Mantras To Live By


I was sitting around the other day and thinking about a hashtag that I saw, #WHATIKNOWNOW. As I thought about it, I thought about all the lessons that I’ve learned and wish that I had started accumulating and building a list of mantras, you know, guiding principles, to help me make decisions easier and faster. For example, it took me forever to notice what I’m like when I’m nervous. I completely wig out. I don’t sleep well, and I “go dark”. What I mean is that I don’t talk to the other party about the situation. I spin my wheels until I exhaust myself and then waive the white flag. Why does it take all that? Once I recognized AND OWNED this pattern, I started working on how not to flip the hell out…and how not to ruin my reputation by having people think that I’m not responsive.


As I looked at that hashtag, I thought about the guiding mantras I live by now and how I learned those lessons. I decided to share 10 of them…5 of the things to do and things NOT to do. I don’t call these “commandments” because commandments are so static and concrete and there are always exceptions to rules…but in the case of my mantras, those exceptions are rare. I go out of my way to live by them. I live by them because I have found them to be consistently true. I have also found that when I violate them, there’s a gap between my choices and how I like to see myself. When I screw up, I write “memos to the file” to help me better understand myself and to avoid making the same bad choices again and again. What are the mantras that you’re living by?



1) Embrace the full spectrum of your emotions. Connect with joy, pain, love, disappointment, boredom, hope, fear, grief, excitement, pleasure, and anger without regard for being saddled with the angry black woman trope. The most exciting thing I’ve done in a long time has been to walk directly into my range of emotions and let myself feel them – not laugh them away, not ignore them away, not dance on top of them – but to actually feel them. It assured me that I am fully alive, fully human, and at once strong and delicate.  


2) Develop your integrity. Regularly address your hypocrisies. Look, there are always places to cheat. I mean, ALWAYS. For example, if you really don’t believe that detached sex is cool, it doesn’t become cool when you’re jonesing. Yeah, you’re jonesing, but you better figure out something other than getting under or on top of somebody (I’ll talk about “self love” in another post). 


3) Honor Yourself by evaluating the disconnects between your thoughts and emotions. When you feel one way and think another, that’s your subconscious self trying to warn you that something is not quite right. There should be congruence and consistency among what you say, think, and do. When they are not aligned, you are frustrated. Consider this: I didn’t grow up with my mother, and I was struggling with our relationship. Emotionally, I had a lot of resentment about the traditional daughter expectations; however, I could not bring myself to be entirely dismissive about her. When the internal tension got the best of me, I came to see how I was partly responsible for the situation. Instead of being honest with my mother about my feelings, I had spent years faking peace. In turn, she thought we were okay. Your subconscious will keep pushing you to do the work that you need to do…evening if you’re avoiding it. 


4) Do for and provide for yourself as much as you can. No person is an island, and the tribe loves you and wants to help; however, you are more of a blessing to the tribe when you do as much as you can for yourself. There is a beauty in figuring out how to manage your life within your own financial means. 


5) Give and be generous because it makes me feel whole. It’s consistent with my vision of myself, my highest and best self. It makes me feel good to know that I put my money where my mouth is in terms of my values.  


6) Don’t neglect your health, all of it. By all of it, I mean, physical health, mental health, relaxation time, balance,….all of it!  I didn’t really catch the “health religion” until my mid 30s; I did so because I was being forced to watch my aunties die from health issues that I thought were due to lifestyle (and to some extent, lack of resources).


7) Don’t make decisions based on fear, anger, before you have enough information or before you’re ready. Every time I’ve made a decision based on fear or anger, I’ve regretted it and cheated myself. Without fail, acting on fear means not standing up for myself. Likewise, acting on anger usually means feeling misunderstood.


8) Don’t be a perfectionist or go to extreme lengths to avoid risk. Perfectionism have caused me much stress. It is an on-going effort to slay this dragon. Click here to see if the way perfectionism immobilizes me is how it immobilizes you


9) Don’t wait on others to do the things that you really want to do. If you need a crew to do everything, you won’t do much. If you learn to go it alone, you’ll be amazed at what you learn about yourself. When I escaped the watchful eye of my family and close friends, I was surprised at everything from who I dated to the fact that I actually enjoyed a monster trucks rally.  


10) Be measured, be strategic, but don’t be half-assed. Give your full effort to those things that you want. I can’t stand these people with big dreams who don’t do big effort. Go all in or go home. Call me judgey, but when I see people talking big game, but producing no results, I put them in the “uh huh” box.  


So, what about you? My mantras are mine and no two journeys are the same. What lessons are you carrying with you that serve you well?

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