Ignore the pseudo-spiritual baggage many people have with the notion of a mantra. Repeating and focusing on a meaningful phrase to help guide you through difficult situations, whether that’s an hour of sitting meditation or a commitment to a healthy Primal lifestyle, is a legitimate tool anyone can use. Today, I’m going to give you 7 mantras that I find to be useful.
Many of these don’t even apply explicitly to nutrition or fitness, so anyone can gain from incorporating them. I even left off a personal mantra of mine—”Rend the flesh of young mammals and consume it close to raw as possible”—to make vegetarians and vegans feel more welcome.
Pay yourself first.
In business, the single best piece of advice I ever received was to invest in myself. That meant furthering my education, improving my health, taking the opportunity to get some extra sleep, and even taking calculated risks in business to either succeed outright or fail but learn something new.
This worked out beautifully. I buckled down on nutrition and science. I figured out what was causing my health issues, and enacted the right changes to my diet, exercise, and lifestyle to solve them. And I took a ton of risks, including giving up a cushy job to start Primal Nutrition. All these self payments led to the life I now lead.
Take care of yourself first and the benefits emanate outward. You could nag your friends about giving up fast food and get nowhere, or you could focus on optimizing your own eating habits and let the results speak for themselves.
If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Primal living is simple. Yes, you can geek out on the nitty-gritty details. Yes, you can chase optimization and hack the hell out of everything. But the true power of this way of life lies in its simplicity. Eat well, sleep lots, get light at the right times, move your body.
It’s not easy, though. If it were, everyone even remotely cognizant of alternative health would be fit, healthy, strong, and happy. They aren’t, so it’s not.
Know that you’re a warrior for doing a hard thing. Take pride in that, because you’ve earned it. Also know that you’re going to slip up from time to time, and that it’s okay—so long as you get up and keep doing the hard thing.
Think of “If it were easy, everyone would do it” as both a pressure release valve and a motivational tool. It provides relief for those times we inevitably slip up and mess up, and it makes you feel awesome for doing something few can or will.
First off, I think we accuse people of vicarious living in the wrong way. When someone loves watching their children excel at sports or the arts, are they living vicariously in a futile attempt to mask their own miserable excuse for a life, or are they supporting their loved ones and feeling pride? I’d argue the latter.
When people spend every ounce of free time watching reality TV, catching up on the news, bingeing on Netflix, and generally thinking about what other people are doing (or pretending to do) rather than doing anything themselves, that’s vicarious living. True living doesn’t even have to be TV-worthy. We can’t all parachute from planes into enemy territory or drive trucks through frozen wastelands along rickety cliff roads. But we can all do something other than think/care/watch other people doing things. Hell, how many people watch hours of Food Network and never set foot in their own kitchens?
Onward and upward.
Things don’t always work out. You won’t always work out, even though you told yourself you would. “Onward and upward.” You’ll get it next time.
It applies every time.
Failed miserably? Onward and upward.
Personal setback? Onward and upward.
Fell flat on your face? Onward and upward.
The mistake, failure, or whatever moment you’re currently lamenting has passed. It no longer exists. Meanwhile, you’re hurtling toward the future moment where you can make amends and fix the mistake, right the wrong. That moment is now.
Leave a rep in the tank.
I tell myself this all the time. This really comes in handy for those moments where my gut tells me not to lift something, but my ego’s urging me to push through the reluctance and get the rep. I firmly believe that those hints from our subconscious are warnings against injuries. “Leave a rep in the tank” helps defeat the ego and avoid injury.
Reps are metaphorical. It applies to anything in life. For example, Hemingway would stop writing for the day when things were going well and he had plenty more to write. He wouldn’t “go to failure.” This allowed him to come back the next day and pick up where he left off.
Excuses always betray you.
Excuses serve no purpose other than making you feel better in the moment. You made a mistake. You failed to do something you should have done. Instead of staying with the realization and learning from it, you shut down the mental feedback circuit with an excuse. You’ve cut off the opportunity for self-reflection and insight.
Excuses absolve you from the burden of responsibility, and without responsibility, we behave badly. Responsibility tethers us to reality—and nurtures opportunity to grow beyond where we’re at.
As you approach the runway, ready to launch your excuse, remember these words: “Excuses always betray you.”
This, too, shall pass.
All situations are transient. All physical possessions will eventually stop working, lose their luster, or be forgotten. All emotional states are subject to change. Nothing stays the same forever. Things fall apart.
When you’re in the middle of a tough set of heavy squats, and you come back up from the 3rd rep of 5 and think you can’t possibly bear it, know that “this too shall pass.”
When you’re dealing with the death of a family member or a breakup, and it feels like the pain won’t ever stop, remember the mantra. Your heart might not feel it, but your brain can acknowledge the fact that this too shall pass.
This goes for good feelings and positive situations, too.
This body? It won’t stay this lean, strong, and fit forever. Better enjoy it and keeping using it, or you’ll lose it.
The awesome night you’re having with friends and several bottles of wine? This, too, shall pass (and it might feel very different in the morning).
Whatever it is, this, too, shall pass, so savor it. Enjoy it. But don’t become too attached—or despairing.
Those are some mantras I’ve found helpful on my Primal journey. What about you? What mantras do you apply? Thanks for reading, everybody. Take care.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.