What is a personal motto?
A personal motto is the equivalent of a business slogan. In a single(ish) sentence or phrase, you capture who you are and what you are doing (or at least what you want to be doing) on Earth.
College essay applications are the only time you may ever be asked to craft a personal motto or expand it into a personal statement. Unless you’re taking a particular kind of personal development class.
The point is: nobody you know has a personal motto (probably). And even if you’ve created one before, do you remember what it was or why you wrote it?
I may be projecting here, but because these things are true of me I’m willing to assume they’re true of you too. Or at least mostly true to you.
Why should you have a personal motto?
It might seem useless to try and craft a meaningful motto when it’s in such low demand. Or at least in such low supply.
Personal mottos make you focus on the things that you care about. They’re a standard for yourself. And they can change your behavior if you use them well.
Having a personal motto is an easy way to start your own personal branding. Your personal brand is important when you apply for jobs, and you should have a personal brand even if you never work as a freelancer or start your own business. If you communicate who you are and why you’re good at what you do (cough personal branding cough), you will get hired.
An easy way to tell yourself (and others) about who you are is to write a personal motto.
To sum, you should have a personal motto because:
- It brings your goals and your character into focus.
- It’s a standard to hold yourself to.
- It can change your behavior to align with your goals.
- It kickstarts your personal branding, making your more hirable.
Meg Selig has compiled some more reasons why you should write a personal motto if you want to read some more about it.
Suggestions for writing an effective personal motto
You don’t necessarily need to follow all of these to have a successful motto, but these tips will help.
- Keep it short. Like a slogan, you want it to be succinct so you can remember it, share it, and make use of it.
- Focus on one or two ideas. Write about one, maybe two ideas so that you can keep it short and memorable. Rather than trying to encompass all of who you are and why you are, try to sum it up in one idea.
- Choose a stirring idea. The idea you choose to focus on should be one that inspires you. Choose an idea with depth or just something that’s important to you.
- Use slang. Or at least avoid posh prose, because your motto should be something you would (or could see yourself) actually say. Start saying it once you’ve written it.
Mimi Osterdahl has compiled some examples of personal mottos here if you want some inspiration.
And one final tip: write multiple mottos. Write a motto to use when you don’t want to work out or eat well. Write a motto to use when you are logging onto Facebook instead of doing your homework. Write a motto to use when you need 20 seconds of courage.
Then use them.
Write a personal motto in 3 steps
Here are 3 steps to come up with your own, individualized personal motto.
- Choose an idea to rally behind. Do you want your motto to be about overcoming adversity? About a character trait you want to develop? About a circumstance you face often?
- Write out a paragraph about that idea. Try to jot down everything about your rallying idea so you have material to synthesize your personal motto from.
- Create your personal motto. Take the salient points from your little brainstorm paragraph, and make a statement out of them.
Another way to do this is to check out other proverbs and mottos to see if you’d want to adopt them before you go writing your own personal motto.
After writing all this I am adopting “Die healthy” from Autumn Every Day and have decided that my personal motto is “Alive =/= living. Don’t stop living.”
What is your personal motto? How often do you use it? Where and when do you use it? Do you have suggestions for others trying to write their mottos? Share in the comments!