A few years ago, our marketing manager had me writing "Morning Minutes" to connect with people who support our mission as a nonprofit organization. The idea was to send a brief email to our donor list, about once a month, to put a face on what we do and why we do it. This one ended up having a lasting impact on me.
Your best self...
After five decades of life (and then some), I still ask myself if I’m living day to day as my best self. An unabashedly honest answer would have to be probably not each and every day, but hopefully most days I’m at least thinking about it. I think it’s defined differently day to day, but for me, my best self includes being kind (harder than it sounds), finding creative purpose (so important for my personal overall happiness), listening without interrupting (sigh), giving back (getting outside of myself in big or little ways) and pushing my body to some new ability (if I can ride my bike faster, then my mind feels stronger too). I have to remind myself sometimes that being able to pursue my best self is a gift. I have skills and abilities that allow me to do almost every single thing I want to do…or at least try!
I also have to remind myself sometimes that people with disabilities or people who have experienced diminished skills and abilities due to aging aren’t always able to be their best self all by themselves. It’s the highest expression of our mission to help people be more than happy, healthy and safe; it is helping each person to be their best self. We may not achieve that every day, but when we see someone has the joy of a first paycheck, has learned to ride a bike, is going to the beach for the first time, and is growing in confidence and independence, we know we’re on the right track.
What will you do today to be your best self? Can you write down what "best self" means to you? What will you do today to help someone you care about be her or his best self? Can you write down what "best self" means to them? What might the world look like if we all expressed our best selves…and worked to support the best selves of those who can’t quite do it on their own?
Your mantra is the words of your best self
I thought long and hard about the first paragraph before and after I wrote it. My best self. What does my best self look like? What is important to me? Who do I want to be even when I'm not? What do I want people experience when they're around me, getting to know me? What words capture my identity?
The five characteristics I initially identified haven't changed, but I did reduce them to seven words.
These words became a mantra--my mantra--as I clarified and reduced them to the most essential expression. A mantra needs to:
Be simple enough to remember. These words remind me who I want to be in all the minutes of my life. They serve as an ongoing meditation.
Be enough to capture what is most important. There's no magic to having seven words. It could be 10 words or 4 words. These words cover a lot of ground. None of them can be removed without leaving a hole but no other words need to be added to make the mantra complete.
Be forever words. I hope to get one fairly sizable tattoo this year. I'm thinking about incorporating these words somehow. Even if I don't, these words are tattoo worthy.
Write your mantra.
Here's how you do it:
1. Brainstorm. What do you have to do to be truly you? Who do you want to be even in the moments you aren't? How do you want to be remembered? What are the words you want people to use to describe you? Brainstorm these words and phrases. Write them down. Make certain you've captured the most important things.
2. Edit. Cross out any word that is too specific or feels like it belongs on your bucket list. For example, if you've written as part of your brainstormed list 'complete 3 marathons every year', 'run', 'compete', 'be a good leader', 'problem solver', 'mentor' on your list, you can cross out 'complete 3 marathons' and probably 'problem solver'. Plan to put the marathons on your goal list for the year every January and consider that 'problem solver' might be an aspect of leading.
3. Group. Put the remaining list into logical groupings. Using the above example, run and compete would go together. Mentor and good leader probably go together. Edit and group the words until you have somewhere between 4 and 10 groupings of words or phrases (but 10 is a lot!).
4. Determine the forever words. You're looking for one or two words to represent each group. The final words should also be active words. For mentor and good leader, the word might be "lead". For run and compete, the word could be "compete" if competing is what drives you or it could be "sweat" if like me, it's about exertion and performance or it could be "run" if you can't imagine a time when you won't.
5. These aren't hard and fast rules. After all, it's your mantra. If you want to use a word that doesn't fit the guidelines, use it! You may decide to use "friend" because being a good friend is the very most important thing to you. It isn't an active word, but there may not be another word that's exactly right. The word "friend" does convey who you want to be and will provide that reminder or focus when you say your mantra to yourself. And even though I do think the words should be tattoo-worthy, there's no law that says a mantra can't change. I've considered many times adding "be present" to my mantra. I haven't because it's more a challenge from myself to myself where my other words have to do with how I interact with the world. At least that's how I see it. You may see it differently.
Use your mantra as a meditation or a prayer, as a guide back to your best self.
Hi, I'm Donna. Long time artisan/creative. Full time work in nonprofit world. Mother of two adult sons. Currently, also mother of two cats.
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