What’s your Power Mantra? Share yours on Instagram and tag us @ridiculouslyefficient. We'll be sharing our favorite Power Mantras in our stories!