How to Create Serendipity

Al Siebert, author of The Survivor Personality, has spent the last 40 years studying survivors of all kinds — concentration camp survivors, people lost at sea, castaways, prisoners of war, etc. Siebert writes, “They go from being emotionally upset to coping to thriving to serendipity with amazing speed.”

How do they do it? One of the most important things they do is use slotras. Siebert has collected lots of questionnaires by survivors, and he says when a survivor hits a setback, “they frequently repeat sayings to themselves,” like these:

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.

And survivors ply themselves with good-quality questions. It works for survivors just as it works for anyone else in any other difficult situation. A life-or-death situation only intensifies the outcome: Those who lived to tell the tale did something successful with their minds. They ask questions like these:

Why is it good this happened?

Is there an opportunity here that did not exist before?

What could I do to turn this around and have it turn out well for all of us?

These are great questions. Think about the difference between occupying your mind with the questions above, as opposed to questions that don’t work but come naturally. For example, "Why me?" or "What have I done to deserve this?"


The survivors say those things or ask those questions often. Without realizing what they're doing, they are practicing those thoughts, making them familiar and comfortable and come easily to mind. Then when they're in a difficult survival situation, those well-practiced thoughts serve them well.

You can use the same principle. Say things to yourself that make you feel motivated. Say things to yourself that make you feel strong and determined. Literally make a list of statements. Specifically, think of the most common situations where you don’t feel motivated, and try to come up with statements you could say to yourself in those situations that would make you feel motivated or strong or relaxed or whatever you want to feel. Or think of what you could say to yourself that would make you more effective. Just sit down and do the work of thinking up ideas. Write them all down.

Once you have this list, go through and start taking away the weakest ones. And tweak others so they are more motivating. Keep them mostly single sentences, sometimes phrases, and sometimes two sentences.

Go through the list again until you can trim it down to the most strength-giving slotras. Now type them up and print them. Fold the paper up and carry it in your pocket. Pull it out five times a day, and read each sentence several times with feeling. Sometimes pull it out in those situations where you need motivation, or right before you’re going to need it, and read each sentence with feeling and see which ones work the best. Keep tweaking the wording and eliminating the weaker ones until you have one or two slotras that give you the best results. Write those two on a card and carry that card everywhere you go.

Every day, five times a day, pull it out and say those slotras to yourself several times each. This is thought practice.

The more you repeat the slotra, the more ingrained it becomes. If you do it twice a day, it may take months before the slotra becomes ingrained and comes to mind easily. If you do it fifty times a day, it will happen even faster.

The things you think are as much a habit as tying your shoes. You do it a certain way, and it comes automatically. But the ways you think naturally or automatically may not be the most motivating, so here you will practice new ways to think, and you will literally and directly practice the new thoughts, making those thoughts come automatically.

You say those statements over and over to yourself with feeling, not trying to influence your subconscious mind, and not in order to mystically influence the vibrations of the universe, but in order to form new habits of thought — habits that will make you feel more motivated.

Right after my first book was published, I was going around visiting bookstores, asking them to stock my book on their shelves, and then coming back later to see how things were going, and I was soon discouraged. I thought the book business was going to be pretty easy and the hard part was writing and publishing the book. I thought people would pick up my book and just go crazy tell all their friends and my book would have a hard time staying on the shelves because it would be snatched up as soon as it was put out, and I’d be on easy street.But I was starting to realize, “I’m going to have to work at it. I’m going to have to do things to get people into the store looking for my book.” I was feeling kind of disheartened by this realization but then I used one of my slotras: “The world needs better attitudes!”

That slotra bucked me up. It renewed my fighting spirit. It kept me working toward my goal and dissolved my discouragement. It happened to be a phrase that motivated me and made me feel determined.

What thoughts put the fight in you? What thoughts make you want to try? What thoughts fire you up? Make a list, eliminate all but the most effective, and keep editing them until they are powerful thoughts that really get to you, and then practice them.

Read the next chapter: Different Kinds of Motivation

This article was excerpted from the book, Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought.

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