First of all, what is a mantra? According to Wikipedia, “a mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered capable of ‘creating transformation’.”
I have a collection of mantras that I learned along the way and try to live by. I have adopted and repeated them for satisfying life change, when I needed to reframe my perspective and outlook.
Now, into my ThirdThird (ages 60-90), I find that my ‘mantras’ have given me good foundation for making this part of my life the very best.
Here are five of my mantras and brief explanations of how I learned them.
I am a rules follower, when I have deemed the rules worth following. Grammar, driving, doing what you say you will, polite behavior, reading a book from the front to the back, putting your dirty dishes into the dishwasher… all of those examples of when I will definitely follow the rules.
However, some things should just be done ‘perfect enough’ – grammar misuse duly noted.
While I admit this mantra has come from learning to recognize and accept my own non-inclination towards perfection, often in contrast to some other members of my family’s inclination towards it, mine is often a very reasonable approach.
For instance, making something work might just be a better use of time than fixing it. A garden hose with a hole? Duct tape will hold off a trip to the store. New recipe without all the ingredients? Substitute chicken for beef or flour for cornstarch.
Re-arrange the furniture and live with it for a while before sliding and shoving again and again to reach feng shui perfection. Leaving the house with the bed unmade will not result in disaster.
Tempering the urge to perfection saves me time and much angst.
Do not hand control of your life into the hands of other people. Operative word here is “controlled.” Being compassionate, patient, forgiving. Yes. Controlled? No.
Let’s be honest. There are times when someone in our own family, or in any relationship, does something that is either abnormal (we all have our bad days), unhealthy – think diet, substances, short temper – or unkind.
They will give the silent treatment instead of talking it out, lie to say it doesn’t matter or didn’t hurt, or make themselves unavailable.
If I go around fretting, noticing all the dysfunction, I concentrate on the DYS… and miss the FUN. There is a simple truth: we are all imperfect creatures. To expect perfection is unfair and unrealistic. One of my favorite quotes is, “95% of families are dysfunctional and 5% are in denial.”
I have learned from my own son, who is an active 12-step follower, that it is not my responsibility to make other people happy. Or for others to keep me happy. Let’s put the fun back in dysfunctional!
I like to write. I like to talk. I enjoy expressing myself in entertaining ways that are a pleasure to the listener. I like to use a variety of words. There are so many to choose from!
So, I don’t use ‘bad’ words… unless it is entirely appropriate. Occasionally, a situation, an event or a person calls for a well-placed word that accurately describes and/or let’s off steam.
I could give examples, but I think I will not. You would probably need to be there to fully appreciate the appropriateness.
There is such a variety of words in the English dictionary that it is not usually necessary to use boring, negative or crude words that indicate a limited imagination.
In preparation for writing a book with my husband, How to Stay Married, I have been perusing my old journals. There was a stretch of time when we stayed in a destructive and painful environment for too long. Reading about those years in the 1980s made me sadder than I have been in a long time.
With many years of perspective, I see that the main issue was that my own story was not honored. I was different than others in that organization – stronger, more openly opinionated, a questioner. As a result, there were attempts to control me, mold me into someone more apt for the group.
Those years caused me physical, emotional and spiritual pain. I have to say that our children were affected, too.
I learned from those experiences. As I was able to pull away and distance myself from the destructive, I found healthy relationships. I saw that differences are natural and healthy.
As I listened to others’ stories, I found I was blessed by knowing and honoring other people’s lives. While the 80s were hard, I am glad to have learned the value in honoring our varying paths.
I love change. I love a challenge. I see how progress can be made. I make lists. I dive in.
But too much change all at once usually results, at best, in temporary progress instead of life long change. In my life/business coaching experience, I learned to encourage people to find ONE thing to change.
Need to lose weight? Don’t quit all carbs, just find ONE item you won’t have in your home. Want to start exercising? Don’t say that you will work out an hour every day. Find ONE activity you will stick with that is realistic, like walking around the block after dinner.
After conquering that ONE thing for a few weeks, add in ONE more.
A brother-in-law lost 15 pounds in a month by deciding to have only ONE plateful at a meal, no seconds. A client grew her client base by making ONE phone call a day to prospect, while another who said she would spend 3 hours a day prospecting pooped out pretty quickly.
Purging your closet ONE item at a time with a ready bag designated for recycling will take less time and less emotional energy than going through your whole closet/basement/garage at once.
Finishing the book you are reading now is a step towards the goal of reading a book a week… with more chance of success.
I have other mantras. In fact, I am writing my second book, Mantras for Your BEST ThirdThird. So, I may be sharing more with you in the future.
What are your mantras? What lessons have you learned along your life that you use now to make your ThirdThird (past age 60) satisfying? What do you remind yourself of regularly? Please join the conversation below.