Do you ever wonder why so many politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, and others in the spotlight engage in such foolish, hurtful, and sometimes corrupt activities? Is it that people who want to be celebrities are somehow wired differently from everyone else — that the special something in their DNA that draws them to the limelight also causes them to act badly? Or, is it that many of us act badly but we don’t have cameras following us around? It would be easy to point fingers and claim superiority, but I don’t think that fits reality.
The successful executive who commands attention and respect from his employees and industry, but whose kids and spouse ignore and ridicule him. The pastor who is addicted to porn. The super mom who seems to manage it all but is addicted to Vicodin. We are surrounded by people who purport to be one thing, while at the same time doing something completely different during their other 8 hours. They are on your TV, in the movies, and elected to office. They are also in your church, in your neighborhood . . . and in your house.
In fact, you may well be one of those people yourself. Sure, you might not be addicted to drugs or having an affair, but I’m sure there are things you are doing in your life that you are not proud of — we all do. But to avoid embarrassment (at the least) and other nasty things from happening by living with multiple personalities, you can create personal mantras that will help guide your decisions, your actions, and ultimately, your life.
A mantra is a short statement that defines your view about something. For example, you might have the nutrition mantra of “nothing fried and nothing sweet.” This simple statement defines what is acceptable and what isn’t quite succinctly. In the heat of the moment when the waiter asks, “What can I get you?” you can fall back on this mantra to help you answer that question. It doesn’t require a great deal of thought, a fancy iPhone nutrition app, or a special dietary formula.
I’m a big fan of creating mantras across many areas of my life — health, family, money, relationships, etc. Some of mine include:
- Family – To be there and engaged.
- Friends – Support them in times of need.
- Personal Development – To advance and grow each day.
- Spiritual – A little bit closer each day.
Each mantra is a lens through which I can then quickly and easily make decisions.
Thinks of mantras as battle armor. They are crafted on your own turf and in a safe setting. You then put them on out in the real world where they face a barrage of attacks. This is much better than being armor-less when asked what you’d like to eat and having the inevitable inner debate where you try to rationalize ordering the French fries and cheesecake.
Mantras are powerful tools that can help you make decisions quickly. They are the traffic light to the four-way stop. I’d much rather pull up to a red light than a four-way stop. At a four-way stop you never know who goes first. Do I go? I think I got here first, but I remember something from driver’s ed about letting the car to the left go first. So then everyone starts to go at the same time and you have this dance that takes place until someone finally says screw it and plows forward. A traffic light is much more efficient. It’s red; you stop. It’s green; you go. There is no second guessing. No rationalizing.
Mantras can help you streamline your personal decisions, and if communicated effectively, they can also help your employees make decisions. Again, by creating a mantra (or message or whatever you want to call them), you are creating a decision lens. All behaviors must first be viewed through this lens.
I was reminded of the power of using mantras as a decision making tool just today. I interviewed David Plouffe, the 2008 presidential campaign manager for Barack Obama, regarding his new book, The Audacity to Win (great book — much more on this in future columns). This campaign quickly established their message (i.e., mantras) early on: change versus broken status quo, people versus special interests, a politics that would lift the people and the country up, a president that would not forget the middle class. Whenever they or their campaign staff had a decision to make, they would view it through their message lens. If it fit with their overall theme, they’d go forward. If it didn’t, they’d do something different.
Everyone says you should live an “authentic” life. For me, I think that just means getting clear on the big issues and not doing stupid things that aren’t really me in the heat of the moment. And one of the best ways I’ve found to live an authentic life is to create and use personal mantras.
Now it’s your turn. What mantras can you create that will guide your decisions and your life?
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