In my global travels I’ve been stricken by how common symbols and totems are in every society. Castles, churches, governments, cities, families, clans and more all invested in expensive and lasting tokens to display symbols of certain meaning prominently. I’ve seen symbols embedded in walls, ceilings, chairs, and floors, as well as in absolutely any object imaginable, from robes, to headresses, to canes, to candle lighters and candle snuffers, to glasses to furniture.
Why do we humans rely on totems?
Society’s reliance on totems is about inserting triggers and reminders of meanings and intentions into humans’ daily patterns and movements. Objects we see, touch and use throughout the day can speak to us and impact our habits and behaviors.
As you build your plan to change your habits and behaviors, totems will be critical. You need objects that speak to you showing up in your day morning, noon and night. Too many forces will seek to pull you away from your goals. Any beep or buzz from your phone, any interruption, any outside demand or delay threatens to hijack your goals. By embedding symbols that carry meaning, and that mirror your own heartfelt intentions back to you, you are buoyed and better supported. You need to be pressured by your own self-talk as much as the world will pressure you in another direction.
With my KindEdge practice I recommend putting all planning into physical notebooks or binder so they take up space. You must lug these things around to ensure they don’t disappear into the ether. But in addition, as you define new self-promises and behaviors that will hurdle your past barriers, you need to see reminders and supportive messages everywhere.
Totems are critical KindEdge tools that bring your goals front and center in every day, making them something you can no longer ignore.
Your task today is to make a list of everything you see, hear, and touch during your day and consider how you might embed messages onto those surfaces. Custom-printing websites abound; you can print a message on absolutely anything. And you’ll be energized to take the right steps even when the day’s chaos is dragging you down.
As and example, in addition to the the brilliant coffee mug posted above that my sons gave me, I’ve also set my phone’s lock screen to CHOOSE AMAZING. Every time I’m asked to compromise values, lowball my choices, or muck up my higher plan, I see this reminder and slap my forehead. OH YEAH. I’ve got to live as if I’m dying. There are only so many minutes left in my life. I can only take on those things that really matter and that make my heart and brain go ZING! Every resource in my life is scarce. Everything is an either-or choice. I MUST follow the principal of highest first and simply say NO to anything that I don’t feel is AMAZING for me. I’m always amazed how much we need this external support. And knowing I wrote this message for myself, I’m even more grateful. THANK YOU, self. THANK YOU. The world was trying to hijack my plans; you PREPARED for that real-world reality. You protected me with TOTEMS.
So your activity is to identify all the surfaces wherein you can embed your own reminders, and to TAKE ACTION to get those messages printed. This activity needs to be on a physical pieces of paper and stored in your KindEdge binder; this real-world (printed on paper) list in the real binder you can hold in your hand will hold you accountable for taking action.
Here are a few starter ideas for where you can display symbols and messages that have meaning for you…
- A glass you keep by your bedstand and alarm clock
- Your coffee mug
- The windshield of your car
- A tag on your keychain
- Anywhere on your laptop
- Your phone case
- Your phone’s lock screen
- A playlist in your music or podcast app
- Underwear (me: Wonder Woman undies… yup)
- Pajamas or t-shirts
- Bracelet or beads
- Necklace pendant
- Car or home floor mat
- Pad of paper
- Frame at desk
- Pen box
- Customer leather journal cover
These can be symbols or images, or complicated meaningful designs like a family crest, or simply a few words. You can draw, paint, stamp, print them on anything or … far more fun… order these to be printed on objects via any printing website (think “Etsy.”)
As with all KindEdge steps, action to take today. So stop reading, start printing. You’ll thank yourself as soon as you get these supportive totems embedded in your life.