In Part 1 of this post, I explored the importance of tackling your mindset for career success, and some of the background and research on the topic. Here (Part 2), I explore strategies and tools, ranging from centuries-old to more recent, that can help you do this more effectively.
Meditation, Mantras, and Affirmations
In his book 10% Happier, anchor Dan Harris explores the self-help industry and, while skeptical of much of what he encounters, he finds research-backed reasons why mindfulness, our ability to focus on the present and distinguish events from the emotions of how we experience those events, can increase our happiness and health. He explores the Buddhist concept of "the monkey mind", which embodies the constant agitation occurring in our brains and stands in the way of mindfulness. Meditation becomes the main tool to tame the monkey mind.
While meditation is closely linked with Buddhism and other religious practices, it has more recently been explored in a non-religious vein, through self-help programs, exercise, mental health initiatives, and as a powerful instrument in life and career coaching. Anna Runyan, the Classy Career Girl, includes meditation in her morning routine and encourages the students in her coaching courses to practice meditation as a way to start the day off on the right foot. Benjamin Hardy, a student in Industrial and Organizational Psychology who dominates Medium, recommends meditation as one of the things you do when you wake up and also as one of the things you do before going to bed in order to achieve your life goals.
Mantras, which have also been used by people for eons, are repetitive phrases used in meditation to help with concentration during meditation. So mantras help you meditate, and meditation helps you be mindful, with the overall goal of greater happiness and fulfillment in self, relationships, work, and life. Wildmind has a whole section on mantra meditation and defines a mantra as, among other things, "that which protects the mind", an "instrument of thought" and "a cross between poetry and magical incantations." Another term often used interchangeably with mantras is affirmations, though some would argue that mantras are connected to spiritual practice whereas affirmations deal more with one's emotions and psychology. While mantras are connected to sound and repetition, affirmations are powered by the words being repeated.
On the one hand, I see a lot of value in using mantras or affirmations to support your life and career goals. Affirmations are a way to focus your mind on the things you want and that will move your forward, rather than being distracted by noise and negativity. Plenty of successful people use daily affirmations, such as Shonda Rhimes, who shares in her book Year of Yes that she repeats Muhammad Ali's quote, "It's not bragging if you can back it up" to herself in the shower every morning. You can come up with your own affirmation or borrow one that resonates with you.
On the other hand, while these concepts are great, I've struggled with the terms "mantra" and "affirmation" as sources of inspiration within the field of career coaching and personal development. A "mantra" is great for meditation but, due to its close connection to spiritual and religious practice, seems too sacred to describe an inspirational quote. On the other end of the spectrum, "affirmation" feels too fluffy and doesn't fit comfortably within my comfort zone of ideas backed by research and sound practice; it makes me think of Stuart Smalley repeating his famous phrase! So I was excited to finally find a term that resonates with me:
In 2016 TIME Magazine launched Motto, billed as "Advice worth sharing from the world's most influential people and the editors of TIME. Its core audience is the growing share of millennial women reading TIME digitally, who are looking for articles and advice on how to "work, play and live" better.
One of the inaugural articles was written by Gina Rodriguez, the actress behind the smart, inspiring lead character in Jane the Virgin- a guilty pleasure of mine, though not too guilty! The show is full of clever writing dealing with bilingualism and tough but relevant topics like undocumented immigration, representing a whole segment of the culture and generation in a fresh way.
In her article Rodriguez shares that a difficult experience early on inspired her motto, "I can and I will," which propels her forward to this day. "Motto" feels motivational and supportive while also feeling grounded. So from here on out, I'll be relying on my MOTTOS!
Putting It Into Practice
One motto that fuels me and the goals of The Inclusive Career is, "My difference is my strength." It is a reminder that the qualities that sometimes make me worry about not fitting in (like being a woman or an immigrant) are the same qualities that give me a unique perspective to apply in my career and relationships. Seeing your difference as your strength can open up new windows of opportunity and can help you push through the moments when the difference feels like a barrier into an established industry or community.
Circling back to the beginning, I challenge myself- and YOU!- to adopt a growth mindset in order to be a lifelong learner and to see setbacks as opportunities for growth. I plan to up my mindfulness game, adding moments of meditation in my day to control my "monkey brain." And I plan to continue repeating my mottos as a source of inspiration to myself and others.