Forget Resolutions, I Wrote 6 Personal Mantras For This Year
“Oooo, he said mantra, he must be one of those hippies!” Shut up.
It’s January 5th and I’m proud of myself.
I didn’t watch the ball drop or actually remember we entered a new decade the next morning until I stumbled into my childhood kitchen where my mother sprung a “Happy New Year Honey!” kiss on my cheek. Oh, that’s sweet, but we do have Green Tea?
I’m back on the East Coast for a few weeks to celebrate the holidays, visit grandparents, reflect on two years of sobriety, and slow down a bit. I’ve also been sick since the 29th of December. None of that really matters or has anything to do with why I’m proud of myself though. I’m proud of myself because in town on the 28th, someone asked me what I did, and I told them “I’m a Writer and a Creative Project Manager.” Well DAMN! This was the first time I had ever so eloquently responded to that question with this answer. Just 4 days prior, I stuttered through a response to my Uncle’s “So have you gotten a real job yet?” Christmas eve question, with misdirection and landed on “I do things on the internet.”
He must think I do porn.
I don’t do porn.
It’s been two years since I’ve answered questions like that with any sort of confidence. The shitty thing though is that it took a story to go viral, a website to be built, and a client to pay me, for me to begin introducing myself like that. I have always been a writer, and I’ve always been creating. It’s who I have always seen in the mirror, yet I never informed others of it. Most knew me as a former hockey player, the guy who popularized pineapple dances, or the guy that rode his bike across the what? The country. This feeling of pride, fulfillment, and excitement was finally bubbling out of me, and I wanted to find a way to capture it. To make it both sustainable and permanent. I didn’t want to rely on external validations to amplify my self-pride and self-love. That wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be fair to myself, nor my work. My work can’t be competitive with each other. I can’t allow a civil war to happen between the fruits of my creativity.
So, I began creating the system that would comfort me during days of discouragement and ground me during days of glee. I coughed, sniffled, and sneezed my way to a set of reminders, mantras.
These 6 personal mantras, were written in the interest of longevity. In the next ten years, I’m almost positive my titles will change, my body will evolve, and I will move, making a resolution less attractive because they’re often short-term: A goal for the next 365 days.
*366 this year.
If resolutions aren’t for life, let me create something that can be.
My goal was to create a new normal of self-pride, self-love, and fulfillment, that didn’t rely on the reception of my work, or me. So, I wrote 6 personal mantras.
These mantras that aren’t that unique to me, nor the line of work I am in. In text, I wrote them to speak to myself so they lean towards writers, creators, and artists, but with small translations, they become quite universal.
Here they are:
1. Don’t Wait
Skimmer’s translation: be bold. Too often, we wait. We wait for the invite. We wait to be asked. We wait for permission. Within this mantra, we assume sovereignty over the direction of our lives. We don’t wait for the wind to sail our boat, we create wind.
In business, rather than signing off that email with a “Looking forward to hearing back from!” stop waiting, and sign off with your ask: “I’m excited to connect once you’ve digested this note. Are you able to spend 10 minutes with me next Tuesday afternoon?” Then send a fucking calendar invite.
In social settings, jump out of your seat to say hi to that friend who walked past you en route to the bathroom rather than texting them “I think I just saw you, are you at (insert restaurant name)?”
Fear creates hesitation. Often times the only thing stopping or delaying us is our own confidence. Those moments when a pit forms in your stomach and we fail to launch, we’re only harming ourselves.
As much as this is a mantra, it’s also a muscle. Repetitive bold actions will increase your confidence, decrease your fear, and accelerate you in the direction of your goal. Fear is simply excitement without breath, and honoring this mantra brings you the strategy to overcome it.
2. Don’t Convince Yourself That The World Needs Or Wants What You Have
Let me be the first to admit I am guilty of this. Over the past 2 years, I’ve turned hobbies into businesses convinced the world wanted it, invested months researching a technology that I thought the world needed, and wrote countless articles I thought could shape the next generation. I’m still that confident with my writing, but I don’t allow it to be an expectation. We all need to be proud of and believe in our work, but it needs to stop there. This may be consumed faster for writers, artists, and creators, but let it be known that if you have an Instagram account, this applies to you. Whenever you’re creating, whether it be an email marketing campaign, a pitch deck, or a recipe for your food blog, don’t allow your biased intimacy to blind you to this truth.
I don’t whisper this to myself, or keep it on sticky notes framing my screen to prepare myself for a poor response to my work, I do it to confront my motivations for creation. If we begin to convince ourselves that the world needs what we’re making, we are beginning to set an unsupported expectation. If you’re an entrepreneur that’s invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in market tests pre-launch, well then I yield to because you’re an exception and a total bad-ass. I’m writing this from a room I used to pee the bed in when I was 4.
To give a real-life example of this, last week I made a deck for a Medium publication that I thought was a brilliant intersection of 2 massive conversations, pitched it to 3 different people at Medium, and got the fastest 3 no’s I’ve ever received. When I finished the deck, I truly thought it would change the world. They didn’t.
But here’s the thing, I still believe in it. I believe in it the same way my writings that are never read are still powerful to me. The no’s I get, or the lack of reception something I create gets, is no longer affecting my relationship to my work because of this mantra.
Now, outliers do exist. The world does need cures to cancers, solutions to climate disruption, solutions to economic disparity, and a new US President, but this mantra applies to the individual. An individual, you, can change the world, but do so because of what you believe in, not because you believe the world needs you. Changing the world is damn good goal, but don’t let it become an expectation.
3. Do It Because It Feels Good
Smooth transition right?
This mantra piggybacks, #2 Don’t Convince Yourself That The World Needs Or Wants What You Have, and confronts our why.
With everything we create, every action we take, and everything we do, we have both motivation and intention. Motivation comes first, and powers why we activate, and intention estimates an outcome from our actions.
What we need to ask ourselves is are we enjoying it? Do we feel goooooood?
Doing it because it feels good indirectly addresses resistance as well. If something is painful, causes discomfort, and scares you, there may be a point where there is a value in continuing on because it’s a healthy challenge, but if it persists over time and joy does not arrive after repeated actions, then stop.
There are many ways to carve a pumpkin. What works for someone else can be admired but not adopted. In this rare existence we find ourselves in, life, we don’t need to pursue the path of least resistance, but we could benefit from the path of joy found when we do what feels good.
4. Do It Because You’re Proud Of It
A double piggyback requires a strong base, which I hope I’ve created here because that’s what I’m about to do. This mantra swims on the backs of Not Convincing Yourself That The World Needs Or Wants What You Have and Doing It Because It Feels Good to host an honest conversation with our motivations.
If the reason we create, distribute, and work is measured on a scale of fulfillment and satisfaction, then each body of work we put out must return a weight closest to pride. What we create is a reflection of us, and I believe our emotional responses and relationship to the work is most positive when we are proud of it.
This applies to every level of our life. In our relationships, both romantic and social, we are investing our time to create one we are proud of and to be in. With our art, we create things we are proud of. At work, we build decks, spreadsheets, and craft emails that we are proud of. In conversation, we offer contributions that advance dialogue that we are proud of. Doing things we are proud of is almost instinctual and when we choose to represent ourselves with an output we are not proud of, we are compromising with ourselves which becomes a tragedy.
Doing work we are proud of also eliminates external validations. Here’s a futuristic example. Yes, that’s allowed. At some point in life, I am going to work in a grocery store. I’m going to split time between the produce section and bagging groceries. I simply love fruits and vegetables and extract such deep satisfaction from an efficiently packed grocery bag. Now, growing up parents and teachers would use bagging groceries as an example of where my peers would be working if we didn’t apply ourselves, as if to bring shame to the profession. That doesn’t affect me. I’m going to work at a grocery store in the produce section and bag groceries one day because it thrills me and I’ll be damn proud to do it.
The opinion from another of my work, so long as my work is respectful of and does not harm another, is appreciated and heard, but it will not affect how I treat, view, or speak to myself. I am proud of who I am and what I create, and another’s opinion will not change that.
To close this mantra, there is also an exercise. If there is something that causes you to sometimes put out work that you’re not proud of, be strong enough to confront that. For me, my relationship with alcohol was that. Hangovers impacted my professional work, and the temptation of a Saturday day-drink stole time from my creative projects. That may not be yours, but whatever hinders you, be brave enough to confront it.
5. Make Success A Feeling, Not A Value
When you do things you are proud of that are rooted in motivations and beliefs outside of changing the world, you will have fulfillment. You will have fulfillment because at this point you are creating solely for yourself and the joy of doing so.
Fulfillment is not defined by the size of a check, the number of followers, or the volume of responses. Fulfillment, satisfaction, and contentment, are intangible soft parts of life that may very well be what we are meant to be in pursuit of.
For me, what makes this easier is that I don’t care much for a person’s “status”. I’m not impressed by one’s income level, I don’t covet larger homes, nor do I hold value for the make of your car. I understand it, appreciate it, and don’t introduce this as an indictment of one’s desires at all, it’s just preference. And, before you say “of course you feel that way, you’re a writer” I’ve had times of my life with wealth abundance. I was the person working 30 hours a week in college buying all the drinks, I played professional sports, this isn’t about money. This is about motivation.
When success is a feeling and not a value, you are not driven by a return or a reception. The benefit of this is that your work will be pure to you because you won’t be creating under a cloud of “will they like this?”, you will create under the sun of “Does this fill me? Am I proud of this? Does this make me feel good?” Anything returned beyond these feelings, is simply a bonus.
6. Set No Expectations
It’s fitting to speak this mantra last. It is a conclusion of the previous 5. When we set expectations, we place an unfair burden on our work. When we set expectations, we adjust how we create and our reasons for doing so, by placing a forecast on the response. This interferes with the process and taints our motivations.
Setting no expectations encourages us to create things we are proud of. It tells us not to wait for invites or opportunities but to make our own. It lobby’s for us to do things that feel good, and create without an expected public response. This mantra reminds us to pursue fulfillment, not income.
With all my writings, I test ideas out with a trusted group of friends to point out blind spots or help me articulate my thoughts. For this piece, a friend challenged me and asked: “What about the person who works to earn money, because with that money they can purchase a home, put food on the table, and provide for their family.” I was stumped.
As I’ve sat with that question, this is where I’m at. For this person, I don’t believe they are in pursuit of a gross accumulation of wealth, they are in pursuit of joy. Their joy comes from providing for their family, so when they are working or creating, I believe they enjoy the work because of what it stands for.
These mantras don’t replace resolutions, they are the prelude to them. Without these mantras, you may set and accomplish a resolution, but I fear it may be for the wrong reasons. These mantras encourage self-love, self-respect, and fulfillment. They help audit yourself and ensure you are doing things for the right reasons. Reasons only you can create.
I believe that when we create for ourselves, and for the right reasons, we become more raw and vulnerable, making our work more intimate and authentic. What’s funny, is that it seems the more intimate and authentic work is today, the better it’s received.
By no means can we allow that to enter out motivations, but surely we can smirk at it.
P.S. Whatever your “it” may be, you got this.
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