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June 2, 2008

rational triggers for the emotoself

I use short phrases to combat stagnation and anxiety. The problem is that inspirational phrases too often have short shelf lives. "Celebrate Life" seemed to have an impact on me one night while I lay in bed thinking about how my life is like a washing machine drum, spinning but not moving. I repeated those two words like a mantra for a couple months until they were just two words again. Then "Respect The Time You Are Given" gave me a push. That lasted for about as long as it took me to jot it down. For the moment I am hooked on "What Would The Hero You Do?". When I start to feel lazy or trapped I think of a perfect version of myself and try to imagine what he would be doing right then and there. I don't always emulate him (my pecs aren't big enough), but it serves me well...for now.

Do you do this? What does your garbage can of failed motivations look like?

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Comments (327)

I wrote a sticky note and put it on my monitor a few months ago. It says "Follow Through".

Posted by: rumoko at June 2, 2008 10:52 AM

I'm the opposite. For me it usually takes a long, drawn out bit of prose to work out how I feel and getting everything down on paper helps me to rationalise the problem that I'm facing. Sometimes this takes the form of a discussion with someone else or an email: sharing my problems makes me feel better about them and it's often another person's perspective that makes me feel better. This is especially true when it comes to motivation: my drive often comes from other people. My garbage can is a folder on my laptop that I'm almost embarrassed to look back on because, as you say, they meant a lot once but now they're just words.

Posted by: Mac at June 2, 2008 11:10 AM

I do this all the time. They work for about a week before they start sounding like stale Stuart Smalley quotes. Currently "humble confidence" is getting me through each day.

Posted by: Wally at June 2, 2008 11:23 AM

funny, my motivational speeches aren't generally failures (i have more speeches than phrases). when it comes to mundane things like dishes, laundry and running, i tell myself, "you can think about why you don't want to do it while you're doing it." (god help any future children from my pitiless, smart aleck nature.) or i play my own "hero" under the guise of "good roommate" or "responsible person."

when it comes to my passions though, combined with a lazy spell, i simply tell myself "get over yourself," and remind myself that i'm better off working the state job i left if i'm going to sit on my ass and not fulfill my personal obligations. then i put on my running shoes, fire up the ipod "hot stuff" playlist, and tell myself i can think about why i'd rather be moping, WHILE i'm running.

is everyone this nuts?

Posted by: liz at June 2, 2008 11:34 AM

I've had a scripture passage in my head for the last 10 years (or so).

Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

It's a little bit of a commentary on being a college student... study all night and sleep through the exam the next day.

Posted by: Mike Garrett at June 2, 2008 11:35 AM

"Right here, right now." Said to deep in and out breaths.

Brings me into the present, where anything is possible, and things are usually good. It's only when I get dragged into looping on past failures or predictions of future failure that I get blocked or stressed out.

Posted by: Mary Ann at June 2, 2008 11:39 AM

I do, actually. For a while it was 'This too shall pass'. (Not a very fun time in my life.) Lately I seem to go back to 'Be the change you want to see in the world' a lot, mostly in regards to my own life and how I do things.

Posted by: Elodie at June 2, 2008 11:40 AM

Justify your existence.

Posted by: Chrisopher at June 2, 2008 11:45 AM

Right now it's 'Time - use it or lose it.' I'm a great procrastinator.

A couple of years ago I had a small table calendar, cut out the pages, left only their frame, glued in pieces of paper (different colours) and wrote something motivational for every page, one for each week. It used to be quite good - long enough to sink in or contemplate, but short enough not to get bored with it. And colourful enough to capture my fleeting attention.
The whole thing worked for three years, but now I'm too lazy to turn over to a new page.

However, I still have it on my workdesk.

Posted by: Ysa at June 2, 2008 11:56 AM

Relaxed concentration. (Or: A relaxed mind is a creative mind. From a teabag label.)

Posted by: sarah at June 2, 2008 11:57 AM

I like the Emily Dickinson line "Hope is the thing with feathers", because it reminds me to keep moving forward.

Posted by: Sarah at June 2, 2008 12:03 PM

A quote I always come back to is from Journey to the West. Monkey is talking to his teacher: "Sounds difficult" said Monkey. "Nothing is difficult, it is only thinking that makes it seem so."

Often times it is only our own mind that makes things seem impossible, when really anything can be achieved if you just muster the guts to do it.

Also "No matter where you go, there you are" live in the moment and make it count.

Posted by: n0s0ap at June 2, 2008 12:07 PM

"Discipline is remembering what you want."

Posted by: Ke Ruthe at June 2, 2008 12:22 PM

This helps (might be slightly NSFW as contains a bit of swearing):


Posted by: Wilfred Knievel at June 2, 2008 12:31 PM

do easy

Posted by: zero at June 2, 2008 12:42 PM

Currently it's "Own it." Whatever it is you feel, it's okay, take ownership of it. Make it yours (instead of the other way around).

Posted by: Derek at June 2, 2008 12:50 PM

I was just thinking about this yesterday morning because a single phrase got me up and out for the day. My short phrases aren't collected in a trash can so much as a rolodex, as I seem to recycle them over time. A couple months ago, I kept writing "Only today" on my hands and in my notebooks to remind myself to live for the moment more. In the past this message could be recognized in "Breathe," "Look up [at the sky]," and "Be spontaneous!"

Now I'm working with, "I matter." It's depressing that I even have to use it but it does the job, so.

Posted by: Kelsey at June 2, 2008 12:57 PM

bob dylans line "he not busy being born is busy dying" I havnt tired of it yet

Posted by: rocco at June 2, 2008 12:57 PM

This is what I use sometimes:
"People aren't afraid to die, they're afraid that they weren't living to begin with."

At least, the way that they had ever hoped to. I think that if you live every waking moment of your life the way you've always imagined yourself doing, you will not fear death. You won't have to wonder if you will ever get the chance to do something that you could before, because you will have done it. This doesn't sound easy, but from another perspective, how easy is it to live your life knowing that you aren't living it as you intended? Is it easier to torture yourself? To short change yourself?
Ze, I really like this question, and am glad you have started asking a lot more in your blog. It seems like it used to be us asking all the questions, and it's nice to see that final space of communication between you and the viewers filling up. And as long as you don't start an online kissing booth, I think we'll be the right space apart. Thanks, Brian

Posted by: Brian at June 2, 2008 1:14 PM

I'll second the Gandhi quote from Elodie. I also use a variation on the one you mentioned about the "hero you" except I usually insert other people or characters who I look up to. I just find it to be easier to imagine what someone else would do, plus you can re-use it and just plug in different people.

Posted by: Lucas Martell at June 2, 2008 1:20 PM

The one that works right now is "No one respects a bowler" - which to me somehow tells my mind that 'activities' are rarely the stuff that legends get made from.

Past ones:
"My heart has never been so open" (whether it was or not, this is the reminder to make it so)

"Waste anything but time" (purportedly from early NASA days)

"Remember, you will die"

"False wall" (nearly every thing that I've come across where I figured "I can't" or "I won't" can easily be torn down, I just need to remember that the barrier is often imaginary and not enforced by anyone but myself)

Posted by: Doug at June 2, 2008 1:50 PM

During the bad times I also use, 'This too shall pass.' When I'm disappointed about how little I've accomplished in my life, I try to remember what I have and that helps, as evidenced here.


Posted by: alan at June 2, 2008 1:56 PM

Before I play any music I usually ask myself "Why do I not care?"

This, usually, fills me with a mixed bag of emotions that I am able to pick and choose from at will. I only need to repeat this a few times and I'm ready to go. It's some sort of verbal trigger that I've tied to all of my emotions.

Anger, sadness, joy, frustration, happiness, etc. All of these conjure up at once and allow me to express exactly what I need to express and when. Of course I usually don't look like any of my emotions while I'm playing, but I feel it.

Posted by: Ryan M at June 2, 2008 2:00 PM

"What would Ze do?"

Posted by: Rubrick at June 2, 2008 2:22 PM

I've done this for years but it just kinda stopped working... so now what I do is I have no saying...I've replaced words with a reflex. The second I become aware that I'm pondering being lazy or giving up I immediately get up and do something about it. If I think I don't wanna get up and start working, I shoot outa bed, grab my robe and start working my ass off before I have time to really talk myself out of it (I work from home so finding motivation is a constant strain).

Posted by: The Invisible Man at June 2, 2008 2:38 PM

"What would Ze do?"

Posted by: Rubrick at June 2, 2008 2:44 PM

One mantra that has actually helped me from time to time is, "You never *have* to do *anything*."

It flies in the face of various beliefs that each of us may or not incorporate, but the point of it is to get to the heart of why we do what we do. We often do things because we're told to do them, or because expectations are placed upon us by other individuals or organizations. In reality, we never really *need* to do anything. That's not to say that there won't be consequences for our actions, but we can accept those consequences willingly if we recognize that we can consciously choose what we do. A true recognition of this hands the power back to the individual. It means that if I do anything at all, it is because it is my choice.

It may sound irresponsible, but in fact, it is the ultimate assumption of responsibility for your own self that you can make. In any event, it has inspired me to either act boldly or stare at my navel, and often both at the same time.

Posted by: Steve at June 2, 2008 2:57 PM

I've a piece of paper with 'Do Everything Better' written backwards stuck over my bathroom door so that it reflects in the bathroom mirror the right way round. I can stare at it while I brush my teeth. It's slightly ironic though, rather than entirely inspirational. I hate the kind of advertising taglines that say things like 'You're worth it' or 'Just do it' etc. etc. So this is like a little wry double bluff on myself. I think my flatmate may think that I'm just intently staring at my reflection in the mirror and bolstering my ego each morning though.

Posted by: Lian at June 2, 2008 4:23 PM

i do this. i abbreviate the phrases and write them in between my fingers where people don't notice them much. they've usually sunk in by the time they wash off.

Posted by: darla at June 2, 2008 4:28 PM

I always fall off the wagon, only to climb on again using the same mantra-"WORK WILL SET YOU FREE." Yes, this is the slogan from Nazi concentration camps. No, I'm not a Nazi, but I like it anyway. This mantra helps me get through my daily 6+ hours of homework in my crazily competitive high school (Stuyvesant in NYC). I like to think about college and moving agay from this hellhole.

Posted by: Sam at June 2, 2008 4:28 PM

I tape my mantras to my monitor at work and keep them up there until I become sick of them or become effective enough that I can take them down. Currently, they include: "Believe you can do it. Then do it." "Grow a pair." "Stop apologizing and say something constructive for a change."

And because just telling myself not to say "I'm sorry" all the time wasn't enough of a message to myself, there's also the ze quote, "Shush...no more talking."

Posted by: Kimmyesque at June 2, 2008 4:28 PM

"No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place."

It's zen saying I read several years ago. I occasionally think about it when fate seems to be stacking the odds against me.

Posted by: Marcus at June 2, 2008 4:42 PM

"You will be compelled to manifest self-transformation." has gotten a lot of miles. I haven't transformed in the way I expected (weight-loss) but the results have been positive (cheerier, more socially active).

Posted by: Drake at June 2, 2008 4:42 PM

I love this game. I find the word "notice" to be oddly helpful as a mantra, but it sounds like nothing after about four repetitions. For years I loved, "Everything happens for a reason," but that one isn't doing it for me anymore.

Posted by: Kate at June 2, 2008 5:18 PM

I like: Notice and Be Present. I make lists of things to notice: sit on this bench for five minutes and notice seven different textures, or five different facial expressions, or eight different shades of green. Or be present and really listen and don't interrupt (I'm really bad at this).

I'm only really good at one of them: Dream.

Posted by: ingrid at June 2, 2008 5:24 PM

"live like the girl you want to be"

Posted by: Heather Meadows at June 2, 2008 5:47 PM

"Food is Fuel"

Posted by: Rony at June 2, 2008 5:47 PM


Posted by: xian at June 2, 2008 5:47 PM

We can not change the past, we can only make the future brighter!

Posted by: AmazingAngie at June 2, 2008 5:48 PM

Mine's short and sweet, usable for plenty of personal and professional situations:

"Because people, are fucking crazy."

So true, so true.

Posted by: Justin D at June 2, 2008 5:48 PM

I don't know if it quite qualifies, but I've been using this for a while: "Depression is your body's way of telling you that your life sucks and you need to change it." Reminds me that there's always something I can do.

Posted by: limbodog at June 2, 2008 5:51 PM

"Only Human" gives me the patience to accept when others let me down, and the ability to forgive myself when I make mistakes. I tend to become overanxious and stressed out at small things, in large part due to my perfectionist tendencies but I've also some OCD habits that I'm sure don't help matters.

"Only human" reassures me that everyone is trying to do the best they can, including myself.

And it helps, I'm definitely more positive since adopting it. Hopefully its efficacy does not fade too quickly.

Posted by: Leigh at June 2, 2008 5:51 PM

For normal activities I usually go with
"Finish the job!"

For biking or running I use
"The legs are strong, the mind is weak."

Posted by: Paulie [eatl/ga] at June 2, 2008 5:51 PM

My personality being what it is, I am more likely to need de-motivation, as it were. Not everything has to matter, not everything needs to be improved (at least right now), and not everything requires my hand in it. To that end, my mantra has become, "All is as it is, as am I."

I don't even need to accept it, is the beauty of the phrase. Even if I can't seem to bring myself to believe, it remains true.

Posted by: Starchy at June 2, 2008 5:51 PM

During some bad times, it was "All things must pass."

For a long time it was "be here now".

More often than not, it's "oh, what the hell."

Posted by: teko at June 2, 2008 5:52 PM

Life is too short to drink bad beer.

Posted by: Ginger at June 2, 2008 5:52 PM

label tapes on my computer monitor:

"don't take the bait"
"stay on target"
"this machine will waste all yr time/if you let it"

Kind of a downer, huh?

Posted by: jpb at June 2, 2008 5:53 PM

'Love More. Fear Less' helps me out.

Posted by: Halcyon at June 2, 2008 5:53 PM

"RIIIIIIIIIIIIIICOLAAAAA!" After yodeling this, I usually feel like I can take on the day. I'm sure this will get old very soon. :)

Posted by: hoohash at June 2, 2008 5:53 PM

"Kill. People."

Posted by: Toucan at June 2, 2008 5:53 PM

I have two fortune cookie messages taped to my wall at work:

"You will overcome difficult times" and "You will be surrounded by things of luxury"

I always stare at those when I'm frustrated.

But this is taped to my wall and makes me giggle everytime i see it:

Posted by: jenni at June 2, 2008 5:55 PM

saying it. doing it.

Posted by: irene at June 2, 2008 5:55 PM

"Be greater than."

(What it is I'm trying to be greater than changes often: yesterday, others, my flaws, my dad's sentiments towards me, my best achievement, etc.)

Posted by: Jeremiah at June 2, 2008 5:55 PM

I do this all the time, but I wouldn't say that the mantras I've had in the past are "failed motivations," exactly; more likely they've just been retired for a bit while other mantras more suitable for my everyday life are employed. I have a tendency to go overboard with the mantras, typesetting them, adding images or sketches, printing them out, and posting them on a full-length mirror I have hanging in my bedroom, so I can see them before I leave my apartment each day. I think my three favorite ones are: "Let me be brave in the attempt," "Eyes that do not see are a heart that does not feel," and, perhaps my favorite mantra right now, "Eat My Fear."

Posted by: Atherton Bartelby at June 2, 2008 5:55 PM

I go with zen: "Nichi nichi kore kōnichi", which means (pretty much) "Every day is a good day". Good for something, and preferable to no day at all.

Posted by: Wiley at June 2, 2008 5:55 PM

Seems like the -isms that resonate with me are more zen in nature. Sayings like "It is what it is" or "wherever you go, there you are". Help remind me we're all pretty much clueless and the general impermanence of things is just kinda how it is. No reason worrying.

Posted by: marty at June 2, 2008 5:58 PM

I use a few:

"You arent thinking big enough"

"Get outside the box" (usually this is in a yell, trying to make that paradigm shift from conventional to creative)

"Do what you can with what you have." (I think this is actually part of a quote from some famous historical figure.)

and most recently I've started telling people:

"If you are not nervous about your latest venture or push, you are not far enough out on the ledge...nothing revolutionary happens from the comfort of a safety harness"

I love this...cant wait to see other people's phrases.

Posted by: Andrew Cafourek at June 2, 2008 5:59 PM

I've always been a fan of the old adage "knowledge is power".

These days I'm forgetting everything.

So much for my power.

Posted by: Mark Busse at June 2, 2008 5:59 PM

I usually just go the instant gratification route and masturbate.

But if I had no arms, then I'd say, "by god I wish I had arms."

Bottom line, as long as I can make myself happy I don't need to rely on words to keep anxiety at bay.

Posted by: duffy at June 2, 2008 6:00 PM

Be the river.

Posted by: d at June 2, 2008 6:00 PM

Right now I'm going with "Do what's right for everyone, not just yourself." That makes me seem like a selfish bastard, but I really am just trying to do the "right thing."

Posted by: Noel Jackson at June 2, 2008 6:02 PM

I just go the instant gratification route and masturbate.

But if I had no arms, then I'd say, "by god I wish I had arms."

Bottom line, as long as I can make myself happy I usually don't rely on words to keep anxiety at bay.

Posted by: duffy at June 2, 2008 6:02 PM

"Surrender" ...as in release all those thoughts, expectations & controls.

Posted by: Mars at June 2, 2008 6:04 PM

"Love, valor, compassion!"

Timely reminder. Thank you.

Posted by: Yatima at June 2, 2008 6:04 PM

I try to combat my off and on laziness by telling myself "Just fuckin' do it." Usually it works.

Posted by: Dawson at June 2, 2008 6:05 PM

"Take a risk."

Posted by: Josh Mock at June 2, 2008 6:05 PM

i use "YOU are the beloved guest" when i resist doing something for myself (cooking a nice dinner, cleaning the apartment, etc) that i'd happily do if a friend were coming over.

Posted by: judith at June 2, 2008 6:05 PM

"Enjoy yourself."

That is also a wake up call to stop doing or at least evaluate what I'm doing. Makes me find the benefit of shitty situations.

Posted by: Matt Todd at June 2, 2008 6:06 PM

When I'm feeling anxious, I sing...

"This is the song that I sing when I'm scared of something, I don't know why but it helps me get over it.

The words of this song just move me along,
and somehow I get over it.


You know the rest. It works. I love it, and thank you.

Posted by: r2ro at June 2, 2008 6:06 PM

Right now, it's asking myself "Who do I want to be?"
One of my friends said to ask "What would love do?" That doesn't strike my interest whatsoever. It's interesting to see what peaks someone's motivation and choices, can come across as cheesy or un-motivational to another.

Posted by: meagneato at June 2, 2008 6:08 PM

Used to be something like "An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's."

I still like that, but now I'm more attached to "The universe is just a little thing we whipped up for our entertainment the other night, and then all agreed to forget the gag."

Reminds me that I control my own reality. A very hard thing to remember sometimes living in Brooklyn.

Posted by: quirk at June 2, 2008 6:11 PM

we crawl inside of ourselves for control.
we crawl inside of ourselves for control.
we crawl inside of ourselves for control.

granted, you have to crawl back out eventually, but like the pioneers who had to gut horses to use as shelter during prairie fires, crawling inside oneself for control gets you through the rough patch. just be sure to never mind the guts.

Posted by: skampy at June 2, 2008 6:11 PM

My favorite has always been a Dr. Seuss rhyme: "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is you-er than you."

Currently though, the chorus from the new Weezer single ("Pork and Beans") has struck a chord with me: "I'm gonna do the things that I wanna do, I ain't got a thing to prove to you....I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like; I'm fine and dandy with the me inside." I've always been able to relate to Weezer's lyrics, ever since I started listening to them in junior high.

Posted by: Terry M at June 2, 2008 6:11 PM

I do my best to make sure they're positive. It's enough work just to combat the negative stuff I've absorbed in the past.

But when I'm at my best this is the one that always helps me see straight:

"Someday I will die. What would I like to do before then?"

Posted by: Jack Danger Canty at June 2, 2008 6:14 PM

End of High School and beginning of college it was "Just Live", which did amazing things for me.

Late in college when I had trouble waking up I posted a sign in my room that said "Wake Up to Feel Gooood."

Last year I had a sign by my bed that said "Pause, Consider, then commit."

Throughout my mature life though, the one that's never really lost its luster is "Be Present." It lacks that kind of platitude or trite nature, and is such a basic thing we (maybe it's just I?) forget to do, that makes such a big deal when I do remember to do it.

Posted by: Rafi at June 2, 2008 6:15 PM

"Live hard" or "Do it"

Posted by: Kevin Fox at June 2, 2008 6:16 PM

I generally go with what the fortune cookie says. "You have the wisdom of the ages at your fingertips" was the last one. Read that while eating lunch and wasting time on Twitter...

Posted by: mike mcgrath at June 2, 2008 6:19 PM

Not to totally suck up to you ze, but this is actually true. There was an episode of the show (http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/archives/2006/07/071106.html I believe) where you warned of not being addicted to "brain crack". I found it oddly applicable for what often happens to me—keeping a good idea inside to cuddle up with when other ideas are failing. Now, when I think about that, it helps me push all my ideas out.

Posted by: Justin Dickinson at June 2, 2008 6:19 PM

Meow Mix commercial "Meow Meow Meow"

Posted by: Andrew at June 2, 2008 6:20 PM

You can do this.

Sometimes it's just too hard to believe that one. But other times, it's helpful. So maybe it's not in the garbage can yet, but certainly in the junk drawer of mislaid motivations.

Posted by: Laura at June 2, 2008 6:21 PM

I'm too embarassed to tell you mine.
But we share the "hero self"-talk. i have one too.

Posted by: Clara at June 2, 2008 6:21 PM

well it was the ever popular gandhi quote "be the change you wish to see in the world" but honestly there wasn't much change i could do stuck in school in the middle of cornfields that would change the world.
so recently i found two great ones that have stuck for me:
1. it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
2 numbing the pain for a while makes it worse when you finally feel it.
because i've been abusing sleeping pills and pain killers for a few years now, this has helped clean me up and let me accept the real world and the responsibilities that come with it.

Posted by: kristina at June 2, 2008 6:24 PM

Echoing Rafi...

Be Present
Be Present
Be Present

(Usually hard to do -- trying to work from home with a 2 year old!) Excellent question - and great to read oter's comments!

Posted by: Anne at June 2, 2008 6:25 PM

Actually, Ze, I kinda like your last Twitter as a "motivational" message: "isn't it wonderful that we all get to grow old together?" I think I'm going to put that on a post-it right now.

Posted by: Melanie at June 2, 2008 6:26 PM

"Time flies like the wind, and fruit flies like bananas." nonsense is life.

Posted by: Mike at June 2, 2008 6:27 PM

"it is what it is." I say that to myself at least once a day about the things I can't do anything about, which is a lot of things. It lets me refocus my energy on what I can do and then I do it. But let's face it, I'm not perfect so it's not like this is a magic pill or anything, but it does keep me from the spiral into there's nothing I can do, what's the point, blah, blah, blah mode.

I do like your example of the hero-me; it's a wonderful way to approach things.

Posted by: Megan64 at June 2, 2008 6:32 PM

"I control my life". Those are the words I say to help me do anything and deal with eveything.

Posted by: Foster at June 2, 2008 6:36 PM

An old roommate of mine had this, and I've liked it:

"Fire and motion." From the military, actually. Broken down, keep shooting, keep moving.

Don't stagnate, keep doing interesting things.

Posted by: Peter at June 2, 2008 6:37 PM

Stand like a mountain, bend like the grass.

Posted by: Nicole at June 2, 2008 6:41 PM

"You are enough." This was taken from Michael Buckley, but I've been using it a lot here lately.

Posted by: Danny at June 2, 2008 6:42 PM

A Happy Gilmore quote, "Get in the hole!..." I just find myself putting things in holes a lot.

Posted by: Trimpot at June 2, 2008 6:42 PM

I have two:

For when I'm having trouble getting started:

"Hurry up and lose your first 50 games."

and for when I'm having trouble getting finished what I started:

"Own What's Yours."

Posted by: Tom Bridge at June 2, 2008 6:43 PM

i have the word "choice" tattooed on my forearm, inside a key. this keeps me motivated to make SOME choice, as that is usually my roadblock.

Posted by: lexi at June 2, 2008 6:43 PM

"You're a cartoonist - so CARTOON!"

Posted on the wall of my studio, since my artwork had become somewhat stiff.

Posted by: pj at June 2, 2008 6:44 PM

Not much of a motivation, but I have "WTF?" on my coffee mug at work. It suits all occasions.

Posted by: Scott at June 2, 2008 6:47 PM

Who are you now, who is the person you want to be, and what are you doing to get there?

Posted by: Max at June 2, 2008 6:52 PM

Simple. "Keep going."

Posted by: Joelg at June 2, 2008 6:55 PM

In response to negative self-talk: "Stop. I'm fine. I'm moving forward."

Posted by: Metal Fatigue at June 2, 2008 6:58 PM

Remember to put you pants on in the morning before answering the door....

Posted by: Philip at June 2, 2008 7:02 PM

The phrase that I have used to get through things in the past is "I'm a tough guy." However in hard times I have found myself sobbing "I am not a tough guy" to my husband. The one that I use lately is "I will never be given more than I can handle". My husband and I lost a baby four years ago to a rare birth defect. For months I went through the "why me's" wondering... Someone said to me "you must be an amazing person to have had her choose you as her mother". The thought that bad things happen for a reason, and that they are what make me an amazing person, has really shaped my life since then.

Posted by: mcwhclan at June 2, 2008 7:12 PM

I channel Dory from _Finding Nemo_:

"Just keep swimming...just keep swimming..." And lots of slow, counted breaths.

Posted by: madeline at June 2, 2008 7:12 PM

I don't have hero-talk as much as I have the "get off your cross already, you look silly up there" talks, and then I pump myself back up.

1. The world is not out to get you. Sorry, you're just not that important.
2. Find freedom in the fact that you're just not that important. Who cares if the neighbor saw you dancing in your living room? At worst, they've recorded you and you'll be a YouTube star. Go out and have fun, you're wasting time, you goof.
3. Even if there was some perfect storm of catastrophe brewing in your world (oh, lucky you! what would you do with all that attention??), it's going to be ok. It may not be the same ever again, it may be strange and scary, but it's going to be ok.
Alright, so by then I've washed out all the negative nonsense and start refilling it with fun nonsense... some of these thoughts don't really have much context but it seems to do the trick:
- every time I cross the street I feel like Jackie O
- fake it till you make it, then you're not faking it anymore (Do not do this with flammables or motorcycles)
- if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. now try it again.

And I have no idea why, but I think my superhero me drives a diamond-encrusted dumptruck.

Posted by: Sarah at June 2, 2008 7:31 PM

"Live life"

You don't automatically get a full life, you have to engage to get a return. If you don't push the limits, you don't feel the roller coaster. Living life is an investment in yourself.

Posted by: Mike Gray at June 2, 2008 7:32 PM

"If he could build a house, then he could mend the hole in the ship" from Sailor Dog by Margaret Wise Brown

To me it reminds me to figure out if the thing I'm doing is building a house (keeping me lost) after I get shipwrecked or if it is mending the hole in my ship (to get me back on course).

Posted by: Kurt at June 2, 2008 7:48 PM

For as long as I can remember my mom keeps telling me the same phrase when we speak on the phone. It used to really annoy the hell out of me, but over the years I've grown to find comfort in it and find it's a great way to start the day when you're feeling crappy:

"May something good happen to you today".

As a side note, my wonderful flatmate Isabella was feeling crappy this evening and now she's feeling much better after reading all these fantastic inspirational phrases from everyone! We've picked out our favorite and now she has a prescription to make her feel better, to be repeated twice a day everyday.

Thanks everyone, thanks Ze :)

Posted by: Mark Smith at June 2, 2008 7:53 PM

I am not good in tricking myself into a state of mind, I currently can't relate to, but sometimes it even works for me. "Life is, what you think it is" would be my current favourite, because it's so neutral, so it's no sleazy pep-talk or optimistic bogus (those just don't work for me), but rather a really realistic perspective on things from my point of view. Things may not be the way we perceive them in reality, due to our limitations down to senses, but living our own life is all based on these very perceptions, so the decision to perceive things in a certain way is ultimately ours. It is easy to control my emotional turmoil that way - saying, if I am currently feeling bad, it's because I want it to and it's my responsibility to see the good things (since currently not seeing them doesn't mean, they don't exist within reach) and make my life and the good things in it happen, without lying to myself.

Also, one of my favourite terms after reading a book about quantum physics the other day is "time-space" - whenever things don't proceed at the pace I wish it to, I can blame it safely on Einsteins "time-space" - good, huh?

Posted by: Liella at June 2, 2008 7:53 PM

"Keep calm and carry on." It's a poster from the second world war, but it helps me remind me not to be frozen with panic at the enormity of what's ahead, but rather to take things steadily, a step at a time.

Posted by: Leo at June 2, 2008 7:56 PM

Love, Respect, Believe, Conquer.

Love what you do, who you are, the people around you.

Respect your limitations.

Believe you can complete any goal set before you.

Conquer any obstacle, fear or doubt and -keep moving forward-.

Posted by: Yuko at June 2, 2008 8:01 PM

i dont know if you ever listen to the band Muse, but they have a song called, "Knights of Cydonia". In that song, there's a line and it says,

"don't waste your time, or time will waste you."

and i think it's true and a bit scary.

However, for me personally, i like to think that i'm not alone in becoming easily demotivated. so a lot of times stimulting my motivation comes from motivating others.

p.s. if you ever need some motivation and a good laugh go to http://despair.com/

Posted by: JP at June 2, 2008 8:01 PM

I ask myself two questions: "What do I want out of life?", and "How does this[current issue] relate to my goal?". Doing this has allowed me to avoid conflicts with others and worry over all most everything because the answer to my second question tells me how to proceed. The answer is almost never to fret or argue, as those two things only hinder any goal. It took time to get in the habit of asking these questions but since doing so I've been able to diffuse any number of situations and simply go forward.

On an unrelated note here is a link to 000Webhost an awesome company that host my site (php/mysql and cpanel included) for free. They have been a big part of helping me achieve my goals since they have given me an outlet for my thoughts.

Posted by: megalar at June 2, 2008 8:04 PM

Currently on my office bulletin board:

"Do not try. Do, or do not. There is no try." - Master Yoda

Posted by: pam at June 2, 2008 8:08 PM

I do this too Ze, don't worry. I have a lot of disconnected phrases in my notebook. Current useful ones are:

"These conditions can never be happened upon again"

"The thing itself"

"It's always worth it"

The last one has been the most useful for now. But who knows what weird phrases I'll need in the future?

Posted by: Eddus at June 2, 2008 8:10 PM

While lying in bed one day i thought: Life is like one big sigh. Taking it all in, then letting it all go. Breathe deep.

Posted by: ibookgirl at June 2, 2008 8:24 PM

"I will not be defeated this way!"

You only ever ask your self for input when you are feeling doubt - all panicked, whiney and full of excuses. This is helpful when trying to procrastinate, getting tired during a workout, etc.

Posted by: Lisa Lu at June 2, 2008 8:27 PM

Well, "WWZD?" of course.

Posted by: ethan at June 2, 2008 8:27 PM

Above my door is a storebought framed credo, "Live, Love, Laugh". I don't always notice it, anymore, but always it's good when I do - and it's good for company!

A post-it at the doorchain says, "the good guy wins." It's a reminder that (an idea I got from someone else) that I want to consider the overall quality of my life as a comedy not a tragedy. Plus I like good guys.

I like Gandhi's, "The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within."

I use credos a lot and if it's a good one, once it's gone stale I will put it someplace I might find it later, a coat pocket, a drawer, or a box.

I'm also enjoying this one I wrote with the help of a friend who learned Latin in school: "Inspiratis Antequam Expiratis" explained here: http://ojeano.blogspot.com/2008/03/why-i-like-latin.html

And: "this moment is good... this moment is good... this is a good one, too... and this one..."


Posted by: Jeano at June 2, 2008 8:33 PM

I have a fortune cookie that says:
"Focusing on the negative only gives it power" I have had it taped to my desk for years. It helps me sometimes, but maybe it is just junk and I should throw it out...oh no, focusing on the negative aspect of my fortune...ok I'll keep it.

Posted by: Scott at June 2, 2008 8:39 PM

Well, I dont really use any written motivationals. But I do go through waves, whereby the peak is absolutely motivated and the valley is absolutely unmotivated. It would be interested to map the graph to the depth of my husband/father duties. I'll bet they match up.

I also hit motivational lows when looking at other competitors success. That gets me going for a while, but soon enough I succumb to "screw it, I give up". This in turn lasts a short while, I cannot sit still wallowing in failure for long. I'm up and repeating the cycle with renewed excitement, forgetting what knocked the wind out my sails in the first place.

It's interesting to read that even relative 'successful celebrities' as Ze have the same emotional struggles as the rest of us mere mortals.

Posted by: adam at June 2, 2008 8:48 PM

Quo Vadimus

Posted by: casey at June 2, 2008 9:01 PM

6 billion motherfuckers on the planet and they all wanna be somethin special

Posted by: John at June 2, 2008 9:22 PM

The one I like at the moment is similar to "what would the hero you do?", it's “if your life were a movie, what would you be shouting at the screen?”... not sure where I heard it.... I reckon the ones that are questions have a longer shelf life because the response is always changing

Posted by: Gena at June 2, 2008 9:41 PM

I have a hero related one: Use your powers for good.

Posted by: ephelba at June 2, 2008 9:44 PM

Don't worry, just work.

I don't have a big [field of work] problem, [organization I work for] has a big [field of work] problem.

What would Napoleon do...

[holding a filbert in my pocket] I'm a tough nut to crack.

Posted by: brendan at June 2, 2008 9:49 PM

In the face of a setback, I say:

"This is where we are now; we can only move forward."

When I'm trying to encourage myself to go to the dentist or doctor, exercise, take a class, whatever, I remind myself:

"Invest in yourself, because nobody else will."

And, like Laura, who posted a few messages back, when I need to push myself in a reassuring way, I say:

"You can do this."

Just that simple prompt to trust my own abilities usually helps me to get going.

Posted by: Barbara at June 2, 2008 10:18 PM

You probably won't read this, Ze, but all I live with is four words. "Awareness is the key." Be aware of everything passing, everything in the past, and, as much as you can, everything in the future. If you're aware of everything, it makes everything significant. And that hasn't worn out for me for over three years.

Oh, I'm aware it's all flying by. But being aware somehow makes it better.

Posted by: Brandon at June 2, 2008 10:22 PM

Mine seems to have lasted quite well for years: "We're all screwed anyway, but you still don't want to shit where you sleep"

Posted by: Mike at June 2, 2008 10:45 PM

I have two:

"Be here now" (Good ol' Ram Dass always comes through)


"Serenity now!" (Seinfeld quote that makes me laugh and therefore calm down.)

Posted by: Karen at June 2, 2008 11:06 PM

A loooooong time ago I read a book called "The Handbook to Higher Consciousness". It introduced a concept to me that was new at the time - that we ultimately decide whether or not outside forces affect our emotions negatively. At the end of the book, they suggested a mantra, I think for helping work through moments where it was difficult to overcome the urge to sock a challenging outside force repeatedly in the nose - All Ways Us Living Love. I remember to pull it up occasionally - but it's just so much easier and nicer sometimes to wallow in self-pity and self-righteous anger... doot dee doo.

Posted by: Marianne at June 2, 2008 11:10 PM

I have always had to write notes to remind myself to relax, go with the flow, etc, and yes, they generally last at most a few days, weeks or months (if I am lucky) before I ignore them or forget.

My latest kind note to myself, written just last night:

"Relax! Smile, love, be. All is well."

Posted by: Sassafrass Molly at June 2, 2008 11:17 PM

Lately things have been a bit too stressing, so one day I started thinking "after all, I'm just in the middle", and that helped a lot

Posted by: Mich at June 2, 2008 11:27 PM

"What Would The Buddha Do?"

Posted by: Wardo at June 2, 2008 11:40 PM

one more. elliott smith's "playing things too safe is the most popular way to fail"

Posted by: rocco at June 2, 2008 11:41 PM

It can include thoughts about people less fortunate or the obligation to life/existence, to myself, etc, etc.

The summary/conclusion is usually just: "don't be a dick!!!"

Posted by: Cherrie at June 3, 2008 12:06 AM

"motivation comes after action" which i heard some place once. And "f*ck it, no one will notice anyway" which i use when i am getting stuck on making something be perfect and not focusing on just getting it done. Neither of these are failed though, they still work for me. I think all my failed ones are forgotten.

Posted by: kris at June 3, 2008 12:25 AM

Saving the World Before Bedtime and Attendance

Students Are not Products

People Are not Disposable

Education Is My Religion

Boredom Is a Deadly Sin

It's All in the Approach

All Guys Are Jerks . . . no wait that's my dad's dating advice.

They're small. Take two.

Like ta hear it? Here it go. (Stolen from Robert Klein)

Forgive Me Now You Have No Idea How Much Time It Will Save

Oh, there's plenty more. Your hero thing reminds me of David Copperfield's first lines. I use those too but not in a super hero way. "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show." I figure the hero me is as flawed as I am but the hero me doesn't see them as liabilities always.

Posted by: boo at June 3, 2008 12:27 AM

"You are a star."

Posted by: Amelie at June 3, 2008 12:30 AM

OK, so I just got this "thought for the day" from my mom. And while I don't connect with the religion aspect of it, in some way it still resonates with me (and makes me laugh):

Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit
the floor in the morning, Satan shudders & says...

'Oh shit....she's awake!!'

Posted by: Jen Cooks at June 3, 2008 1:30 AM

Someone explain why it is that when someone's advice is "Work smarter, not harder", I feel like punching that someone.

Posted by: hankilga at June 3, 2008 1:35 AM

Every thing's going to be all right.

For when I'm particularly stressed. Spending just a few moments to write it down helps.

Posted by: Megiavelli at June 3, 2008 1:52 AM

I always remember my multimedia teacher in highschool and how he had alot going on but never got anything done. My friend would always say hes got too many irons in the fire. So now when i start to do something and then another thing and another pretty soon i hear my friend saying that in my head about me and it gets me refocused on one thing long enough to finish it, then move on.

Posted by: chase at June 3, 2008 2:20 AM

I don't really have a set phrase. Usually when things get very bad and I feel hopeless and start sobbing, I will list out loud to myself all my problems and obstacles, and then I will I say "I can do this" or "It will be okay" and then remind myself of all the obstacles I've already overcome. It helps me put things in perspective.

Posted by: Lhyzz at June 3, 2008 2:57 AM

i don't have much to say to myself but i have a nice super-ego who does all the talking.

Posted by: pageexpired at June 3, 2008 3:10 AM

"Always try to understand things". It's from the book Little Big Man, I think.

Posted by: cronopio at June 3, 2008 3:36 AM

Hey Ze,

Sometimes I think of the quote from Rush:

"I'm on a roll now, or is it a slide?"

Traction can turn into a tailspin sometimes. I take a deep breath, remind me that these things happen, and wait it out. Eventually my interest is awakened by something else and I remember that I am a creative, but not limited to what I've created so far.

I have a handmade ceramic cylinder in my studio that says "Rejoice", which I take as my motto, even if I'm not feeling joyful at that particular moment.

Sometimes you take a breather. You can't bend the bow every day. Allow the lapse, don't judge it, and it'll move through the queue all by itself.

Visiting my Tribe.net page can ignite the spark for me, with its kaleidescope of creative energy.

"Failed projects" are things that didn't hold my interest sufficiently to escape the rough-sketch stage. I just put it down to percentages. Not every idea has legs, so that's OK.

Posted by: Parrot Eyes at June 3, 2008 6:49 AM

I play your "On feeling uninspired" video to get me going. I even have a note above my desk that says, "what about malaise, anger, frustration, sadness... not going to make anything with those?" So when I'm feeling depressed or lazy, I at least do something with myself. I have another that says, "And my God, we have to keep on making things." reminding me that there is purpose in pulling out that sewing machine, or even cutting up some card.

For a while when I was younger I used to have a note that said, "Nothing is impossible, if you want it bad enough." written in my door so I'd see it every time I left my room. It really sings close to home, it's something I truly believe.

Posted by: Lauren at June 3, 2008 7:37 AM

I wrote this poem... inspired by recent lovliness in my life... and this page...
thanks to Ze

Remember to breath,

Let the feelings flow,
Let the body go,
Close the eyes,
Or look up at the sky,
Lean back gently,
While falling,
It’s not falling at all,
But leaning upon the air,

Remember to breathe,
And exhale slowly,
The air is good,
With its intoxicating purity,
Be filled with peace,
To capacity,

The chimes are playing,
From the breezes caress,

Swathed in silk,
Yet freely undressed,
Unburdened of ties,
Taking in every nuance,
Shedding the guise,

Felt the landing?
It was subtle,
Forgot the standing?

Open the eyes,
Or close them,
The birds are singing,
A new song,
The new one,
They sang all along.

June 3 2008

Posted by: Amelie Asselin at June 3, 2008 8:17 AM

No Regrets: No Excuses.

Posted by: deeleea at June 3, 2008 8:35 AM

How about "Fuck yeah!" ?

I've been doing a lot of "This too will pass" recently.

Otherwise I tend to like quotes from Albert Camus.

Posted by: Ben at June 3, 2008 8:48 AM

Shut up.

Seriously. I tend to babble when I am nervous or when there is silence. I grew up in a family where silence = anger. I'm trying to be comfortable with silence more, to listen more, to just be. It isn't a mean "shut up", btw. It is meant to make me laugh and be mindful. And it refers to a couple of friends of mine who were roommates during college and after. One was a list maker and left his To Do lists all over the apartment. The other one would discretely write "shut up" as the last item on each of the lists as a joke. But I thought it was pretty profound, actually.

Posted by: jm at June 3, 2008 8:56 AM

A phrase I've been using recently is "keep moving". Mainly because I've had university work to get done, but I think it works for most other situations as well.

Posted by: SDGrimshaw at June 3, 2008 9:25 AM

it is a perfect moment

Posted by: rambly at June 3, 2008 9:34 AM

I have three:

"Leave things better" - I want the place I just left to be a little better because I was there.
"Involve yourself" - I have a tendency to wait until I am invited to join, help, pursue, or whatever but that rarely happens. I need to step up and be involved and see where that leads.
"Choose the best" - Don't waste time doing things that are (just) good or "aren't bad". Try to do the best things. Try to make the best choice. I have too many things to do to waste my time on things of no (or little) consequence.

Posted by: henderpa at June 3, 2008 9:46 AM

"Perform random kindness and senseless acts of beauty."


Posted by: Thomas at June 3, 2008 9:49 AM

I have a little framed thing that says "With courage greater than your fear, leap into the unknown and you will fly!"

Posted by: Annie at June 3, 2008 9:51 AM

Most often, I talk to myself when I'm working on the car, driving too fast, or experimenting with something explosive. That's when the chant begins...

"Don't do anything stupid." - Tim

Posted by: TimTheFoolMan at June 3, 2008 10:28 AM

"Get over yourself."

Posted by: Holli at June 3, 2008 10:43 AM

"Life is easy."

At first I thought it was just a lie I could cocoon myself in when I feel anxious or afraid or intimidated or hurt or ill, but the more I say it to myself, the more I realize its truth and the more truthful it becomes. The situation at hand may be difficult, painful, or embarrassing, but saying, "Life is easy" reminds me of all the elements of the situation that ARE easy, which stops the snowballing effect of fear and negativity.

Also, reading these posts reminds me of a quote from my philosophy textbook (I think it's from the Buddha) that I had taped to the inside of my front door in college:

"Let no man think lightly of evil, saying in his heart, It will not come near to me. Even by the falling of water-drops is a water-pot filled; the fool becomes full of evil, even if he gathers it little by little.
"Let no man think lightly of good, saying in his heart, It will not come near to me. Even by the falling of water-drops is a water-pot filled; the wise man becomes full of good, even if he gathers it little by little."

I have always had a terrible tendency to think that I need to make immediate, sweeping changes in my life, like becoming fluent in Spanish in less than a year or losing 15 pounds in two months or getting a novel published before my 25th birthday. When I realize I'm not going to accomplish something by its irrelevant and unrealistic deadline, I get stuck and depressed.
This quote helps remind me that every time I stop myself from doing a "bad" thing, the accumulation of bad things slows down, and every time I take the time to do a good thing, the accumulation of good things, in my life and the universe as a whole, speeds up. Even if I don't accomplish virtuosic leaps of learning or creativity, gradually, if I keep at it, in its own time, my purpose will be fulfilled.

Posted by: Diana B. at June 3, 2008 11:07 AM

here's mine.

put the seat down.

Really, if we depend on commerical jingles to justify our existance or motivate our lives, we're always going to spin around in circles like your washing machine. Don't "be the jingle." Be.

Posted by: brian bridges at June 3, 2008 11:19 AM


Posted by: autonymph at June 3, 2008 12:28 PM

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are not going to die because they are never going to be born."
-Richard Dawkins

"The greater the seeming disadvantage, the greater the possible advantage."
-Robert Fripp

It's striking how direct all of this language is. Makes you wonder why we bother to have things like poetry and novels when the most useful things come from just saying what's true.

Posted by: Clan at June 3, 2008 1:05 PM

...oh, and, "Descretion is the better part of valor," is on my refrigerator (but I wasn't sure I wanted to tell).

Posted by: jeano at June 3, 2008 1:22 PM

I find comfort in:
"Accept what is"

I also appreciate good song lyrics..

"You can't hide on a one-way street" - Def Leppard

"Don't stop til you get enough" by MJ
"I am the eggman, I am the Walrus, Koo Koo Kutchu"
"Chi Sei" which is something in Italian that I don't know the meaning of (but I like song)

and when all else fails..
ask oneself..
"What would Samuel L. Jackson do?"

Posted by: aynne at June 3, 2008 1:24 PM

As far as how I want my life to be, I realized I have a lot of no's... and a lot of maybes. Not really any yeses. So I just say 'Yes' to myself whenever I remember to do so, and see what happens.

Posted by: jinjo at June 3, 2008 2:26 PM

I like the line from Ani DiFranco's "Willing to Fight" ... "You have your whole life to do something, and that's not very long."

Posted by: Belynda at June 3, 2008 2:37 PM

Thought one up related to this...
"Life is a marathon; you should quit smoking."

Posted by: Christopher at June 3, 2008 4:14 PM

My motto (which I fail at sometimes) is:

Worry about what you can control.

The older I get the more I realize ... I don't control very much at all.

Posted by: Mike Lambert at June 3, 2008 4:46 PM

"Vet school". It's what I want, and the only reason this class is worth anything to me.

Posted by: Elizabeth at June 3, 2008 5:20 PM

When I'm feeling uninspired I watch TED talks (http://www.ted.com). I especially like the 'What Makes Us Happy?' theme. I've always been obsessed with happiness, or rather, my lack of it.

What Eve Ensler said at the end of her talk had resonance with me:

"When we give in the world what we want most, we heal the broken part inside each of us. Happiness exists in action. It exists in telling the truth and saying what your truth is. And it exists in giving away what you want most."

I'm going to try giving away what I want most. Will let you know how I get on...

I also like to listen to the 'This American Life' podcasts. I highly recommend '354: Mistakes Were Made' (http://www.thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1239).

Posted by: Tara at June 3, 2008 5:36 PM

I have a PhD. I gave up on short snappy phrases that "perk one up" a long time ago. I need to read a long book like One Hundred Years of Solitude to get inspiration.

It does take me a similarly long time to achieve nirvana in bed. My partners rather like that.

But, I digress....

If you are running out of short phrases that cheer you up, then it is NOT time to seek more from others. It is time to seek comfort in more complex expressions. It is time to grow. :)


:: editor's note ::
i rarely comment on comments but i find this one to be particularly unfortunate. short phrases that link the rational with the emotional have been used by some of our greatest thinkers. Think the Buddhist koan, Einstein's remarks on wonder, nearly all poetry. This isn't about "cheering up" - it is about fundamental perspective shift that allows forward movement for an individual. The fact that you mention that you have a PhD at the outset of your comment makes me wonder if you are missing the point. Rational exercises alone are no proof of a fulfilled life.


Posted by: walki-talki.com at June 3, 2008 5:52 PM

This simple phrase has worked for me for a while, although it may be starting to lose it's power as I become more and more satisfied with where I am...for now.

"How can I improve my situation."

Posted by: Craig at June 3, 2008 5:56 PM

I know I am almost self-demoralizing. But I have always heard you can't love others until you love yourself. It is just that I tough love myself.

I made a poster to put on the inside of my door. No one else ever sees it or will ever see it. It says "Every second you spend doing something you don't care about proves you don't care about yourself."

Jeez, writing it out makes me want to take it down. And I don't think it works anymore. Something about seeing it on paper makes it less than what it was.

Posted by: Josh at June 3, 2008 6:07 PM

Great quote from a movie I saw today.

"How much time do we have?" "Very little"

Movie was a nice little vid called "School of Live" (TV)

Posted by: James at June 3, 2008 6:09 PM

'The world is my oyster.'

Posted by: Ruff Ruff at June 3, 2008 7:43 PM

whenever I feel like I don't want to do something but I know I need to, I take a deep breath, straighten my spine and say: 'let's rock this bitch!'

Posted by: JWo at June 3, 2008 8:15 PM

My mother tells me that her grandmother used to say "Buck up, old girl." My mother's 81, so that's been around for a while. You want to drop or adjust the latter half according to your gender.

Posted by: Cathy Von Elm at June 3, 2008 9:30 PM

"Be kind, be kind, be kind." And then, when that doesn't work, "Fuck them. Be kind to yourself." I oscillate back and forth, back and forth.

Posted by: Claire at June 3, 2008 9:51 PM

These are all great responses.
I used to strive for perfection. I'd get really down on myself if I was not constantly achieving.
I have actually become more productive as I have accepted myself as is and learned to relax. I also readjusted my priorities.

I think "yes" a lot to myself, often about myself, and do a lot of pausing and putting awareness in my body. Then I find that my mind/motivation does what my brain does right before sleeping- the ideas just flood in and I'm free to create.

Posted by: habile b at June 3, 2008 10:05 PM

Cool post; I do this all the time. I have two that I have used for several years:

"Move" and "Eyes Up"

Posted by: Jake at June 3, 2008 10:48 PM

I think of the quote from the Rush song Face Up
"I'm on a roll now, or is it a slide?"

Momentum and traction can flip over sideways sometimes. But it's always righted itself eventually, so I have to believe that (in my current creative doldrums) it will right itself again.

My watch word is "Rejoice." It points me to the nearest person, place or thing that deserves celebration, and takes me out of myself.

Posted by: Parrot Eyes at June 3, 2008 11:11 PM

Past mantras:
"learning is not linear" (when I was getting down on myself for not picking up a new skill fast enough)

"one life to live"

"it was worth it"

Posted by: dingo at June 3, 2008 11:52 PM

i was in a coffee shop over the weekend and overheard an exasperated dad remind his two yipping kids, "Slow down!! Hey ok you guys, you can chase but you can't push." truth!

Posted by: christine at June 4, 2008 12:13 AM

"If you're thinking about making the move, you're not moving." This mostly only refers to making out.

Posted by: Grace at June 4, 2008 1:07 AM

Stick your neck out

Fake it until you make it

Posted by: Ashley at June 4, 2008 1:08 AM

it is a perfect moment

Posted by: rambly at June 4, 2008 9:01 AM

I cast myself into my future in the role of myself as a grandfather, and think about what I might advise my grandson (self) to do about this issue right now?

Or to invert and sum it into a short grab, .. "what would Da say?" *

My Da was a stolid, self sacrificing man who raised his family through the great Depression and war years and provided well for them.

Though I didn't really know him well, I feel I am coming to a stage in my life where I can identify with him. I am now raising my own children, and approaching 50 years of age, and coming to feel I know a little better that the love and care of children is a fantastic natural motivator, especially when my effort and sacrifice 'pays off', eg when my 10 year old son shows that he is thinking about, and getting right, his responsibilities in the family.

* 'Da' is a word from my Anglo Saxon heritage meaning grandfather. My Mum's father was Da - that was the English side of the family. My Dad's father was Pa - that was the Irish side (suffice to say, my parent's relationship was a fiery one!).

I had lost both my Da and my Pa by the time I was 19 years old, so I guess I missed out on a lot of the male wisdom they might have passed on.

So asking myself 'what would Da say' helps me to think about what to do next - i.e. motivation.

Posted by: NR at June 4, 2008 9:22 AM

The one that has stuck for the last 4 years is, "We;re not here for a long time, we're here for a good time."

That, and the memory of how shitty things have been in the past keep me firmly elated about how good my life is now in comparison.

Posted by: Molly at June 4, 2008 10:36 AM

Hi Ze,

You are agreeing with what I say! Those famous phrases by the famous minds (Einstein is far too often cited) are the results of years of distilling complex thoughts. What gets forgotten in people's marveling about these remarks--let's take Feynman's (paraphrasing) "we know what the apple is made of but we don't know how to make an apple" or the famous Chinese saying "the longest journey begins with a simple step--is the amount of labor, analysis and heartache that went into the derivation of such nuggets of wisdom.

I suppose my point is that you ought to focus on the substance--the history of such phrases--in order to appreciate them more.

This is what a doctoral thesis gets you to do, and that is why I have to mention it. Once one takes that road, it is impossible to turn back.

If you don't know history, if you don't know the parables of human suffering, then Rumi's lines don't have any meaning.

The academic approach gets a lot of flack these days. It happens to be the best way to go. :)

Perhaps this is the essence of the point. Don't mistake the conclusion for the argument. Perhaps the examination of the premises will afford you new inspiration. I would venture that your nuggets grow stale because you examine the premises of the arguments and discover that the conclusion (the nugget) does not follow.

(Incidentally, this is why Republicans are in power. People never bother to check the fact that none of their sound bytes follows from any premise in reality.)

Everlasting truth is always more gratifying than fleeting inspiration.


Posted by: walki-talki.com at June 4, 2008 12:32 PM

"Don't take life too seriously. you'll never get out alive. write that down."

=) its true!

Posted by: Anna Darron at June 4, 2008 12:50 PM

Now that I think of it my inspirational phrases seem to be song lyrics: It's better to regret somethin ya did than somethin ya didn'd do (Red Hot Chili Peppers) I ain't about to go straight. (Ray LaMontagne) Eyes wide mine, suddenly everything flies by fine (TV on the Radio) Sometimes there are no words just kick ass musical phrases from Amon Tobin or maybe just a Yeah yeah yeah from Nina Simone. So I guess i have more of a soundtrack than a mantra. I've had some of them for a very long time and they don't so much wear out as get replaced, there is so much great music out there.

Mentally munching on these kinds of things is great for daytime but tends to keep me up at night. The only thing that gets me to sleep is "we are all one" but i don't run this through my head in words it's more of a pulse or a wave if that makes sense. Maybe the words have worn out from overuse on that one but the idea is still good.

Posted by: tallierae at June 4, 2008 12:54 PM

From my kid's teacher there's one phrase I love:
"Be Present"
It refers to your attitude when being with the kids, don't think of your bills or what you'll make for dinner while interacting with them, but I apply it to life in general. Be present in every moment.

Posted by: Roberto Leibman at June 4, 2008 1:06 PM

"Think Positive" - I have that on my phone and I see it many, many times a day. That way, I don't have to think it in order to think it. Get it?

Posted by: Kate at June 4, 2008 1:17 PM

"Shit'll buff out," is an old favorite.

Posted by: Emlly at June 4, 2008 3:09 PM

I just thought of something that was a really transforming notion for me. I can't say that I have fully ... absorbed it. But I'd like to. It would make me more courageous in all kinds of ways and courageous towards other... more generous of heart than I am now.

"I have permission to fail."

Posted by: ingrid at June 4, 2008 3:19 PM

live like you mean it, spend like you can afford it

Posted by: MARY. at June 4, 2008 3:43 PM

"Look at these ants. They're all running like mad. working tirelessly all day, never stopping, never resting... And for what? To build a tiny little hill of sand that could be wiped out at any moment! All their work could be for nothing, and yet they keep on building. They never give up!"

"I suppose there's a lesson in that."

"Yeah -- ants are morons. Lets see what's on TV."

- Calvin and Hobbes

Posted by: Harry at June 4, 2008 7:37 PM

swiped from bikini kill: "resist psychic death."

Posted by: MissLady at June 4, 2008 8:43 PM

i have a slip of paper on the wall with the following written on it:

shut up
stay sober
be nice.

I rarely look at it.

Posted by: dan at June 4, 2008 9:30 PM

I kept 2

Perfection is boring.

Life's an unsolved mystery. Those who solve it, don't talk about it. Those who don't- talk about it alot.
(off a tea bag reminder)

Posted by: pirate maki at June 4, 2008 10:07 PM

contradiction = balance

Posted by: shannon at June 4, 2008 10:28 PM

One of my professors in college, raging against lazy students, said "If you're not going to do your best work now, when are you going to do it?" i say it to myself when i'm having trouble getting motivated. makes me sit up straighter, think a little clearer.

Posted by: chat'boux at June 5, 2008 1:26 AM

One of my professors in college, raging against lazy students, said "If you're not going to do your best work now, when are you going to do it?" i say it to myself when i'm having trouble getting motivated. makes me sit up straighter, think a little clearer.

Posted by: chat'boux at June 5, 2008 1:44 AM

I have a strange relationship with mine... after a drunken lecture from a well meaning friend about weight loss I taped the words "What's stopping you?" to my fridge. It did work, but partly because I avaoided the fridge to avoid the words.

Yes they applied to my weight at the time but every time I looked at the words I reminded myself of everything else my life seemed to have on permanent procrastination. Just writing the words again now has sent my psyche on a guilt trip...

Perhaps the answer is "I'm lazy"?

I really should go finish that chapter now...

Posted by: emily at June 5, 2008 4:32 AM

What you seek also seeks you.

- Esthrebelle

Posted by: estherbelle at June 5, 2008 11:37 AM

I've been going with Take Care of Business for about 2 years. When you reall have to step up and just do something.

This morning, funnily enough, I decided it wasn't doing the trick anymore. I thought what do I really need to be doing? Being awesome of course. Merely getting stuff done wasn't enough - I should be able to stand by stuff when it is done and go, that's awesome. Look how awesome that is. Other people will walk by and go (metaphorically, like) wow that's awesome... Mark must have done that...

I have a sticky that says TCOB under my monitor at work. It now also have DFTBA. Don't Forget To Be Awesome.

These things are handy for getting me through work I don't want to do. Work I do want to do is awesome by default.

All the best ze.

Posted by: Mark at June 5, 2008 12:11 PM

I've never gone for the pithy sentence to inspire before. I've always thought that was too easy, to simple. But last week I survived a motorbike crash and am now going to bone scan and mri appointments as they may have found cancer while x-raying me after the accident. All this has made me dwell on mortality and I just stumbled on Beethoven's last words which I've printed out. A first for me.

"Friends applaud, the comedy is finished"

Posted by: Jamie at June 5, 2008 12:16 PM


Posted by: jp at June 5, 2008 2:10 PM

Every once in a while, when I'm really anxious about things that have happened in the past, I tell myself, "Start over." This is a signal to wipe the slate clean and move forward, rather than dwelling on what has happened. And it works really well...for about five seconds, or as long as I can keep it in my head. :-)

Posted by: initialdescent at June 5, 2008 3:40 PM

Failed? Garbage bin? Aw shucks. Sure they wear out and go away and transition, but so does everything in life. Cycles.

Plus if we aren't wearing out the old and trying the new we can't be improving. I bet a lot of it is in trying to believe that your constant efforts are enough. Trying to comfort the self and hold on to the lucid moments when we can see how transient and unfounded our fears really are. :-)

Posted by: Laura "Pistachio" Fitton at June 5, 2008 4:29 PM

Mine changes almost every day; sometimes a quote has impact longer.

A couple recently are, "When you decide to be something, then be it," and, "The world has the habit of making room for the man whose actions show that he knows where he is going." (Napoleon Hill)

Believe it or not, today's inspirational phrase was, "Be your own hero," from an article about the upcoming "Kung Fu Panda" movie. It said the panda finds that "becoming the best version of himself is the true hero's path."

Then I accidentally read your words as, "What would the hero in you do?"

Is that ironic, or what? :-D

Posted by: mousewords at June 5, 2008 7:56 PM

Oh, PS: My "garbage can" of motivations looks like an enormous binder filled with little scraps of paper. :-D I think the reason one affirmation doesn't last long is that my needs change every day. Sometimes I have an ongoing challenge--like, I need to remind myself to keep moving forward--but being human, I need different motivation for different challenges.

On the plus side, I wind up with a great binder. :-)

Posted by: mousewords at June 5, 2008 8:01 PM

When it comes to the biggest things, the most daunting of tasks, I recall Brando's last monologue from Apocalypse now: "it's judgment that defeats us." It's pretty powerful when you keep inventing reasons why you should give up.

For medium things I have resistance to, like doing things outside comfort zone, i like "a man not busy getting born is busy getting dead."

For small things, "motherfuckers choke under pressure."

There are two mentalities I draw from when I need to motivate myself to do something I don't feel like doing. The first stems from the experience that rewards come to people who are diligent in their activities and are able to be positive around downer or incompetent people. Negativity is death. Nothing ever came from being negative. It's why, I believe, elites in classical societies often held lives of virtue to be the highest personal and spiritual ethos.

The second is a little different. In my fraternity, we had an event where teams of 8 raced to put away 2 thirty packs, 3 pizzas, and an 1/8th of something green. Eventually, there comes a time when every single person in the room has an absolutely full stomach. No room left, pizza is practically sticking out of your esophagus. There is literally only one state of mind that lets you take another swig of beer: I don't want to lose to those guys and I don't want to fail in front of my teammates. Despite being hilarious, its one of the most powerful experiences in motivation I've encountered in my life.

Posted by: lovedTheShow at June 5, 2008 8:28 PM

To quote Zig Ziglar: People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing -- that's why we recommend it daily.

I love the HERO YOU thought, and Wally's HUMBLE CONFIDENCE is great as well, and Kelsey's I MATTER is great. Didn't read all comments, but it seems to be becoming a page to come to to find that phrase that matches our current mood. Love.

Posted by: MiMi at June 5, 2008 8:28 PM

I often say "what's the BEST that could happen?" but my daily mantra is "have you MADE something today?" Hey weird why are both of the ones which occurred to me questions? Eek, even that was a question...

Posted by: Phil South at June 6, 2008 1:48 AM

So w/o any of this context, yesterday my friend shared with me a wonderful example. She was describing to me the experience of trying to "get your ducks in a row" and having life throw curve balls of unexpected experience that shifted her plans/goals/expectations. The phrase that she is focusing on (that I think is wonderful) is 'they're not your ducks". Ahh, non-attachment... it's not just for Buddhists anymore.

Posted by: Ben at June 6, 2008 3:39 AM

"Be Here Now."
"I am alive, I am at home."
"You should just do whatever you want to do."
"Go for a walk. Even if you end up in prison you can still go for a walk."
"Fuck it dude. Let's go bowling."

Posted by: Jonathan at June 6, 2008 4:09 AM

last night someone in my dream said, "use your stress to relax" - a koan

Posted by: sally at June 6, 2008 6:23 AM

this was amazing! Thanks all for sharing :) . I use these two: "always choose again." which for me works in any given situation. My well being and happiness is in my own hands, i only need to choose it, think and choose my priorities. And the other one: "commit to love." because love is the greatest, in its all forms. And thus worth committing to. In acute anxiety attacks i remind myself to breathe out. Helps to relax. Gives a physical response, warm feeling inside. Take care people, let the run shine :) love!

Posted by: anu at June 6, 2008 7:06 AM

When finishing a term paper (something that required quite a bit of motivation) I found myself drained. I was flipping idly through a book that I had not yet referenced when a small piece of paper slipped out. It had a simple stickfigure drawing on it and said only "Get diligent".
I promptly ended my break and finished the paper.
I still have the slip somewhere. Maybe I should dig it out.

Posted by: Peter at June 6, 2008 10:27 AM

My big one was told to me some years ago and it's gotten me through some rock hard times: If it didn't hurt, it wouldn't be working. --ah.

Posted by: Sport at June 6, 2008 1:15 PM


It's abstract enough to allow me to assign different meanings at different times for whatever motivational boost I need at the time.

Now that I think about it, those motivated boosts haven't necessarily produced the wild success I'd hoped for.

Posted by: Carl at June 6, 2008 5:23 PM

Whenever I'm feeling overwhelmed, I unapologetically submit to doing nothing. It's easy, and just like its opposite, I get plenty tired of it too. The sooner I submit, the sooner I'm back to work. The superhero me would be on super-holiday, drinking margaritas with my friend Jerome by Stock Island Bay.

Posted by: Michael Andrew at June 6, 2008 10:28 PM

I am going to rant a little, because I doubt anyone will read this far anyway, and because I have a lot of thoughts about this question (obviously, as this is the second time I've posted).
We all battle laziness and procrastination.
For many, I think that new and fresh are synonymous with progress, and if one is not constantly inventing new ideas and fresh perspectives, he/she might as well quit the game. I think one does not need to be constantly "doing" in order to live a worthwhile life. I worry about keeping my mind fresh. I do not want to be an older person who has become a series of patterned thoughts and behaviors, someone who's motions have taken over and who are essentially driving on auto-pilot. I also question where this fear of aging comes from... surely, there is something beautiful about growing old? Something to be said of wisdom?
For me, a great motivator is wanting to share in collective experience with other human beings. This can take many forms, and in my artistic life, I try to make films that tap into some shared experience. I feel better when I connect in this way.
I am curious about the different things that motivate women verses men. Are women motivated more by a desire to connect and men by a desire to achieve status or empire of sorts? I am also interested in the whether or not people try to be good people because they believe in god.
Why do we do what we do? Can we be good without God? Why do I go out of my way to act kindly toward strangers? For me, it is not a religious thing, but perhaps comes back to the idea that to alleviate suffering in any way helps our collective experience.
Another motivator comes from a need to prove myself to myself. It comes from a lifetime of building this pattern- if I am not constantly achieving, my worth diminishes. I have mixed feelings about this: I like the motivation but do not like where it comes from. What I wrote before about being relaxed is true. My work is much better and more fulfilling, but I make less of it. So I decided that quality is better than quantity, and I certainly feel better now that I have relaxed a bit.
My ideal self must be myself, or I am setting myself up for a lifetime of unhappiness. I find that while the motivation that stems from a need to prove myself always comes back, I am never truly satisfied with the result. At different times, I have used ideas to get by, and seem to cycle through them. Carpe diem, be present, enjoy coincidences, try new things, be open, and relax. And always, be kind.

Posted by: habile b at June 7, 2008 1:08 AM

When I find myself being unproductive I go through the 3 Cs of what I should be doing.
Cheering up.

All three produce something. and inspire me to make myself useful

Posted by: Wren at June 7, 2008 3:21 AM

Come to think of it, I've gone through thousands. At one point it was What would emma do? trying to be the perfect austenian woman.

For a while it was a list small reasonable goals and if i checked everything off each day for a week i could buy myself something.

The one my mommy seems to have settled on is 'Imperfect but intrinsically good." and it's beginning to make sense and apply to everything ever.


Posted by: Wren at June 7, 2008 3:28 AM

"Be Like Ze"? Yeah, no, I don't really say that. I didn't find it motivational enough. I was thinking about joining AA, because they've got so many catchy phrases (er, otherwise known as catchphrases). I'll have to develop a drinking problem first, though. And then, from there, I can just thank my lucky stars every day that I'm sober. Pressure off.

But when I'm not being snarky and fear sets in, I just remind myself to keep moving forward. One thing will follow the next.

Posted by: Jill at June 7, 2008 10:47 AM

"If the wind will not serve, take to the oars."

When things get super crappy I just think of that phrase. It's so important I made it's latin phrase my screen name all over the place, so it wouldn't slip right through the old sieve-like brain.

"Remis velisque". With oars and sails. When I feel hopelessly dead in the water, I just say, "Grab the f**king oars and start rowing."

Posted by: remis velisque at June 7, 2008 12:17 PM

When I'm over-extended at work, I chant "I am strong, and my path is clear" on my way to the subway. I don't know where I came up with that, but the words make my stride more purposeful.
When something really ramps me up, I remember the scene from Point of No Return where Bridget Fonda is taught to say "The little things never bothered me much" in response to a big nasty surprise.
And then, when some nimrod thinks my job is social director of the office, I say "Never thought I'd be doing THIS for a living!" and it reminds me that not everything can be planned.

Posted by: SkyWriter at June 7, 2008 7:28 PM

For real? "Just do it." Not from Nike, but from a conference I went to. That lasted a good week or so. Right now it's "Every decision you make creates your future." That's been somewhat more effective, and has lasted at least two weeks now.

It's funny, I was just thinking about this the other day--how I come across or experience lines or actions that really inspire me, and then the inspiration is short-lived and I have to find something new to get me going. Maybe there's money in making a tear-off version of those inspirational posters--not a calendar, though, because the inspiration from a particular phrase could last an hour, a week, or a year...

I like the "What would the Hero You do?" though. I might have to take that when my current one runs out.

Posted by: Eleonore at June 8, 2008 12:28 PM

"do one thing every day that scares you"
mary schmich, i think it's from "wear sunscreen"

Posted by: heidrun at June 8, 2008 2:29 PM

I go to rap songs. I am very white.

When it feel like livin's harder than dyin'
For me givin' up's way harder than tryin'
-Kanye West

My work habit ain't no habit
I do it on purpose
I push myself to the limit
So my talent will surface

Posted by: Ben at June 8, 2008 7:19 PM

God I do this all the time.
'Dreams are meant to come true. Why else would nature incite us to have them?' - John Updike

Posted by: tash at June 9, 2008 8:01 AM

The lifelong trigger [not currently written down, but always in my subconscious] -
Based on a parable about a new king who commissioned his wise men to find a phrase that was was always true and always provided guidance - "This too shall pass."

The trigger of the moment [it's not really written down anywhere, but I have used it as a password recently]
(I've been working on my dissertation for a year and a half, and the light at the end of the tunnel is finally visible. If all goes well, I'll need a new trigger in less than a month.)

Posted by: stephan at June 9, 2008 9:19 AM

Something I saw recently, that gave me the wherewithall to push through just when I desperately needed it:

"If you're going through hell, keep going!"

Having great friends around me didn't hurt either...

Posted by: coliwilso at June 9, 2008 9:58 AM

Oh my goodness, that Brian had the right idea. Online kissing booth!

As for motivational phrases, I have a little notebook that I write things in, but I look at it very sparingly so most of them are always inspirational. I'm stuck on http://galadarling.com/article/quote-of-the-day-4th-june-2008

and the guys running www.welikeitraw.com do pretty inspiring posts on being in the present moment and having 'the best day ever'...

Posted by: amy at June 9, 2008 12:40 PM

A while ago when I was a bit down, feeling much like the washing machine you described, I was eating a box of raisins while in my cube at work. My job, like most jobs in cubicles, is not that exciting, and just adds to the "I'm not moving anywhere" feeling.

For some reason, the raisin company puts little witty-ish slogans on the inside cover-flap for the top of the raisin box.

I had a couple of things I had wanted to start working towards (projects and the like), but couldn't really get them off the ground. I was also thinking about someone specific that I couldn't quite get the courage up to progress the situation any further.

When I opened the flap on this particular day, it said "It's up to you."

That's it. It was so simple, yet so powerful. It put a smile on my face, and I made a clean rip, detaching it from the box, and stuck it in a random place on my cubicle wall with a push-pin.

It's still there, surrounded by nothing else, a bit out of place, slightly crooked--same as it was a year and a half ago when I put it there.

But it still inspires me.

Posted by: mike________*__ at June 9, 2008 5:14 PM

Over the years, I have had to motivate myself due to...well, let's be blunt...shit- problems used to hunt me down like I was prey.

Some days I found it hard to function. School was completely out of the question, as was getting out of my bed. When I think back to that time that really wasn't so long ago, I find it hard to believe that it was me. It just doesn't seem possible.

I really hit rock bottom last September, and things weren't going so well until I remembered a song by one of the greatest artists of all time- Bob Marley. I would sit in my room (I'll admit, crying most of the time) and listen to his voice as he sang "Three Little Birds." And even now, when I hear that song, I feel a hint of sadness that is immediately replaced by a sense of hope.

"Because every little thing is gonna be alright..."

Posted by: Caitlin at June 10, 2008 12:48 AM

I often used to say to myself "just f_ it," about the worrying. Repeatedly in my head. Sometimes helps.

So does making yourself laugh out loud about the worrying, looking at yourself from a third person's perspective and laughing.

Recently I just try to remember that "these are all people. Everyone is a person." We're all in this together. They are me and I am them. A little less scary that way.

Posted by: Delvy at June 10, 2008 1:49 AM

"Charlie is beautiful."

It's so easy to come up with a hundred reasons why I'm not good enough. I have this as a welcome message on my mobile phone and there's also "beautiful" on my mirror.

This is not vanity; it's self-acceptance.

Posted by: charliebluefish at June 10, 2008 6:55 AM

"Always wipe, stay off the pipe, and if anyone gets in your face, just tell 'em, 'I'm chillin''". --Onski

Or, to kick it more old school--Herman Melville had this quote from Johann Friedrich von Schiller taped to his writing desk: "Keep true to the dreams of thy youth."

Posted by: Christian Gindlesperger at June 10, 2008 8:54 AM

Just Do It.

Posted by: Stacy Lenore at June 10, 2008 9:49 PM

"every day is just one day" - travelling wilburys
"take my hand, 'cause we're walking out of here." - Dave Matthews
"sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe" Simply Red
"Things are as normal as you make them" Federica - my former roommie.

Posted by: natisha at June 11, 2008 5:10 PM

It's not so much what I say, it's what I do in my head.

When a million things are bothering me, late at night, or even during the day, I write them all on a big whiteboard, or chalkboard (it changes) in my head, and I erase it all. Sometimes things get "rewritten", but I erase them again until they're all gone.

Other than that, if it's one of those annoying things that is over and done with, but still bothers me, I just remind myself that there's nothing I can do about it now, so stop worrying.

Posted by: Gillian at June 11, 2008 5:30 PM

At work my Calendar has a different inspirational quote every day. I put out one from a few weeks ago and stuck it on my monitor.
"After the bad weather comes the fine weather." - Maltese Proverb

Posted by: Craig at June 12, 2008 2:00 AM

Stop looking at blogs.

Ugh, if I could only get some work done I would not be sitting here at 9:30 pm. I guess I'll go back to:

"I do the best I can, and I'm satisfied with that." Sigh.

Posted by: jessica at June 12, 2008 9:27 PM

I put a note in front of my alarm clock with big block letters:


ominous but effective.

Posted by: Y2 at June 13, 2008 2:12 AM

"It's a choice", the idea being that living is a choice, you don't have to. It's quite comforting that you know there's a way out, even if you're rather sure that you're not gonna use it.

Posted by: 272 at June 13, 2008 5:21 AM

"Its not what you want of life, its what life wants of you."

and "In any hour you can choose to liberate the future."

Posted by: stephstereo at June 13, 2008 6:58 AM

funny, just this morning i found myself thinking & then said aloud- go join another person's expression of self & do nothing toward your own actualization.

Posted by: b.hotep at June 13, 2008 11:12 AM

Don't panic.

Posted by: Kate at June 13, 2008 3:02 PM

Oy, this is embarrassing. I think I got it off an inspiration store that middle-aged women frequent. You know the type. But I got through a very difficult slogging job with a post-it that read "You cannot eat once and for all." I had to remind myself that some things are just going to have to be done again and again, a little at a time.

Now, it's not quite gone, since it's been paraphrased into "Do what you can do. Don't sweat the rest."

Posted by: Erin at June 13, 2008 3:54 PM

when it's really bad, I say:

"It's okay it's okay it's okay it's okay it's o-KAY."

Usually by the last one, things are getting more okay.

Posted by: molo at June 14, 2008 2:45 AM

"Love everyone, Serve everyone, Remember God."
-Ram Dass in his book, Be Here Now.

Check it out, it'll derail your mindtrain

Posted by: Colin at June 14, 2008 12:03 PM

Cocteau Twins lyric, "you can't heal what you can't feel"...but more often I have randomness flitting through my head...quotes and soundbites that elicit a feeling, rather that having any specific meaning.

Posted by: dave at June 14, 2008 4:47 PM

greet with love.

Posted by: jenks at June 14, 2008 7:59 PM

I don't check my feeds as often as I used to, so this might be a late response.

There was a story of a martial artist who was fighting an opponent better than him. He knew his opponent had the advantage so he was attempting to lessen it by focusing on techniques he thought would remove that advantage, focusing on making his opponent less effective. After the sparring match ended his sensei pulled him aside and said "You were attempting to cut your oppenent's abilities down, not to better yourself. Instead of trying to break his line, lengthen yours." The phrase "lengthen your line" has helped me creatively.

Another is short and simple: "Stand tall, or not at all." This doesn't keep me from doing things, it makes me ensure that I do them to my full extent.

Posted by: Tony L Joy at June 15, 2008 1:46 AM

I put "Do your best!" on my cell phone. I'm not sure if it works, but it's not discouraging, and that is important.

Posted by: Elle at June 15, 2008 10:53 PM

I'm diggin' your core.

Posted by: N. Francesca at June 17, 2008 12:26 AM

I used to put acronyms on the display of my mobile phone - one was GTFOWIW, which translated as Get The Fuck On With It Wendy - sweary enough to stop me from putting off what I wanted to do/be. And I'm currently surrounded by shouty Post-Its - all of which use similarly disgusting amounts of Anglo Saxon. I ignore the gentle ones, you see. They have to be IN CAPS and BLACK FELT MARKER. Acronyms are pretty useful, actually, especially when put up by your desk at work. TAW, was one, which translates into the less than kind THEY'RE ALL WANKERS. Not especially kind, but it worked when I my boss was being a meathead.

Posted by: Wendy ROBY at June 17, 2008 7:29 AM

Beautifull to read all your frasees.

Mine is now, and has been for quite a while.

"Life is a gift, that's why we call it the present."

read it somewhere and never left my mind.

And sometimes to lift my mood. The Ze way:

Duckies...! :-)

I've been saying it a lot lately, so for my birthday I got three duckie keychains :-D I apparently get noticed.

Posted by: Marthe at June 18, 2008 9:09 AM

"Lack of planning on your part doesn't constitute an emergency on mine."

Posted by: jackie at June 18, 2008 10:53 AM

I once had a professor who said "If you're not going to do your best work right now, when are you going to do it?"
It's good for when I'm feeling lazy or working on a project that isn't particularly exciting. Helps motivate me to try harder.

Posted by: chloe at June 18, 2008 11:02 AM

I have a quote by n Elizabeth I on a Post-it by my desk: "All my possessions for a moment of time."

Posted by: Tom at June 18, 2008 11:54 AM

Sheer coincidence, I just started a section in One Note called "Inspirational".

However, I wish I'd have just stuck with the short phrases like you did. Instead I have things like Kipling poem "If" or a section of links to what I call "Mindblowing" such as http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Blue_Dot or http://atinyglimpse.ytmnd.com/ , although those tend to be more humbling than inspiring.

I also have the link to the Jill Bolte Ted Speech you linked to a while back. http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/229

Yesterday I just added the "The Benefits of Failure" commencement speech that JK Rowling gave to Harvard. http://harvardmagazine.com/go/jkrowling.html

Posted by: Prairie Dog at June 18, 2008 12:09 PM

"Just because I can, doesn't mean I should". Applies to: eating chocolate cake, overuse of Photoshop filters, $100 shoes, that third, fourth or fifth beer, and many more things that I don't need.

"Because I can, I should" Applies to: cleaning the bathroom, walking the dog

"Nobody cares" Reminds me to stop being insecure. The majority of people are more concerned with themselves rather than my flaws and imperfections.

Posted by: Kristen at June 18, 2008 12:14 PM

I have a few mantras.

"I'm not going to want to do this later any more than I want to do it now, so I might as well do it now and get it over with."

For accomplishing mundane chores I don't want to do, like doing the laundry or the dishes.

"Think ahead"

As in, thinking ahead to when some current finite overwhelming stressful situation will be over. I just tell myself, "Think ahead. In [for example] two days this will all be over, and you can relax."

"Regret is a waste of time."
"Hate is a waste of time."

For when I need to be reminded to forgive and/or forget.

"Do not hate player. Hate game."

That's when my cell says every time I turn it on. I like that phrase better without contractions or articles. Seems catchier.

Posted by: Sara at June 18, 2008 12:59 PM

Ooh, just thought of another one. This was something my Paw Paw would ask people as a way of saying, 'How are you doing?'

[In an accusatory voice, but with a warm friendly smile]
"So, what's your excuse?"

The first time I remember him asking me that I replied, confused, "What's my excuse for what?" and he said, "For being alive today. What have you got to show for yourself?"

He used the phrase very casually, but I take it seriously now (especially since he passed away).

I use that question often in the morning as soon as I wake up - "What's your excuse [for getting out of bed today; how are you going to make today worthwhile]?" - or right before I go to bed - "What's your excuse [what did you do today to justify your existence]?"

It works as both a preemptive motivator and a reflective self-check.

Posted by: Sara at June 18, 2008 1:13 PM

I printed out the lyrics to "War Pigs" and posted a copy in my cubicle. I notice it several times a day while my head bobs in and out of unconsiousness and it reinforces why I write (useless) letters to my senators instead of doing actual work...

Posted by: Stacy at June 18, 2008 4:22 PM

"Who says?" Not exactly motivational for everyone, but I question why I do what I do, and the authority of those who say I should do or be a certain way. Another is "fight!". I am a sidelines observer most of the time, so the phrases that I need are ones that get me involved in the life I am observing.

Posted by: tech_sam at June 18, 2008 5:01 PM

I have had those before! Most were forgettable and generally not useful, but maybe having a mantra to focus on centers your life.
Sort of how Chuck Palanuik used the rules of fight club in his book, like you keep repeating it and coming back to it. If I could just decide on a few and quit changing mantras all the time I think it would work.

My main ones are:
"What happens, happens" and
"Less thinking, more doing"

Posted by: Lexy at June 18, 2008 6:55 PM

I just remembered one more...
It's a rule for editing wikipedia:
"Assume good faith."
On wikipedia, it means that you shouldn't take it personally when someone deletes your edit, but I use it to remind myself that not everyone's out to get me.

Posted by: Lexy at June 18, 2008 7:02 PM

It's corny, but Garrison Keillor's 'Be well, do good work, and keep in touch' just about covers it.

It gives you three things to choose from on any given day.

Going hiking with a depressed friend is a hat trick.

Posted by: steve at June 18, 2008 11:24 PM

I have a pile of lists of things that I'm supposed to be doing, and all the them have the easiest things crossed off and nothing else.

I even have a list where one of the items is "make a list". Seriously.

Posted by: Danny at June 19, 2008 9:30 PM

from the shower this morning:
"sometimes it's a cartwheel, sometimes it's a tumble. most times a few days later you realize the tumble was actually a cartwheel."

Posted by: freelisa at June 20, 2008 11:25 AM

I've been saying this to myself a bunch lately - AND, I've being passing it on to some of my stressed out friends:

"Accept the things you can't change. Change the things you can. Have the wisdom to know the difference."

The last part is key.

Posted by: jenny at June 20, 2008 5:44 PM

My only bumper sticker says,
"start today"

I still like it.

Posted by: Andrea at June 20, 2008 9:40 PM

Have you read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace? I don't know how I feel about it holistically yet, but there is a good section where he talks about how cliches can be powerful in spite of (or because of) their cliche-ness. He's particularly talking about AA, and how people first starting out in AA find a lot of the touchy feely crap to ring false. But if you repeat it enough times, it takes on kind of a mantra-like power exactly BECAUSE it's such an empty phrase in the first place. It's like a vessel you can fill with your own meaning.

I generally go with the often-inaccurate but still comforting "It'll be fine. You'll be okay." It's kind of like a verbal backrub for me.

Posted by: Kath at June 22, 2008 5:01 AM

i was walking home through new york city once, after a bad day at work, and i thought: turn left. walk a different way. i took the next left and found myself in the midst of a flock of people, cycling, all shapes and sizes, all devices, and it was one of the most amazing things i've ever seen.

so when i'm having trouble, i turn left. :)

Posted by: han at June 22, 2008 3:04 PM

I have a few.

"Now. Here. This"

"We know you're all robots, and we don't care" - Tenacious D

"If you don't work, you don't eat." and "It takes grinding to be a king." - Mike Jones

And the one I say every morning when I wake up:

"I am great. I am grateful. Dream, believe, create, succeed."

Posted by: Phil Willis at June 23, 2008 4:44 AM

This one, also, pops up recently whenever I find my mind wandering.

"...All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing...."

That voice forever weirdly burned into my subconscious--for me, like most of the rest of my generation, the underpinnings of my deepest thought processes and beliefs. Actually, the whole trilogy really is, in many ways, like scripture.

Posted by: Christian at June 23, 2008 1:51 PM

this doesn't perfectly apply -- it's a bit longish -- but when i'm feeling down about life, humanity or myself, somehow the following quote lifts me considerably and puts things in the proper perspective, at least for a time:

"But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses." -- Robert Ardrey, Biologist.

Posted by: sweetney at June 23, 2008 2:17 PM

Look for the good.

Posted by: Mariah at June 23, 2008 10:57 PM

It's a little too zen for some people, but when I am feeling negative I say this to myself (quote from Hamlet, to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern):
"...there is nothing either good or
bad, but thinking makes it so."

Also, someone sent me a card three years ago, with a quote from Winston Churchill. I still keep it on my desk, it says, "never, never, never give up." Simple and motivating.

Posted by: woo at June 24, 2008 10:44 AM

be like water

Posted by: Seth at June 24, 2008 2:50 PM

make. love.

Posted by: caroline at June 24, 2008 4:51 PM

well.... it would only make sense that my mantras (mantri :) ) are cue'd from music... so in 2006 i was "im going to make it through this year if it kills me" (moutain goats) and then in 2007 i was verry "you dont have to say goodbye" (Fiest) that song was somehow a permenant lulaby in a year that felt all wrong.... However, when i am happy i do remeber: "i feel it all"

Posted by: rebecca at June 24, 2008 6:44 PM

Hi Ze. Since yesterday, after seeing "What About Bob?", my new and disposable mantra is: "Take a vacation from your problems". I'm pretty sure it's gonna change to "I'm Batman" in a few weeks. Saludos desde Chile!

Posted by: Felipe Núñez at June 25, 2008 5:47 AM

"Thy will be done." During the hardest time in my life, this reminded me that there is a higher power in control. Also, it reminded me to do the right thing when I had choices (big and small) to make in my daily life.

"When the work gets hard, just work harder." This is one I use with my first grade students. They seem to like it when I ask, "What do we do when the work gets hard?" They answer, "We work harder!" and the griping stops. :)

"You don't have to like it, you just have to do it." For the inevitable muck in life, that just needs to be gotten over with.

Posted by: Winged Book at June 29, 2008 11:10 AM

I like ideas that remind me not to take things too seriously. And that I'm the keeper of my destiny! Here's a mix of those ideas from Elliott Smith:

"You can do what you want to whenever you want to."

Posted by: Heather at June 29, 2008 10:41 PM

a couple descent ones atop my display:

- "Begin, the rest is easy"
- "The nearest way to glory is to strive to be what you wish to be thought to be"
- "Be not simply good; be good for something"

Posted by: Binkley at June 30, 2008 3:20 PM

I've got, taped across the top of my computer monitor at work, the following quote:

"Honest mistakes can be readily forgiven, but intentional dishonesty, deception, and cowardice have no place here. It's OK to be human, but it's not OK to hide from our humanity." -Steve Pavlina

It's both a reminder that it's okay to make mistakes, and that I need to stay honest.

Posted by: doriette at July 1, 2008 9:40 AM

I have never had difficulty with motivation or completing. My problem is the opposite. Never enough time. I do so many different things and I enjoy them all. I especially want to do something huge and new...like walking across death valley, designing and then building an airplane--both models and full size. Sailing to So America. Building an extreme custom motorcycle, learning something exotic, building a custom outdoor grill and BBQ smoker, doing biological plant modifications, training cats, building a large boat, designing automobile suspension systems, doing artistic custom woodworking, moving my kitchen to the other end of the house, and hundreds of others. There isn't ever enough time so I sleep only 4 hours a night. I'm 66, severely disabled, so I have to slow down, but now I work on the computer and do internet stuff. I am also writing a book and building a full size airplane--which I will finish.

So, if you are fighting desires to do more, be more motivated, complete more and so on, consider what it may be like when you don't have that problem. You could be like me. Is that what you want? Maybe not...

Its a bit like taking those classes to improve your self outlook and personal courage, your confidence. Think of what happens when you finally become confident... Now people will call you arrogant...

Winning, may be impossible. Maybe just a bit of balance is all you need. I'm called scattered, even though I complete things. I'm arrogant to some only because they want my confidence, I'm a geek or a nerd to others because they are less intelligent and perhaps a bit jealous. But give them those attributes and in a short time they will find a problem with them too.

Nothing is perfect. I do have one advantage however. I feel very good about myself and I am nicely relaxed. I have true stability and a terrific love of others--even though they don't always care for me. Perhaps I get good feelings for others because I like myself.

Maybe that is the key. I had to learn that however as I was not born to be pleased with myself. Once I learned some psychology and applied it to my own outlook, I succeeded.

Perhaps others don't need additional motivation, more creativity, less laziness, maybe they just need to like what they have.

Maslow wrote about it in his book "The psychology of being" It's a good read, but can be a bit difficult in places.

Be what you are and be pleased with it. No one else can duplicate what you have--you are truly unique.

Think about it.

Posted by: John Cook at July 1, 2008 12:51 PM

just be.

thats the one i go with at all times.
seems to work so far...

Posted by: kd at July 1, 2008 2:30 PM

wow. So many comments.
I woke up depressed and angry this morning, and now, even though I'm still depressed and angry, I feel better about it.
I guess that I've always thought two things to be true: That which does not kill you makes you stronger (Even though it sucks while it happens, you'll be able to look back and learn.)
And in some respects, Everything in Moderation. The true evils lie at the extremes - We strive to be centered in the right place without tipping the seesaw, or we'll slide down the slope to the end.
I think this goes especially for religion - a touchy subject, I know. I don't have an issue with anybody's beliefs, so long as they keep it within a reasonable limit - unfortunately, I know too many people in certain groups who don't which makes me more prejudiced against the rest of the group. (Christians especially. Jeez, Radical Christians, get a grip.)

Am I making sense?

Posted by: Kim at July 3, 2008 9:38 PM

"Do you want it or do you just wish it?"

Posted by: Oliver Reichenstein at July 6, 2008 6:21 AM

Ever since I saw this on a greeting card it has gotten me through some pretty tough times:

"If you're going through hell, keep going"
- Winston Churchill

I like the quote because it's motivational on a multitude of fronts. Firstly it's Winston Churchill telling you to keep on keeping on but it's also logical - if you were going through hell you have to keep going because if you do stop you'll stay in hell.

Mainly though I have a constant soundtrack running through my head unintentionally which motivates me. E.g.
Riding my bike = Ride of the Valkyries
Having to break in to your own house by shimmying along the drainpipe to get in after you left your keys = Dance of the sugarplum fairies
Viewing www.zefrank.com including blog = The Can Can.

Don't know why it would be hopefully that helps you :)

Posted by: memasifa at July 7, 2008 1:59 PM

"i have nothing to prove" (helps me be myself, lower social anxiety)

Posted by: Ben at July 7, 2008 9:44 PM

Very simple. Scratched with a Sharpee on a 1/2 letter size yellow lined sheet is one word: "can't" with a circle/slash through it.

Always in view.

Posted by: Chuck at July 9, 2008 5:14 PM

Very simple. Scratched with a Sharpee on a 1/2 letter size yellow lined sheet is one word: "can't" with a circle/slash through it.

Always in view.

Posted by: Chuck at July 10, 2008 9:20 AM

It's not quite short, but I have a sentence that I use to remind myself what's important:

"I can't make anyone like me, but if I weren't me, I would like me."

Posted by: Daniel at July 10, 2008 11:06 AM

I usually say or think "Just Breathe" if I'm stressed or worried. I also recite the prayer "God grant me the serenity to accept those things I cannot change, courage to change those things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Posted by: Jenny at July 14, 2008 11:13 PM

"I think I'd rather recollect a life misspent on fragile things than spent avoiding moral debt." --Neil Gaiman

Posted by: jen at July 17, 2008 3:53 PM

Just before I read this post, I made myself a desktop to remind me to stop bein so fuzzy. A mynah bird saying "Attention" in big letters. It's not working yet.

Posted by: k at August 6, 2008 8:12 AM

"hope alone won't heal."

Posted by: j at August 7, 2008 6:26 PM

A post-it with the letters JFDI sometimes gets me going.

Posted by: Matt Petty at August 8, 2008 1:26 PM

There's a book whose title I always come back to. I've never even read the book - I just ran across the title and it stuck with me: I Answer With My Life.

Posted by: jenjen at August 8, 2008 5:24 PM

My current thing is that i am reading a book called _Non-violent Communication - a language of life_. I am re-imagining all the conversations that have gone wrong and trying to apply this style of communication to them. I am also imagining the conversations that i can have with my co-workers to boost morale at work and I am even trying them out on my spouse during arguments.

Posted by: mel at August 10, 2008 1:38 PM

I try to tell myself comforting things.
As though it wasn't me saying it to me;
I tell myself things that I want to hear
Things that a good friend would tell another
If they needed the truth and a hug to wash it down.

Posted by: Ellis Dee aka Lollipopdropper at August 17, 2008 9:14 AM

"Handle it."

Posted by: Suj at August 18, 2008 1:10 PM

I like the phrase, "Leap and the net will appear." Except I found out that sometimes this doesn't happen, and it hurts when you fall on your rear-end.

Now I'm sticking to "Believe in the Happy Ending." But maybe that is because I'm from the Disneys (raised on both coasts) and castles and fairy tales are well fabricated there.

Posted by: Cristin at August 19, 2008 6:29 PM


Posted by: SGJ at August 20, 2008 1:39 PM

Run hard, run strong, run brave. Especially handy at about 5 miles in 100+ degree heat.

Posted by: Perfect Moment Project at August 30, 2008 6:51 PM

I'm like you. It varies. They don't usually last long because that part of me that they combat tends to fight back with things like, "That's a crock of saccharin sweetened shit," or something equally as witty.

The thing I fight most is self-defeatism. While I am emotionally driven, logic can sometimes save me. When I start getting down on myself and the self-deprecation really starts, I just ask myself, "Is that true? Is it really true? Or are you making it up?" I'm usually making it up. Then I just get on with it.

Thanks for asking, Ze. Thanks for sharing, too.

Posted by: Darren at September 3, 2008 10:02 PM

"Here I am." It reminds me to take a moment to connect with now.

Posted by: ChaosRu at September 4, 2008 11:30 PM

I found a great way to *make* myself say my phrase, and it makes my passwords more secure and easier to remember--basically, figure out the phrase, and use the first letter of each word for a password. I wrote about it:


Posted by: Bill at September 26, 2008 11:06 AM

I recently had a son. I got issues with my own father. so, a big motivator for me is just, I don't wanna be "That Dad"... similar to "don't be That Guy".... so if I’m being lazy or scared or over reacting, or anxiety stricken, if I can at all related it back to my son, I can just tell myself that I don't want my son to be like me, and I don't want to be like my own father, and I don't want my son to think of me, the way I think of my own father...

So in essence... I’m just trying to bust that cycle.

he's 4 months old now, and i've been doign this since before he was born. and i think it's really helping me actually better myself.

i used to be the guy that never did anything because i saw the problems before i even started. or i'd never finish anything cause i'd be jumping around from thing to thing. or i'd want things perfect, and if i couldn't get them that way i'd never even try to just do my best...

and one day it just kinda hit me that i was going to be a dad, and that i don't like the way i am. and that i want thing to be different... so i started makign changes. and i'm doign pretty good. obviously i still need a lot of work (and maybe meds or counciling to get it really good) but for a guy who was destined to never amount to anything, i've quit smoking, moved out of the effeceincy apartment and bought a house (ok, a condo, but it's a start) and i can actually afford it, started going to college, focusing on my career, instead of just slackign off and earning the easy buck. i've been going to places with crowds and not freaking out. socializing... it's crazy.

i mean i still spazz out a little when i'm in a crowded place, or i find myself ina situation where i have to talk to strangers, and i still don't have my shit together, i don't really have a budget laid out other than "earn more than ya spend"... i'm still kinda bad at payign bills on time, and i still haven't even started readign the chapter in my economics text book that i have a homework assignment due today for, and a quiz on...

so i mean it's not a complete 180, it's not a miralce change.... but, it's a big big improvement over the way i was.

now my biggest problem is getting to worked up and wrapped up in things i can't really control. liek politics. i'm so scared we might get mccain for president, and that woudl lead to not only the Iraq war continuing, but other wars starting, liek with Iran.... that shit terrifies me now... before i'd get drunk and bitch about it, then go on my merry little way. but now i have a vested interest in how this world turns out. cuase i just brought someone into it. but i need to chill out and not care so much so i don't lose it.

Posted by: Matt at October 7, 2008 9:47 AM

"A heart at peace"

Posted by: KSquared at October 11, 2008 1:43 AM

My mantra I will share is for when you just can't scream or cry because then people would think you are a lunatic or a big chicken, and also a freak. When I have to endure things that are painful or scary, or even if I just expect them to be, I recite the alphabet in my head. It's the one true thing I know well enough to recite when my brain is otherwise engaged with being a black hole of fear. The more stressed out I am, the faster I recite it. It does not require engaging your actual brain, which is basically impossible in such situations. And most times I find that by the time I reach LMNOP I've figured out it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and I start to breath again...or I figure out that it *is* that bad and repeat the alphabet in loop mode until the bad thing is over. This versatile mantra applies equally well to many awful things, such as mammograms and yelling boss staff meetings and plane takeoffs/landings and watching your child get stitches in the emergency room.

And in situations where I just need to get my butt in gear and nothing else is working, this is what I say to myself, "Collaborate!" And then I go try to find someone to help me, or at least talk to me until a new wave of creativity and productivity urge comes back.

Posted by: Susiechka at October 12, 2008 11:53 PM

As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.

Posted by: knitted ugg boots at September 17, 2010 2:21 AM

What you focus on expands

Posted by: donna rose at November 1, 2010 5:49 PM

Just keep swimming

Posted by: ruben at November 1, 2010 6:03 PM

Frodo and Gandalf in the movie version sitting on the rock talking about bad times and what we do with our time we have... it gently motivates me.

The other thing that helps me is "I feel ___sad/depressed/tired___" which validates my feeling, and puts it in temporary context. I try to use "I am" for permanent statements like "I am learning."

Lately I've been pulling up a favorite quote lots: "By your stumbling the world is perfected." - Sri Aurobindo

Posted by: Kary at November 1, 2010 6:09 PM

Hanging on the inside of my apartment door is a little sign that reads:
"don't believe everything you think."

Posted by: Jane at November 1, 2010 8:06 PM

My therapist suggested a mantra: this is just me doing me.

And that's when I started calling him Drake.

Posted by: jenn at November 1, 2010 8:26 PM

I have several written out on small slips of cardstock. I keep the stack by my clock radio, and switch the one on top at random. Here's one of my favorites: "To speed up, slow down." It's counterintuitive, but it's true.

Posted by: yvonne at November 1, 2010 9:33 PM

The magic word is: FOCUS!

Posted by: Uli Kaiser at November 2, 2010 2:02 PM

i have a couple that have helped me.

i answer with my life.

Fear only makes the wolf bigger.

Criticize by creating.

"the elephant needs a stick!" An elephant in a bazaar will swing its trunk and just by walking causing tonnes of damage. Give it a stick and the trunk is still. My brain works like this. Every once in a while it needs a stick...

Posted by: Aimee at November 2, 2010 5:11 PM

Remember...The middle letters in the word life, spell, "IF".

Posted by: Peggy at November 12, 2011 12:04 PM

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