My mantras

In quite a few stages or chapters of my life, I adopted what I’ve dubbed mantras to remind myself to keep laser-focused on my ethics, objectives, and goals at the time.

For instance, while we were building a service network for working migrants in Moldova, my team often heard me say, “learning by doing.” That was an invitation to all of us to innovate, to experiment, and to make mistakes and fail. All was good as long as we were stopping to reflect on the fails, continuously adjusting our processes (kaizen), and improving our services.

Joining many others, I plead guilty to appropriating the term mantra, because of course mine are not meant to be a spiritual practice in any formal sense. My mantras are not used as a portal to meditation.

Rather, my mantras are to express and energize my values and intentions. They are personal principles, some call them mottos, that guide me. They are reminders of what’s important to me and serve to bring me back to that.

I have a little mantra: ‘My fear grows fat on the energy I feed it. And if it grows very big, it probably happens.’

Scilla Elworthy

Whenever something went wrong in our work in Moldova, I’d not seek to blame or berate anyone. I’d just remind all of us that we were learning by doing, our collectively understood shorthand for what or how can we do better next time? To my mind, that mantra created a safe space for us to excel through countless trials and errors.

So, what are my mantras now as I’m going through my anti-cancer treatment program?

Two have already emerged, and more may come up later still.

The first one relates to my coaching business: Slow down to speed up.

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.

Eddie Cantor

The moment I understood what I was in for over the year, I knew I’d have to re-prioritize the use of my time. I’ve rarely ignored self-care, but now it would take a much, much bigger portion of my 24/7. Marketing to grow my business—which was gobbling hours a day—had to take a back seat. I had to slow down.

In fact, I had to pause. And I did without hesitation.

This mantra popped up because I found that even without direct marketing efforts, my client load was growing! Somehow the seeds I had planted before were doing their magic.

My business was speeding up even as I had slowed down.

As a business thinking partner, I also encourage my clients to slow down to speed up. To me this involves evaluating whether needless busy-ness is causing them the feelings of overwhelm they so often complain about. They get better and faster results not trying to do everything on their long to-do lists at once. I help them get calmer by prioritizing their objectives and tasks, removing distractions, and then implementing the tasks more intentionally the right way, step-by-step. This way, less time is lost undoing the sloppy kind of mistakes on tasks that then hog time fixing or redoing.

And, as the quote above says, we get a better sense of where we’re going and why.

After I had written the above, I found this 2017 TEDx Talk by executive/leadership coach Ralph Simone. His core message, too, is to slow down in order to create more time to get inspired and tap into your intuition. I completely agree.

The second mantra that has emerged for me is a familiar old idiom and I find myself saying it frequently these days: Roll with the punches.

We got to roll with the punches, play all of our hunches, make the best of whatever comes your way. Forget that blind ambition, learn to trust your intuition – plowing straight ahead, come what may.

Jimmy Buffett

This mantra is about staying resilient.

About adapting to blips, or simply put, to sh*t happening. Which it always does in life, especially in new and difficult circumstances.

  • Could be unanticipated tech glitches encountered when doing a live online workshop
  • Could be unexpected side effects of drug treatments
  • Could be officialdom being callous about citizen needs
  • Could be social media giants not having accessible support
  • Could be a doctor not coming through on their promise

These were just a few of my most recent blips.

What blips are on your radar that you’re rolling with?

Everyone has their own mantra.

Russell Brand

Do you have mantras you live by?  What are one or two of your current ones? Can you think of a mantra that you say to yourself that holds you back instead of moving you forward?

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  • The thought processes you are sharing here resonate with me, At present, the slow down to speed up strategy is so important to my health (physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, …) and I share it with anyone I can. Some people are naturally using this strategy. But most of us are bogged down in upbringings that have made us feel guilty if we are not striving to use every minute in too many ways. Not a healthy way to live. Love you, Cisca.

    • Over our many decades of friendship, we’ve most often been on the same page about such things, Jenniekins. I was just reading about some people tying their identities to external factors like work status/title, productivity, and I’ve personally known such unhappy folks. Not healthy, not joyful, not authentic. Indeed. Love you back, my dear friend. 💜🙏💜

  • I already told you how I giggled aloud (a true ‘LOL’, not just expression of, or shortcut for, lightheartedness in my writing) when you wrote, “About adapting to blips, or simply put, to sh*t happening” then went on to make examples. Yes yes to the mantras you describe here, and I adore the quotes you choose.

    Thank you as always for sharing this – it’s a balm and of such help to read these post, each and every one.

    • You make my heart sing, Joan. 💜🙏💜 And yessSS, you and I together are going to let the world know all about BLIPS and how best to handle them… because, darn it, don’t we all have them? All the time…?

  • You really had me at the end of your very first sentence when you said “at the time”. We grow and change and come across new circumstances and environments as we travel through life. And mantras that were the key to success at one point in our lives may need to fade into the background and new mantras need to come into sharper focus. A great essay!

    • Now that you mention it, Lable, yes (!), I could have emphasized more that my mantras are ever changing to fit my ever-changing circumstances. Thanks for pointing that out so astutely. 🌸🙏🌸

  • Hi Francisca,

    What an insightful blog. I especially like slow down to speed up. I will try to apply this to my life bit by bit.

    Sending you healing energy in your journey and battle against cancer.


    • I’m so pleased that landed well with you, Gayle! I find taking the mindful/intentional route surely more peaceful and less nerve-wracking. Thanks much also for the continuing healing energy; much appreciated as I continue my treatment program to change my cell structure to be less amenable to further cell division. (And as I’ve written elsewhere, there’s no battle going on here… 😉😇😘) 🌸🙏🌸

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