Please share some mantras for staying on task/delaying gratification!
October 19, 2015 1:35 PM   Subscribe

I've recently been working on mindfulness/meditation for my anxiety, and have found that repeating mantras from time to time in my head has helped me curb many of my negative thoughts. Although I have some go-to mantras for anxiety/depression, I also have ADD and tend to opt for short-term rewards over long-term goals. I'm thus trying to pull together some mantras for staying on task and delaying gratification. I know you MeFites have vivid imaginations, and would love to hear what (English) mantras you use personally or can come up with for me.

I don't have any concrete mantras for delaying gratification yet, which is why I'm asking this question. I'm currently employing a pseudo-mantra in which I visualize my future self saying "thank you" to me every time I catch myself working on a task that is beneficial to me in the long term.

I'd love to hear other ideas that I can repeat or visualize in my head to keep me focused and on-task when I'm being productive. On the flip side of the coin, I'd also appreciate suggestions for mantras I can employ when I find myself going off task. What can I tell myself when I realize I'm on my third cute cat video and my ape-brain is clamoring for a fourth? I want to hear positive mantras that will motivate me to switch gears, not negative ones; "stop being such a lazy shit or you'll soon be homeless" is an example of what I am not looking for!

PS: I'm looking for English mantras, since languages I don't actively understand don't seem to have as big of an effect for me. (Japanese is welcome as well, since I speak that.)
posted by CottonCandyCapers to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
When you notice that you're going off task, remember that every time you turn your attention back to the project at hand, you are exercising the muscle that is your mind. You can't do it until you start practicing, so it is a good thing when you notice that you're going astray, because every time you notice it makes it more likely that you'll notice it sooner next time. So it's like doing reps at the gym. The more you work a muscle, the more responsive it becomes.

Bearing this in mind, I suggest that when you notice you're on your third cat video, you say to yourself, "YAY! Another step toward awakening!" as you turn close that window and turn back to your project.
posted by janey47 at 2:59 PM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

"The only way out is through"

Helps me in situations when I am avoiding something because of pain or discomfort. This works in situations when I am chasing short-term rewards because I am stressed/anxious about some larger thing that I need to be working on. It's backed up by the knowledge that if I don't do the work the big things will get worse, not better.


"This is the work"

Folks are successful (in the way that I think is valuable) because they put in the work. My ideas aren't enough, my personality isn't enough, the fact that people like me isn't enough, my witty tweets about this one cat listicle isn't enough. What is enough? The work. It's unglamorous, it's hard, it's often boring. But it's how other people got to where I want to go, and it's how I'm going to get there.

This is the work.

Now back to the work for me!
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:10 PM on October 19, 2015 [10 favorites]

The Now Habit is about moving away from the fear- or criticism-based, deadline-oriented "motivation" that goes with a lot of procrastination, and asks you to see yourself as a naturally active and creative person who wants to engage in productive work. There are a few focusing exercises, and some key messages aimed at countering negative self-talk that blocks working in a state of flow. (There's more to it, notably, prioritizing and scheduling rewarding activities first.) I don't know which of the mantra-type messages would help you best, so will just recommend getting the book. (This is maybe the 15th time I've mentioned it, because I think it's so great. I'm so glad I learned about it [here].)
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:10 PM on October 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

Begin as you mean to go on.
posted by Ideefixe at 3:45 PM on October 19, 2015

I have recently been trying "[Distracting thing] is an option your mind provides, not an order you have to follow." Helps me to feel like I'm not at the total mercy of my ape brain.
Also, if you haven't read Why Procrastinators Procrastinate, I'd recommend it. Really helpful to me in articulating why my brain doesn't want to stay on task.
posted by une_heure_pleine at 4:34 PM on October 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't have to feel like doing ______ to do ______.

For me this works to get me started, keep me on task when I want to stop, and to get me restarted.
posted by Homer42 at 6:59 PM on October 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

I have horrible anxiety, and I'm Jewish, but I find much comfort in Julian of Norwich's "“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” This relates, to me, to staying on task because my anxious mind often tells me that a task is sooo hard and tooo overwhelming, so I watch laughing baby videos on YouTube instead of getting shit done. All shall be well focuses me and helps me get things done.
posted by Ruki at 9:51 PM on October 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Complete the action. (glass into dishwasher, bill into file, blouse into laundry bin, computer into shutdown, finish one page, back up the document, etc.)
posted by Elsie at 4:51 AM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you want something a little silly...for the kind of days that you also need a smile..

Remember the marshmallow.
posted by typecloud at 6:46 AM on October 20, 2015

As much as Reddit has big awful parts, it has some good, too: in August someone posted a story including the idea, "Do the work. Be the prize." That resonated with me, and reminds me -- as does "Nothing to it but to do it." -- that just continuing to do my task is all I need to do in order to reach a goal and eventually be the person I want to be.

Keep working.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:51 AM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do it with your might.

From Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might"
posted by momus_window at 12:49 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a post-it note on my desk that says "Larger later > smaller sooner."

Long explanation, this is based on the theory of hyperbolic discount curves.

In a nutshell, the idea is that we (pretty much all warm-blooded animals) have a tendency to OVERestimate sooner rewards and UNDERestimate later rewards. Here's the most basic example. If you ask most people if they'd prefer $500 two years from now, or $1000 three years from now, most folks see that it's worth waiting the extra year for twice as much. But, if you ask most people if they'd rather have $500 today or $1000 a year from now, we're waaaaaay more inclined to want the $500 NOW. The time delay between the rewards is identical (one year), but the added "soon-ness" of the $500 reward distorts our ability to properly do the math of what's the better deal.

The same thing is true when it comes to other types of choices. For example, we tend to UNDERestimate our future satisfaction and pride about having made good choices—like losing weight, or taking up a longterm project, or other personal goals. We overestimate the satisfaction that we anticipate will come from short-term choices like procrastination or eating the cupcake.

I find this phenomenon extremely helpful because it's not a moral judgement, really. In turns out that most of us will in fact be happier after we have the thing we know we ought to do. It's not just a matter of doing it because it's the righteous thing, but because it actually accrues more happiness and satisfaction in life.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:28 PM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Don't let perfect be the enemy of good.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:43 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Action precedes motivation
posted by aniola at 3:15 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Get it done, then have fun.
posted by bubonicpeg at 12:11 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cheryl Strayed's book Tiny Beautiful Things is great. Or, in short(er) form, her book of quotes "Brave Enough" which was released just last week. Highly recommend both! (Although the font in Brave Enough really isn't my cup of tea... ;))
posted by mrsh at 3:25 AM on November 3, 2015

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