7 Primal Mantras to Drive Your Success

famous Buddha quote "What you think you become" handwritten on blackboardDo you have any mantras? You should.

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.

Let’s go:

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.

Vicarious living isn’t.

Ross, from a recent (and incredible) success story, inspired this one. Hat tip to you, Ross.

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.

Primal Kitchen Ranch

TAGS:  Motivation

About the Author

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.

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89 thoughts on “7 Primal Mantras to Drive Your Success”

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  1. I got mine right here: “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”.

    1. Mine is similar. “Do what you can and don’t sweat the rest…” because a hundred years from now it’s not going to matter anyway. The last part of that mantra is, for me, a reminder that everything is temporary and should therefore not be obsessed over. I like the 80/20 rule for the same reason. I can do 90/10 or 100 percent Paleo if and when I prefer to, but 80/20 lets me give myself permission to be less than perfect.

    1. I love this one. Reminds me of what Thoreau once said to Emerson “simplify, simplify..”

  2. Love this post…totally believe in the power of mantras/affirmations. “Leave a rep in the tank” reminds me of “Quit when you’re ahead.” Totally agree with this one, and reminds us not to work to exhaustion. Another one I like and have really applied personally is “Start before you’re ready.” Lately I have changed this to “Jump and grow wings on the way down.” I used to want to wait until everything was perfect, which really kept me stuck. Now I throw myself into things that are out of my comfort zone. A huge one for me recently has been videos. I love to write and was fine posting pics, but videos seemed so much more vulnerable. I decided to go for it and post some short ones on Instagram giving quick and easy health tips. It keeps getting easier and more fun. But if I waited until I was ready, and they were perfect, it would never happen.

    1. Elizabeth, you are absolutely my favorite poster on this site! Thank you for all of your comments and keep up the great work.

  3. Mine is “use it or lose it”. It reminds me to not take for granted the skills that I’ve currently honed, and to practice those skills regularly. I love it because it applies to my movement regimen, my writing, and even my cooking skills!

  4. “Where there is love, there is life.” – Ghandi
    I try to treat everyone I meet as if they were a beloved family member. Because… well, they kind of are.

  5. “This too shall pass” has been a favourite of mine for many years. When I was glued to the couch, breastfeeding a very fussy baby 16 years ago, I felt close to despair. My beautiful daughter would not sleep unless she was held. After searching for help from several health practitioners we learned there really wasn’t a simple answer. I read Dr Sears wonderful book about parenting a fussy baby (I’m sorry to say I can’t remember the title of the book). It was a beacon of light at a very dark time. He suggested that the best thing to do was simply give my fussy baby what she needed; to put aside everything else and give her the attention she needed right now. It was a miracle: not because she was “cured”, but because I looked at the situation differently, and realised that it wouldn’t be forever, that it would pass. It did.I spent about 8 months sitting, soothing, walking my baby, and eventually she settled. She is now a beautiful, clever, remarkable human being. Recently we learn she is lactose intolerant – one thing that was never suggested by any of the health practitioners I saw. Honestly – if I’d been primal back then, things may have been different, but it doesn’t matter, the time passed and I am actually grateful that I had so many hours devoted to her; we have a wonderful bond and I’m sure all those hours together contributed to that. Now the mantra serves to help me through many difficulties: HIIT training, a classroom of difficult 13 year olds, a long plane journey, the terrible grief of losing a loved one or a tedious conversation; time moves everything along.

    1. Love hearing about your breastfeeding experience and changing your expectations in order to adapt to the baby’s needs. Regarding lactose intolerance: almost no babies and toddlers are lactose intolerant up to the age of about 4. At about 4 years old, some people become lactose intolerant. Before that time the body knows that lactose is needed from breastmilk. So, just because your daughter was found to be lactose intolerant in later life doesn’t mean she was as a baby (and so it wouldn’t explain her ‘fussiness’) – in fact, she almost certainly wasn’t. Some babies just need more cuddling – it’s the human state but our culture suggests to us that they are fussy and not normal. I’m so glad you found the answer from Dr Sears and that you were able to treasure those times rather than feel there was something wrong! And yes, all those wonderful and exhausting times we have with our babies pass away like all other experiences.

  6. I took the chair down the ski hill on the last run. The day had been perfect and the legs were tired. Never done this before but now 60 y/o and why tempt fate with heavy slushy snow? Glad i did.

    1. Oh I so agree. At 64 Husband and I still enthusiastic skiers, but we know our limits and know when to wimp out. We hope to continue skiing for many years yet…and next year we get the seniors lift pass discount! Yay!

      1. Never take a last run. All serious ski injuries happen on the last run of the day.

        1. I’m not sure if this is tongue in cheek or not but all serious ski injuries happen on the last run because you are now seriously injured and cannot take anymore runs…nonsense statement. If this was sarcastic then carry on.

          1. The ski tradition in my family is to say one more run, even if you don’t plan on doing one, because you don’t get messy because you think you will still have another one to go.People tend to check out on last runs, so this is just a little trick to keep focused.

          2. It is a universal Ski Patrol mantra and yes unfortunately sometimes the first run is the last run. The truth is many of the bad ones happen within the hour before the lifts close. It is the skiing specific version of “keep one rep in the tank” There is no humor in guiding down and injured skier in sled.

  7. Life is not a problem to be solved, it is a gift to be lived!

    1. Life is definitely a gift to be lived, but it is never free of problems. How big or small we make those problem and how we deal with them is up to us. Perspective is everything.

  8. One of my favorites:

    “What is the worst that may happen?”

  9. Absolutely AWESOME mantras. I’m going to share this. Very inspiring for a gal who went primal in 2012, got down to my high school weight, then fell off of the bandwagon for a few years. I’m back… and this REALLY helps. Thanks, Mark.

  10. I like Marianne Williamson’s:
    “Everything is either an act of love or a request for love”

    Good reminder when I feel challenged by human interactions.

  11. One of my favorites: “Does the dog wag the tail, or does the tail wag the dog?”

    For me its a reminder not to let other people–and their emotions, trials, tribulations, judgments–negatively impact me.

    This is well timed, as I need a lot of mantras to get me through the next 12 months of Lyme Disease and Mold Toxicity treatment. Onward and Upward! This too shall pass!

  12. One of my longest-recited mantras: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

  13. I “enjoyed” both times I almost died. Both times were in very cold rivers. I take a mantra from the 2nd time, trapped under a raft on a step in the falls, looking at green sunlight in the water above me, thinking “this could be it.” Surprisingly, I stayed calm ant had this thought, which is a mantra I often return to: DON’T BREATHE AND KEEP PUSHING.

    1. Wow I wish I had had your mantra like 50 years ago when skin diving after some fish at the top of my depth. Used all my air chasing the fish (which escaped) and I could have used your mantra on the way up. I emerged out of without my goggles …

  14. A biggie of mine is when I am in a situation where there is bound to be a conflict that just isn’t worth it. I say to myself, ‘God, make me an instrument of thy peace” and I take a breath, smile, nod, swallow my ego and move on from the situation. I have learned along the way in these 45 years of life that sometimes, regardless of how wrong someone is, or how much of an ass they are it’s less stressful for ME to just move on.

  15. I enjoy your posts. This is one post that is inspiring me. The two mantras that relate to me are: “Excuse always betray you” and “This, too, shall pass”. Everything is ephemeral and will pass away so be patient and content. I am sharing on social media. I know it will surely inspire others. Great post!

  16. Love these mantras Mark! Especially the one about living vicariously. Spot on!

  17. Love these mantras! Mine has a lot to do with faith… “To those who believe, no words are necessary. To those who don´t, no words are enough.”

  18. Live in the now…. The past is History, the future is a mystery, here, right now is all you can be sure of, take a deep breath and appreciate this gift

  19. Try not to worry, “In 100 years, we’ll all be dead and none of this will matter. ”

    Also, don’t use 0 instead of o in w0rds 😉

  20. Okay, this made me laugh out loud for over a minute: “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.” Anyhow, my own mantra (along with several that Mark gave below) is “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.”

  21. “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” —Edmund Burke

    Still have trouble with this one.

    1. Adam – “All or Nothing”

      I have trouble with this one too..

  22. ‘This too shall pass’ is awesome – the original version (?) of Lance Armstrong’s ‘Pain is temporary’. Similar is one I heard from a speaker in an educational setting: ‘GOIT-MO’ – ‘Get over it, move on…’ When I’m running I think my mantra is – ‘C’mon… nearly there’! When I finish it’s ‘That’s another one in the bank’ (it might have been difficult, but I didn’t give up and it’s adding to my training for my upcoming event)

  23. I always liked, today is the first day of the rest of your life and you always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

    1. New for me, saving it

      you always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

  24. Have an “Attitude of Gratitude” is at the top of my list.

    Thankful in all circumstances for today’s blessings: my health, this country, my family, my livelihood, my fitness at 58 that allows me to ski hard, run fast, cycle long and smile while doing it all (thanks Primal Blueprint!).

  25. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That’s been my mantra, and that’s why I haven’t seen a doctor in over 40 years.

  26. I have noticed over the years, and am occasionally reminded “If you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough”.

  27. “A bird in the ha-…”

    “A rolling stone ga-…”

    Wait, how do I play this game?

  28. So true! Love these mantras, especially “Vicarious living isn’t.” We often waist so much of our time watching other people live while in turn wasting our own life…not doing anything. Get outside and go do something! 🙂

    1. Carry that further with “Luck gives you the confidence to say I can do this” ~ Bob Fisherman- Nascar (he actually said “Luck gives you the confidence to say WE can do this”.

      To me that means you often have help along the way whether it be from a person or from circumstance or luck, so when you see a sign of help or a sign of motivation, acknowledge it and use it — yep, “Use it or Lose it”.

  29. “No regrets”is mine. It gives you permission to try again without overanalyzing.

  30. After returning from 2 months working in a refugee camp I realise i have used my version of the serenity prayer a lot.
    Grant me the STRENGTH to accept the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can and the WISDOM to know the difference.

  31. ‘Always leave a rep in the tank’ – It doesn’t get any more important than this for me. Healing my chronic fatigue and asthma I submerged myself in the primal lifestyle and I got great results. Beter bloodwork. less infection, losing weight etc. But… the fatigue stayed. Carefully monitoring my body and how it feels I now apply the 75% rule. I try never to exceed 75% of the energy in my wallet for the day. Often that’s very little energy, which means 75% of very little. But also: feeling better, means: don’t exceed those 75% because you’re so happy you CAN now walk those five miles or DO those demanding reps. It has helped me get out of the worst fatigue, with less relapse and got me on the road to recovery.

  32. Added to my comment below… I remembered many times my primal health Coach course…Understanding that shit happens and often we are powerless to change it and learning to accept it. In the situation i was in it was essential to take care of me or I could not have helped anyone else. Marks first mantra really i guess.

  33. Hi from Spain (Europe), I really like your blog! I have a doubt that maybe you know how to respond or inspire you for a new article. I am trying to lower (or completely eliminate) estrogens from my diet. The first thing I did was to eliminate soy as it seems to be the food with the highest amount of phytosterols. But looking for information I find that practically all seeds, legumes and nuts have phytosterols. To complicate it more I understand that not all phytosterols are bad, there are some that behave like estrogens thanks to aromatase and others have the opposite effect. I’m made a mess … how to know what I can or can not eat? Flax, sesame, chia, lentils, beans, peanuts … are all estrogenic?

    Sorry for my English and Thanks forward!

  34. Such a great post all around. Love the vicarious living and excuses topics. My husband and I have gotten into a routine of watching a new show every night and its literally all we do on a weeknight aside from cooking dinner (in which jeopardy or the news is always on in the background). I have been feeling “stuck” lately and have been seeking out new things to pull me out of my rut. So, this week I decided to ban TV. Its been amazing. We eat dinner on the porch together, my mind is SO MUCH calmer, I’m doing household chores instinctively instead of procrastinating, and I’m reading again. Its really been an eye opener for us.

  35. Life Before Death
    Strength Before Weakness
    Journey Before Destination.

    (stolen from Brandon Sanderson). the last one in particular has really started to sink in for me.

  36. “Where could I make this easier? Where could I find ease in this?”

    That’s my favorite to use with self and clients when it comes to eating and lifestyle.

    Another I find helpful for many clients: “You know *that* thing? Do just 5 percent more/less of it.”

  37. This too shall pass has gotten me through too many painful situations to count. In the end knowing that everything passes allows me to enjoy the happy times even that much more. With no contrast there is no value.

  38. 1. “This is my lucky day.” – because it is.
    2. “Circumstances don’t care – why get mad at them.”
    3. “Yes, I would like more wine.”

  39. “Don’t think, don’t feel, just GET.” This is one I coined for myself and other HSP/overthinkers. Sometimes thinking doesn’t serve us and instead stops us in our tracks. Get started moving and begin. You can think later.

  40. 1) “Adapt. Adopt. Improve.”
    2) “And now for something completely different.”

    No Python fans in here?

  41. Best I’ve ever read: ‘Abandonment to Divine Providence’ by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Best. Ever.

  42. CQI – Continuous Quality Improvement. Better Everyday!

    Not sure if “Live Long Drop Dead” fits this bill but still one of my favorites.

    Thanks Mark!!

  43. In all it’s simplicity, I find this to be on of your most useful articles Mark. Really hit’s the nail on the head so to speak.

  44. “The pseudo-spiritual baggage”? Umm, thanks for bashing some of the great cultures of the world. Mantras have been a part of the Vedas and of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism for millennia. I like your point about using them but to characterize them as pseudo-spiritual (i.e., fake or not real) is kind of an insult to the billions of people throughout history who have used them and who use them still as an important part of their religion. It would be helpful to remember that your audience is not only made up of WASPS!

  45. Wherever you go, there you are. And yes, Buckaroo Banzai is one of my favorite movies.

  46. “If not now, when? If not you, who?”
    I aim to not have regrets when I’m 108 years old, so that’s the first part – you gotta try or you won’t know! Also, you can make as many excuses as you like (& I certainly do at times!!), but no one else can keep you fit healthy & happy 🙂