Therapists Spill: What’s Your Motto on Life?
Have you ever thought about your motto on life? Maybe it’s a saying that captures your purpose or your mission. Or maybe it’s a string of words, a collection of passages or even a poem that inspires your actions.
We asked several clinicians to describe their mottos. Perhaps their tenets will stir you to take the time to think about the words you’d like to live by.
Joyce Marter, LCPC, psychotherapist and owner of Urban Balance, LLC:
In life, we are all dealt a different hand of hardships and blessings. We each have a unique life experience that will help us learn, grow and develop emotionally, relationally and spiritually. We must each honor our personal life history to gain awareness of how our earlier experiences have shaped and molded us into who we are today.
We have the choice to let go of old belief systems and negative thinking patterns that constrain us and create our own ceilings. We have the power to attract positivity in our lives by silencing our inner critic and practicing gratitude.
In my practice and in my own life experiences, I have come to believe that some of the greatest life challenges bring about gifts such as increased consciousness, awareness, depth, perspective, empathy, compassion, resiliency, wisdom, strength, capability, tolerance, and serenity.
Our life outcome all depends on how we view the hand we are dealt. If we focus on the negative, on our egos, or on the hardships of the past we will not thrive and prosper. If we view our hardships as opportunities for growth and learning and empower ourselves to move forward in life in a way that is compassionate and loving to ourselves and others, we will succeed personally and professionally.
John Duffy, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and author of the book The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens:
For myself, I try to follow a couple of guides. First, I try to follow “The Four Agreements” as delineated by Don Miguel Ruiz in his book of the same name. The very basic agreements read:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Always do your best.
I’ve distilled these down to two: Be impeccable with your word, and always do your best. If I achieve these every day, I believe I’ve led a good life.
I also try to keep the Serenity Prayer in mind every day: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I calm myself with these thoughts whenever I get anxious.
I love using proverbs and quotes to help guide me in life. I weave them into my clinical practice with people I work with too. One of my favorites for when life seems tough is the Japanese proverb: “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
It helps me realize that no matter how many times I fall, I have the power to rise again. So this wonderful, wise proverb helps me summon resilience.
Ari Tuckman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and author of Understand Your Brain, Get More Done: The ADHD Executive Functions Workbook:
[My motto is] Good deeds tend to be rewarded. I don’t believe in karma, but I do believe in playing the odds. Good deeds build good will, so the more people who have positive thoughts about you, the more likely it is that good opportunities will come your way. Being diligent about handling your responsibilities and being generous about helping others out builds fans who are happy to reward good performance and return the favor.
I’ve found that some “sure bet” opportunities didn’t work out as expected but also that interesting opportunities came out of the blue, so you can’t be too mercenary about it or expect a direct reward for every good deed. Rather, it’s a general mindset that doing enough of the right things will bring enough of what you want.
Beyond the obvious aspects of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, there is also the more subtle aspect that people like to associate with others who they see as capable, generous, and positive.
Emily Campbell, LCPC, CEAP, a psychotherapist at Urban Balance, LLC:
[My motto is] Love God, love people. It comes from Jesus’ words that the greatest commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
It means focusing first on loving God, and allowing His love to flow through us to others, treating them as we would wish to be treated. Our relationships with God and other people comprise our life; everything else is just the extras.
Alison Thayer, LCPC, CEAP, a psychotherapist at Urban Balance, LLC: