Tag Archives: mantras

“Ships are safe in harbor but thats not why they’re built”

Context: Story was prompted by asking about any childhood traditions that this person had. 


“So when I was in elementary school my dad would read to me before I went to bed. One day, when reading this book… ugh I don’t remember what it was called. If I had to guess I would say Million dollar put, but that’s a reach. So we were reading, and this quote came up “ships are safe in harbor but that’s not why they’re built”.  My dad loved it, started saying it, thinking about it, and talking about it at the dinner table and everything.”


This piece of folklore is a piece of familial folklore, folklore that stems from a familial relationship and could then be passed down from generation to generation. Additionally, the quote’s ambiguous origins lead to much mystery existing around its true meaning. An in depth study done by Quote Investigator traces the quote back to many different authors, such as John A. Shedd , Grace Hopper, and others.


Quote Investigator. “Tag: John A. Shedd.” Quote Investigator, 21 June 2019, https://quoteinvestigator.com/tag/john-a-shedd/. 

“Stay in your Lane”

Context: This was a phrase handed down to him by his father. Was prompted about any possible mantras he lives his life by. 

Text: “So I have this saying, or mantra, or life lesson, I don’t know how you really wanna classify. But my dad used to say it and still says to this day, and that’s “stay in your lane”. And stay in your lane just kinda means like don’t worry about what other people are doing, like it doesn’t really effect you. Don’t worry if they’re going out to better parties, or getting better grades. Just focus on yourself, stay in your lane, and everything will come to you. There is no need to worry about what other people are doing”


I liked this mantra as it is one increasingly applicable to the modern world. The internet has made it impossible not to constantly compare yourself to others and forced everyone to have an opinion on everything. This is not a healthy way to live your life and impedes a person’s ability to fully discover their true self. This motto also acts as an example of a familial sort of folklore. Passed down from generation to generation, folklore spread through this manner ensures that everyone in that family would at least be passive bearers of that tradition. 

“One day at a time”

Main piece: “One day at a time”

Context: The informant (WB) is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but moved to Orem, Utah when he was 17 four years ago to receive addiction and mental health treatment. He ended up falling in love with the state and staying. WB’s father had Irish lineage and his mother was a first generation immigrant from Germany. Although he was raised Christian, he does not consider himself religious. Our conversation took place in our shared hotel room while smoking together on a family ski trip in Utah. The “one day at a time” saying is often used in addiction treatment, especially Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), to deal with the concept of sobriety. Many addicts don’t want to think about staying sober for the rest of their lives, as that prospect seems dull and overwhelming, especially in early sobriety. However, if you want to use but tell yourself to just stay sober only for the next 24 hours, there’s a possibility you’ll get to use again afterwards. By the time 24 hours rolls around, it’s much easier to resist the temptation to use, either because you’re distracted from why you wanted to in the first place or you just decide it’s not worth it. “Eventually, you’ll look down and realize you have a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or a couple of years clean.” WB has always remembered this saying because it truly works, and it has been what’s kept him sober for the past 6 months.

Personal thoughts: The practice of mindfulness is a big part of mental health and addiction treatment. Often in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), patients are given many different grounding techniques to help stay present in the current moment or day and not catastrophize the future, exemplified by the above saying. Personally, I first learned about the power of mindfulness in group therapy, but that in of itself is troubling. Mindfulness skills should be promoted and taught to everyone, not just those seeking mental health treatment. Sure, “one day at a time” as a proverb exists beyond therapeutic applications and is thrown around occasionally, but how often does the average working American actually buy into that idea? Many of us are hyper-focused on planning our next move in life, whether that be college applications, career developments or potential new relationships, and that is partially because our society’s definition of “success” requires such forward thinking. However, unless we break free of this mindset, we will never truly be satisfied, as we will always just crave the next big thing. What will it take to break people out of this cycle? Will everyone need to live in the wilderness for months on end against their will to finally internalize “one day at a time”?

Personal Proverb

Be good to the earth,

respect all mankind,

with these simple words

all else falls in line.


Is this something you made up yourself?

My dad.


And did he get it from someone else?



What does this mean to you?

It’s tattooed on my arm. It’s about treating people with respect and its about acceptance. It’s the only two things I try to judge people on – if people are nice to the earth and nice to others they’re probably good people.


Background: I conducted this interview live, so this story was given to me in person. This is a proverb that was invented by the informant’s dad, and he lives by it, which is interesting. He just said it is a short mantra which he lives by, and I think this is something I will continue to think about after he told me this. This is something that is so important to the informant that he has it tattooed on his arm, which says something about how highly he regards this statement. I like how it is a brief statement from which he can make many decisions and judgements in his life.