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Set Your Intention With a Daily Motto

A motto for each day of the week? For better self-talk, try it.

Key points

  • A daily motto can provide a way to set your intentions for the day.
  • To be most useful, a daily motto should resonate with your values and goals.
  • There are times when you might find it helpful to "graduate" to a different motto.
 ksheongg03/Pixabay
Words to live by?
Source: ksheongg03/Pixabay

A Motto a Day

Today is Tuesday. Let’s see, my motto for Tuesday is … to be revealed below. But first—why have a daily motto?

I’ve written before about the power of easy-to-remember mottoes. Mottoes can bring your key values to mind. They can provide encouragement and motivation during tough times. They can amuse, delight, or distract. A motto a day keeps the blues away.

Some people “set their intentions” for the day when they meditate, pray, or read short inspirational verses. I recently began using mottoes for the same purpose, adopting a daily motto to guide my actions and provide perspective on the challenges of my day. I have found that the repetition, week after week, helps groove the motto into my brain. In addition, I find that a daily motto improves my self-talk. When I catch myself ruminating about an issue, for example, my healthy motto often pops into my head to provide words of sanity.

In this post, I’ll share my daily mottoes. Feel free to adopt them or create your own. Tip: Choose mottoes that are short, memorable, in line with your values, and appealing to you. At the end of the post, I’ll suggest when it might be time to “graduate” to a new motto.

OK, let’s start with Monday and work our way through the week.

Monday motto: “Things can always be worse.” (Old saying)

Why I chose it: I often grumble about little things. My Monday motto reminds me that most of my complaints are small. The fact that things can always be worse helps me enjoy the good in the present moment and reframe the bad as a small part of the picture.

Recently, I’ve been turning this motto inside out: “Things can always be better.” That tweak not only validates my feelings but can even inspire me to find a more creative solution to a particular problem. Oddly, the opposite of a truth can also be true.

Tuesday motto: “There is always something left to love.” (Lorraine Hansbury, A Raisin in the Sun)

Why I chose it: Nerd alert: I look forward every Tuesday to reading the “Well” section in the New York Times. When I bring in the papers and see it, I feel a bubble of happiness. The paper cues me to inwardly recite my mantra.

As a frequent writer on the topic of healthy aging, this saying also reminds me that while we experience numerous losses as we age, we can still find reasons to savor life. I find this motto so meaningful that I used it as the epilogue for my book on aging, Silver Sparks.

Wednesday motto: “This too shall pass.” (Persian proverb)

Why I chose it: This proverb reveals an eternal truth. That truth is: Whatever unhappiness, difficulty, or challenge you currently have, it will pass—or at least change. Of course, just as bad things pass, so do good things. I might feel great today and feel sick tomorrow. Another reminder to squeeze all the goodness from life that you can. And speaking of good things …

Thursday motto: “Find the good and praise it.” (Alex Haley, author of Roots)

Why I chose it: Gratitude is a path to happiness for me and for many others. Reams of research show that feelings of gratitude can lead to happiness, reduce depression, increase optimism, and even bolster self-control. My own gratitude practice started with the iconic “Three Good Things” exercise, a review of the day that focuses on … well … three good things that happened. As a result, my life became infused with the “gratitude attitude.” “Finding the good” is second nature to me now.

But Part 2 of Haley's saying—“praise it”—has added an action component to my inner feelings of gratitude. I’ve now started a Thursday routine of “praising it.” I give a positive review to a favorite restaurant, contribute to a charity, or write a thank-you email/note. Hopefully, someone’s life is better as a result of my small gesture. Recently, I decided to create a Twitter hashtag for this ideax—#ThankfulThursday—only to discover that the hashtag already existed. Well, what did I expect? “Great minds think alike,” they say.

Friday motto: “Loose lips sink (relation)ships.” (Adapted from a World War II ad campaign)

Why I chose it: I try to be kind and considerate, but I must shamefacedly admit that sometimes I let my anger get the best of me. My careless words have hurt others, and it’s hard for me to forgive myself after one of these incidents. The motto reminds me to think before I speak and to remember that a snappy comeback, or even “being right,” is less important than preserving a relationship or simply treating another human being with kindness.

Saturday motto: “Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax.” (Mark Black, author and speaker)

Why I chose it: As someone who is always trying to get more done, this paradox helps me internalize the fact that everyone, including me, needs downtime. Both research and experience confirm that taking a break refreshes your brain and helps you concentrate, prevents “decision fatigue,” restores motivation, improves creativity, and, yes, increases your productivity. Of course, even if breaks did none of these things but were “just” fun, they would still be worthwhile. Rest and relaxation are the gates to the Garden of Eden.

Sunday motto: The Serenity Prayer (Reinhold Niebuhr)

Why I chose it: Although I am not religious, I recite the Serenity Prayer constantly: “(God), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I’ve even set it to music so I can sing it. You could reasonably argue that a major goal of all therapy is to help the client discern what can and cannot be changed. The prayer is also widely used by Twelve-Step Programs as guidance toward recovery.

Change Your Goal, Change Your Motto

If your goals and values change, your daily mottoes may need an overhaul. Or, you may find that you've successfully internalized a motto: It’s now ingrained in your brain. In any event, you can always replace the old motto with a new one. I have a motto that is “waiting in the wings” to remind me of the joys of imperfection: “Everything is going to be all right. Not perfect, but all right.” (Randy Fleisher)

"All good things must come to an end," and that includes this post. I hope you enjoyed reading it.

© Meg Selig, 2021. All rights reserved.

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