What if you could stop worrying with just a few simple words? There is mind training practice in Tibetan Buddhist called Lojong that inspired author and executive coach M.J. Ryan who has been using simple slogans with her clients to interrupt the habitual thought processes that hold them back. The mantras work, she writes, because they override the brain’s automatic response, “help you become consciously aware of what you’re doing—and serve as a reminder of what it is that you want to do.”
Below are five Mantras you can choose to resonate most with you and recall in need.
1) “Handshake your fear”: To gather courage
Fear can be a disease that weakens you if you’re generally afraid to speak publically or when expressing opinions to important business partners at work. Not only it would be able to keep you away from understanding your objectives, but it can also disturb you from simply enjoying your daily life. Lots of people around us suffer from this problem.
In Western culture fear is something people are generally taught to ignore or suppress; when they can’t, they get even more overwhelmed. But the Buddhists have a different perspective. They suggest you become a close friend with your fear, walk toward it as you would go to someone you loved who was feeling anxiety: “Oh, you poor thing, I see you are afraid. You’re not alone. I’m right here with you.” You are giving more attention to your fear by saying this, without ignoring it or making more out of it than already what there is. It sounds old ways, but in many cases, paying attention to a feeling can make it diminish or even disappear. These words can also help you to see that you’re more than your fear. Yes, there is both scared and bold or wise personality inside you. But getting in touch with that wiser, bolder-self will help you to face with confidence rather than fear.
2) “Undistort the distortion”: To find confidence
Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her book Lean In that women are plagued by much lower self-confidence than men, and it is based on the many studies done across a wide range of disciplines. This unfortunate phenomenon can be seen in may ways. For example, women consistently judge their performance as worse than it actually is, while men judge their performance as better than it is. If both women and man apply for a job, women don’t feel qualified unless they think they can match 100% of the criteria, but men can apply with the confidence of 50% match of the criteria. It can be very hard to change this phenomenon, though we know it is not social or not personal. In writing about it, Sandberg noted about herself, “I learned over time that while it was hard to shake feelings of self-doubt, I could understand that there was a distortion. … I learned to undistort the distortion.” Working women used it to recognize when they’re doubting themselves and to act in spite of their self-doubt, knowing that if they waited until they felt self-confident, they would wait forever.
3) “This is only a paper tiger”: To manage stress
You feel like the ravenous tiger will devour you, while you are stressed about something. The problem seems formidable and you don’t see how you can are possibly going to cope. But there is a way out—recognizing that what you are facing is only a paper tiger, not a real one. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a problem, just that it’s not one that threatens your life. Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson created this metaphor to illustrate the fact that the stress response was designed to save you from physical danger—like a tiger chasing you. But your amygdala, which is where the stress response originates, can’t differentiate between a tiger and a traffic jam. So it responds as if a tiger were after you when you’re only stuck in line, experiencing a flight delay, or anticipating an important presentation.
Using this habit changing mantra whenever you are stressed reminds your body/mind you’re not in mortal danger so you can calm down and figure out how to deal with that line, delay, or presentation. This habit changer can be a life saver, one stressed-out client said recently. “It’s made it possible for me to stop, figure out if there even is a problem, solve it when needed, and then proceed with my day more calmly.”
4) “Don’t go in your mind where your body is not”: To quiet anxiety
We do constantly worry about all the terrible thing that might happen? Many of us torture ourselves with this brand of magical thinking: If we worry now, it will help keep the bad thing away. Actually, we ourself make miserable now as we focus on the prospect of misfortune and the unhappiness we will feel if it occurs, which it usually doesn’t! If we’re a chronic worrier, we should try this habit changer, which can come courtesy of a client of yours.
One of the guys worked with the woman to stop worrying about all the possible future catastrophes that could befall her and suggested that she says to herself, he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it. Soon after, they came to the end of her coaching engagement and she moved on to an overseas work assignment. A couple years later, she called him out of the blue to say how helpful it had been to learn to “not go in her mind where her body is not.” It had completely eliminated her worrying. He was so delighted with her translation that now he gives it to all his worries. Use it to remind yourself that all worries are in the future and likely will not come to pass. You’re not there yet—it’s all happening in your mind. And if some terrible thing does indeed happen, you can deal with when it arrives.
5) “Look how far I’ve come”: To summon strength
Horizon effect is a strategy, long-distance runners use to resist the temptation to give up when they’re tired or in pain. Rather than focusing on how far they still have to go, they encourage themselves to keep at it based on the progress they’ve already made.
When you have clients with a tendency to focus on their mistakes when they’re learning a new behaviour, you give them this habit changing mantra to help them cultivate the resilience to keep at it. Because of the brain’s tendency to be Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive, as Rick Hanson describes our inborn negativity bias when people encounter a minor setback, they often lose sight of the progress they’ve made.
You’ll never forget the client who called you to say she was a “total failure” at managing her anger because she’d stomped down the hall after a meeting. She was ready to give up on her anger-management efforts altogether. You reminded her that it was the first time she’d lost her temper in three months, whereas before it had been a weekly occurrence. Once she adopted this habit changer, it helped her stick to the techniques she’d found useful. Plus it helped her get back on the horse when she messed up because she was able to see it as just an occasional slip-up rather than a fundamental failure. Use this mantra when you need help sticking to whatever it is you’re’ working on.