For much of my life, I have used mantras and jingles to help motivate me, navigate responsibilities, and fulfill tasks. When I was a little girl, my mother sang a jingle, “Keep your sunny side up, let your laughter shine through” that reminded me (and helped me remind others) to stay positive and look for the humor in situations (with lines like “Stand up on your legs! Be like two fried eggs! Keep your sunny side up!”). I still use that catchy little ditty to diffuse the doldrums and bring me (and people around me) to a sunnier, funnier state of mind.
In middle school, we had a teacher who implored us to stand up every morning in homeroom and say aloud, “I’m a can do person- I am a can do person- I’m a can do person. Yes I am.” This resonated with me at age 11 or 12 because it felt so bold and assertive; now, it strikes me as empowering and brave.
In high school, I repurposed a buddhist phrase to create my first enduring mantra: No self, no problem. Over the years many people have wondered if it means that I am literally advocating for the denial of the self. But in actuality the intent is letting go of the ego. Without the ego (making everything about oneself), one can minimize all the drama and desire that goes along with it. I spent many years- when faced with an unsavory, gossipy impulse to add my two cents- reminding myself that “it has nothing to do with me” and if I let go of my ego’s need to assert power/control/dominance/whathaveyou, I was subtracting myself from the situation and suddenly free to move on.
In my 20s, I used a running mantra to just keep going, to…yup, just do it (the ad exec who came up with Just Do It for Nike deserves royalties!). When in doubt, just keep running. I have vivid memories of running around the reservoir in Central Park and using that mantra to combat any doubts I had about running another lap or even just running the last stretch of the loop. I would have an entire pep talk with my own mind that basically boiled down to, “Hey KO, you should keep going. You’ve run this before and you know you can do it again. If there is any doubt as to whether you should keep running or not, keep running.” This became “when in doubt, keep running” which in turn became “keep running” when I entered my 30s and began training for marathons.
Now, with my 39th birthday less than 2 weeks away, and my pregnancy in my 3rd trimester, I am enjoying a new jingle. It was inspired by- and sprouted up out of- a major cleaning and purging binge around the house last week. I started singing “I’m making a difference, everywhere I go…Mama’s makin’ a difference, everybody knows.” At first it was so silly I had to share: O and G both laughed at my goofy (to O) and corny (to G) enthusiasm. But everyday as I make a bigger dent in the massive cleaning/purging undertaking/extravaganza, I find myself humming or singing it as a way to reward myself and pat myself on the back and encourage myself to keep on keepin’ on. It feels good to chip away at the mess; it feels good to sort the stuff; it feels good to toss, share, and donate away the things. It feels great to make a difference.
Mantras and jingles are encouraging, reassuring cheers initiated by your inner cheerleader. And they work. I recently stumbled upon this article about yogic mantras for adults and kids alike. It’s a brief but beautiful summary of 7 different mantras you can use- and teach your kids to use- including “You are enough” and “Remember to have fun.” If none of my examples above get you excited, maybe some of those 7 will. And, of course, there’s always the tried and true, oldie but goodie: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
I encourage you to think about any effective techniques you use to motivate, instigate, and congratulate yourself and to please share any mantras or jingles you and your family use in the comments. Thanks!