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Use Mantras To Stay On Track
by Dale Kurow

Recently, I worked with several clients who requested that I give them one or two sentences (mantras) that they could take away from the session that would crystallize our discussion. Each of these clients had different work-related goals.

This underscored how important it is to develop mantras to recite to yourself, to keep goals top of mind, and to help center yourself when the noise and stress of life pulls you in opposite directions. Our brains are much more aligned to remembering a few carefully chosen words than many sentences or 60 minutes of discussion.

Mantras, originating in Hinduism and Buddhism, are words or sounds, repeated to aid in concentration when meditating. The origin of the word is Sanskrit, meaning “instrument of thought.”

I’m constantly reminding clients of the importance of their internal discourse (i.e. the thoughts they have). The dialogue you have with yourself is probably the most critical factor in your career success. Mantras are a perfect tool to help you in this process.

If you are normally a “glass is half-empty” person, i.e., a negative Nelly, then there’s even more reason for you to invoke a mantra.

Here are some career mantras that I’ve used with clients:

• Build Up Your Reserve – this one is effective when, because of a difficult work situation, you have nothing left to give physically, mentally or emotionally. No good decision ever comes from being drained. Whether you are trying to prepare to leave a job, interview for a new one or want to have a clear brain to figure out your next career move, a rested mind and body are required.

• Build Your Boundaries – I use this one with clients who are feeling vulnerable because of an abusive boss or for those who have just left a job without having another job. In the case of the person who has resigned without another job, it’s quite common that friends and family, acting out of their own insecurities, will say “how could you leave this job without having another?” or “aren’t you scared you won’t get another job?” It’s crucial to maintain a positive attitude and to feel secure in your decision, without having it second-guessed by supposedly well-meaning, but angst-ridden friends. One answer I suggest for those situations is to tell your friends/family that they can support you just by listening. If the negativity continues, it’s time to protect yourself and take steps to limit your contact with them.

• It’s Not Your Decision – this mantra works well when you need to work collaboratively with people. Some clients feel they need to make all the decisions and determine all the processes that are involved in running a team. This is where they get into trouble! Realizing that you need to work with and through others while relinquishing some control is key to improving your managerial skills. This is particularly true when you are working across functional areas.

• Can This Be Delegated? – Clients sometimes tell me how closely they need to monitor their staff and how exhausted they are because of it. My ears perk up when I hear this. I usually turn the discussion around by asking them “do you micromanage?” It’s interesting to see how they process that question. Sometimes the response is “yes” and they realize micromanaging is not a plus. If your complaint is that you have no time to do your own work, consider using this mantra.

• Forget Perfection – Perfectionism is a real culprit! I often hear that clients work crazy hours or never seem to catch up. Of course, extra hours are often required and are the modus operandi in many jobs (especially on Wall Street). However, when it’s a constant lament, and there’s a hint of the client being a victim, I wonder how much of it’s self-imposed. Has your boss complained that while your work product is good, it takes too long for him/her to receive it? How much of what you do does your boss really review? Are you tackling the most critical questions/needs first? You can make yourself and your boss much happier if you can forgo perfection!

Use the above mantras if they resonate with your situation. Like any new exercise, it takes repetition and practice for a mantra to become part of your thought process. Or craft your own helpful mantra, one that fits better. You will be happy you did!"

Dale Kurow may be contacted at

Dale Kurow, M.S., is an author and a career and executive coach in NYC. Dale works with clients across the U.S. and internationally, helping them to become better managers, figure out their next career moves and thrive despite office politics. Visit Dale’s web site at to sign-up for her free monthly ezine "Career Essentials," chock-full of useful career tips and strategies you can use immediately.


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