THINK the way you think because thats the way you learned
to think. You look at things the way youre used to
the way youve learned over your lifetime to look at things.
It seems to you that any sensible person would see things the
way you see them. You interpret events in a way that seems natural
But why does it seem natural?
A person from a different culture might interpret the same event
very differently. And not because they are ignorant and you are
all-knowing. Someone who knows far more than you may indeed interpret
the event very differently than you do.
Okay, okay. You get it. You may be surprised
to find some very good news embedded in this fact, however, because
it means if you practice thinking a different way, that new way
of thinking could become natural.
For example, when I first started giving
public speeches to promote my book, people werent listening
the way I wanted them to listen. They were listening casually,
as if they were watching something interesting on television.
But it was an important subject that could have an enormous impact
on the rest of their lives.
My natural way of thinking about their
lack of seriousness about the topic was demoralizing: "People
don't care, I'll never be a good speaker, etc."
But I came up with a new way of thinking
about it. I said to myself, Im going to make
them get how important this is!
I tried many different statements, but
that one made me the feel most motivated.
Once I came up with this new statement,
did I think it automatically from then on? No. Not a chance.
If I hadnt made a deliberate effort to say that statement
to myself whenever I thought about speaking, it would have faded
away, and my insight would have vanished into a vague memory.
It wouldnt have changed a thing.
So I said the statement to myself many
times. I wrote it down and carried the piece of paper around
with me to remind me to practice, and I got in the habit of saying
it to myself whenever I thought about an upcoming speech (and
as the speech got closer, that was several times a day). I would
imagine being in front of the audience and I would say to myself
with feeling, I will make them get how important this is!
I imagined the phrase coming into my mind during my speech.
After awhile, it became natural to think
So thats the tool we're going to
explore: To practice thinking something until it becomes natural.
This is probably the most basic mental
tool in existence. When you want to change the way you see things,
when you want to change the way you feel about something, when
you want to treat people differently or persist more on your
goals or eat less at the dinner table, this mental tool is the
most basic and the most practical.
Its like a knife. A knife is a very
simple tool. It is about as basic as tools get. The design hasnt
changed much in thousands of years, and yet with all our technology
and scientific advancement, today in the 21st century when you
want to slice a tomato, you probably use a simple knife.
But as ancient and basic as this mental
tool is, I dont really have a good name for it. Its
not exactly a slogan or a motto or a mantra or a saying or a
proverb or an affirmation, but its kind of like all of
those. So Im going to coin a word just so we have something
to call it. Sorry about doing this, but it has to be done.
Im going to call it a slotra.
Think of it as a cross between a slogan, which is a phrase used
in advertising or politics, and a mantra, which is a word or
sound repeated over and over in meditation. But a slotra is neither
A slotra is a phrase or statement you say
to yourself many times so the phrase or statement becomes comfortable
and familiar and you get good at thinking it. You repeat it often
enough or long enough that eventually the statement comes into
your mind on its own and when its appropriate.
A slotra is a thought you are learning
to think. You repeat it the same way and for the same reason
you repeat foreign language phrases when youre trying to
learn a different language.
When you want to travel to Germany, certain
phrases will be handy, so you learn them. And you dont
just say a phrase once and then expect your brain to remember
it when you need it. You say it again and again until it becomes
comfortable and familiar. You practice saying it so it will come
to mind easily when you need it.
That's exactly what you're doing with slotras.
Each word of a new language feels clumsy
to say at first, and you find it hard to pronounce and hard to
remember. But the more you say it, the more you repeat it, the
more natural it feels.
Thats the purpose of "slotralogy"
to make helpful thoughts come to mind when you need them.
The new thoughts may feel clumsy and awkward to think at first.
But you keep practicing, and after awhile they feel more natural.
Many different kinds of thoughts can be
slotras. For example, you can take a reframe and turn it into a slotra. You can
take an insight youve had, encapsulate the insight into
a short statement, and then say that statement to yourself several
times a day for a month. The insight will become familiar and
come to mind easily. Youve turned your insight into a slotra.
You can make a goal or purpose into a slotra.
Thats a good one. It keeps your mind focused. That's what
I did with my slotra, "I will make them get how important
this is." It's a purpose. That thought, going through my
mind, focused my attention on a purpose a purpose that
helped me communicate with more vigor and intensity.
Another good form of slotra is a rule.
We'll get into this later.
The most useful slotras make you feel a
certain emotion, like confidence or motivation or determination.
The best slotras I have made were created by starting with the
emotion I wanted. First I thought about what I wanted to feel
in a certain situation.
For example, right after I published my
first book, I went around visiting bookstores and asking them
to carry my book. I felt nervous and a little awkward when I
was introducing myself to the manager, and I didnt like
feeling that way, so I thought about what I would like
to feel in that situation. I wanted to enjoy it and have fun
with it. I wanted to feel relaxed and at ease.
So first decide what you want to feel.
The next step is to create a statement that helps you feel that
way, that directs your attention in a way that results in the
feeling you want. I came up with this one: Im going
to have fun with this. Whenever I thought about going into
bookstores, I said that phrase and imagined having fun. And as
I walked into a bookstore, I made sure thats what going
through my mind. And it worked. I did have fun.
You can consider that a two-step formula
for creating a slotra:
1. Decide what emotion you want to feel
in a particular situation
2. Come up with a phrase or statement that
makes you feel that way in that situation
A slotra is a kind of on-the-run motivator.
Its a focuser. A confidence-builder. An anti-negativity
shield. Its a mental tool. It gets your mind to work for
you instead of against you.
When I first started promoting my book
to bookstores, I would call up a store to get their fax number,
the name of the buyer, etc. Most of the time people on the phone
were very cooperative and helpful and friendly. But once in awhile,
someone would be suspicious and uncooperative. I became downhearted
after these calls and didnt want to do any more.
The negative calls really stuck out in
my mind, of course, because of the brains negative bias. The thoughts
going through my head were something like this: What am
I doing this for? Ill never make it. With people like that
out there, nobody is going to want my book. They think Im
a pushy salesman. They arent going to want to listen to
This stream of automatic thoughts made
me feel bad. But I talked some sense into myself. The next
time I have a negative person on the line, I told myself,
Ill turn them around. Ill make them like me.
They wont be able to resist my charm...
That last line really struck me as funny,
and made me feel strong. It put me in a good mood, so I used
it as a slotra. They wont be able to resist my charm.
I said it many times for practice, and when I got on the phone,
I deliberately said it to myself, and it worked great. It put
me in just the right mood.
I also used Ill turn it around
quite a bit too. When I felt worried that the next person I called
was going to be negative, I kept saying to myself, It doesnt
matter. Ill just turn it around! The slotra changed
my focus from a fear things would go wrong to what I could do
about it if it did. The slotra gave me confidence and helped
me relax and I actually was able to turn it around when I talked
to a negative person because I was in the right mood.
I practiced the phrases many times, and
when the right circumstances came up, those phrases naturally
came to mind. They became the content of my mind. They became
a natural part of my stream of consciousness. And they helped
me get the job done a lot better than the overly negative and
emotional thought-stream I originally had.
For the next few articles, we're going
to explore slotralogy: What it is, what it isn't, and how you
can use it to help you increase your persistence, strengthen
your determination, and restore your lost motivation.
Read next: Slotralogy