Many years ago when I was going through a pretty crappy time I came up with a little mantra for myself ā€“ forza e corraggio ā€“ quite simply strength and courage in Italian. Whenever things got particularly difficult I would take a deep breath and either say it out loud or in my head (depending on the situation).

It was very powerful for me, but until My Year of TED, I didn’t really think about why. They were just the qualities I felt I needed to get through the bad things that were happening. As part of that life changing project I started thinking about those little words in more detail. Why did I choose them and why do they give me so much comfort? After all forza is not the best word for personal strength in Italian.

Iā€™m strong but do I have strength?

My reflection at the time was that while I’ve always had a great capacity to endure and come out the other side of adversity a stronger person, I didn’t feel strong. A lot of my strength came from an overwhelming need to not be vulnerable, to not fail or falter, to be perceived as strong, to not be able to ask for assistance. It also tended to come from the need to prove myself, and not let anyone get the better of me ā€“ not a very positive place at all. So while I was strong and resilient, in many ways I did not feel like it was positive strength.

I also didn’t feel courageous at all, being that I was extremely non-confrontational. I had the strength to endure but I didn’t have the courage to remove myself from situations where I was forced to endure. I didn’t feel like I stood up for myself, and others, as much as I should and I did not have the courage to be my authentic self a lot of the time.

But then it changed

The growth and lessons from My Year of TED helped me realise the extent of my strength and courage – that’s a whole other story you can briefly hear in my TEDxHobart talk. As a result, I put my old mantra aside. But since I know the value of a personal mantra, I created a new one for myself.

Today I will be brave, even when I think I can’t

It’s designed to remind me about how strong and courageous I am – especially when the brain weasels try to get the better of me. And it’s a mantra that has resonated strongly with many other people in my community.

A personal mantra is a great way to center and comfort yourself. It’s a simple way to remind yourself of your own power and capabilities, and I highly recommend you develop one for yourself. Or feel free to borrow mine, it works for me and many other people too.


  • Kylie Dunn

    Writer, blogger and My Year of TED creator; trying to help other people live more fulfilling lives

    In 2011, I started a year-long experiment with my life. Based on TED Talks, My Year of TED has had a profound impact on who I am and how I see myself in the world. You can learn more about it and get resources to help you find your own fulfillment on my website. Or watch my TEDxHobart talk for an overview.