There’s a great moment in the Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt where Kimmy recounts her days living as a hostage in an underground bunker where she would be required to turn a crank for hours on end. It was hard labor and at the time she didn’t even know what the crank powered, but she got through the ordeal in typical Kimmy-style with her mantra of “you can do anything for ten seconds.” (Side note: If you’ve never watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt you are probably extremely confused. Save some money this weekend by staying home with a friend or partner and binge watching it.)
I know I’ve personally used this technique to get through everything from a difficult workout, to graduate school. I probably have been through thousands of mantras and am a true believer in their ability to influence your attitude and success. I’m not alone in this. Even the fabulous Harvard social psychologist Amy Cuddy spends a good portion of her latest book Presence discussing the science behind mantras and how selecting the right mantra for you can have a legitimate impact on your performance. The key to finding an effective mantra, she explains, is to make the mantra something personal to you that you find believable and motivating.
You may already use mantras in other aspects of your life, but have you ever incorporated them into your financial life? Here are some steps you can take to find the right mantra.
Make It Meaningful & Manageable
Looking through Pinterest or Instagram you can find inspirational mantras for every life situation, but if they aren’t meaningful to you personally or if you don’t believe them, they’re not likely to stick. Find or create mantras that challenge you without seeming insurmountable. This may mean that you may need to break down a bigger goal into manageable pieces for that day of for that week.
Start with your overarching goal, and then work backwards. What can you do today to accomplish that long-term goal? If you are saving for the down payment on a house, maybe you want to have a no spend day where you pack your lunch and don’t open your wallet even once. If you are working to pay down credit card debt and running close to your budget at the end of the month, you could remind yourself that this will all be worth it when you’re finally debt free. Your mantra could be something like, “This will all be worth it when I’m finally debt free” (creative, I know). That may be enough to turn down an invitation to dinner out with friends or at least to find a cheaper alternative that will allow you to align your goals with your actions.
Re-evaluate Your Mantra Regularly
Look at your mantra every day. Does it really express what you want to accomplish that day? Are you repeating it to yourself and letting it drive you towards your goal? If not, it’s likely not the right mantra for you and you should try to craft a more personally inspirational one. Additionally, your mantra may just be too lofty. Try to focus on that one day or week specifically and what is important to you, even if it’s something as small (or large) as just “Survive today and start again tomorrow.” The mantra you may need to motivate you may change from hour to hour based on your life and what is happening at that moment. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mantra… Life is messy and the best you can do is roll with the punches.
Share Your Mantra with Others
If you want to give your mantra some extra weight, share it with friends or family members. There have been many times I have shared my mantras with my mom. It lets her know how my week is going, and makes it easy to understand what kind of support or encouragement I need, if anything. I’ll also share my financial mantras with my husband so he knows what I’m trying to accomplish that month or week with our finances. This is important to mention, because if you’re sharing your finances with a partner, they need to be on the same page as you if you are going to achieve your goal. It’s a team sport, so if your mantra for the week is “Save, save, save,” share that with your partner. If you’re in super saving mode, but your partner doesn’t know it, not only with the money he or she spent on eating lunch at a restaurant blow your progress to your goal, but it will also breed resentment that he or she held you back from said goal.
For some mantras to get you started, check out our Instagram feed or share your own mantras in the comments section below.
Written By: Lindsay Dell Cook
Lindsay Dell Cook is a CPA, writer, and founder of Budget Babble. She lives in Philadelphia with her uber supportive husband, and enjoys taking their adorable mutt for walks or reading a good book while buried under a pile of cats.