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Try This Technique To Be Your Best Under Pressure

Bill Stainton -- Job interview? Championship game? Presentation? Tap into your superpowers and ace life's high-pressure moments.

Do you have a Power Phrase?

[You: "I ate a Power Bar for breakfast. Is that the same thing?"
Me: "No."]

A Power Phrase is a concise phrase—one to five words—that encapsulates your highest self, the outcome you want to achieve, and/or who you want to be when you're at your best in moments of pressure. Think of it as a focal point, or a mantra if you like. Here's why you should have one (or more than one; you can have particular Power Phrases for particular situations):

When we're under pressure—whether it's on the job, competing in sports, or taking a test—our brain (actually, a specific part of our brain, but that's not important right now) can become overwhelmed by "chatter." Sometimes this chatter is external, sometimes it's internal.

For example, imagine a professional basketball player about to attempt a free throw. But not just any free throw. This is a free throw that could potentially win the game. But not just any game. This is the championship game. This is what's known in sports as a "high pressure moment."

Externally, the chatter arrives in the form of distractions. The noise of the crowd. The fans of the opposing team waving flags just beyond the basket. The countdown clock. If our basketball player focuses on the external chatter, there's a good chance he's going to choke and miss the shot.

Internally, the chatter can be even worse. "I missed my last four free throws in practice." "If I choke I'll lose the game and there goes my leverage for a new contract." "Am I bending my knees too much?" Too much focus on any of this chatter, and the result is the same. He chokes, misses the shot, and loses the game.

The solution is to focus on something else. Something simple. Something empowering. A Power Phrase. For example, a basketball player might use a phrase like, "Float and swish" to describe the sensation he wants to create in the moment. If he can keep his conscious mind focused on that Power Phrase, then his muscle memory—with the benefit of thousands of practice free throws—can take over.

Your own Power Phrase can be anything that reminds you of who you want to be when you're at your best. It can be literal, like, "Confident Leader," motivational, like, "I've got this!," or even whimsical, like, "I am Spartacus!" It doesn't really matter what it is, as long as it encapsulates for you a vision of you at your best.

How will you know when you've got a good Power Phrase? When saying it out loud, or even just thinking it, gives you energy. When you see the result in your posture and your expression. When you feel an instant mental and physical shift.

So what's your Power Phrase? Start by making a list of the qualities and attributes that define who you want to be when you're at your best. And now crystalize that list into a single, meaningful, energizing Power Phrase—one that works for you!


For 15 years, Executive Producer Bill Stainton led his team to more than 100 Emmy Awards and 10 straight years of #1 ratings. Today Bill helps leaders achieve those kinds of results—in THEIR world and with THEIR teams. For more, visit his website at:

© 2019 Bill Stainton

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