Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

This One Little Phrase Can Help You Get Through Anything at Work (if You Give it a Chance)

I’ve never been big on motivational quotes. Does anyone really get inspired when your manager bounces into the team meeting, spouting, “Teamwork makes the dream work”?

It wasn’t until I started running seriously and training for long-distance races that I began to realize the power of those taken-for-granted quotes. On a long run, when my legs feel heavy, my breathing is labored, and I can’t even find energy in those little goo packets that are made to provide energy, I have to dig deep.

And that’s where a mantra comes in. During those last tough miles, I have to encourage myself by repeating something cheesy in my head, like, “One mile at a time,” or “I can do hard things,” or “Just keep moving.” And eventually, these phrases drive me to the finish.

I quickly realized that this method of motivation also translates to the office—when you’re getting ready for an interview, facing a fear, dreading an item on your to-do list, or just having a really tough day and need to find the motivation to make it to 5 PM. You just need that one empowering phrase that will see you through to the end.

It may seem silly, but I’m telling you—it works. Here’s a guide to finding and using a mantra that works for you.

Find What Stresses You

For a lot of what you do at work, a mantra probably isn’t necessary. Few people need to chant, “I can do this!” before going into a weekly department meeting (unless maybe you really dislike your teammates).

Instead, narrow in on that thing that really causes you to doubt yourself, where you feel the most uncomfortable and unsure. That’s when you need a powerful mantra behind your actions.

My trouble, for example, was interviewing people. I’m an introvert by nature, and when I first landed my job as a marketing writer, I quickly found out I had to talk to a lot of people as part of that role, whether it was getting quotes from employees for the internal newsletter, interviewing customers about their experience with the company, or asking product experts to break down our technology into understandable language.

All I thought about was how stupid I was going to sound in front of these people, and I would constantly psyche myself out. So, over and over, I had to tell myself, “They’re just people. Be friendly.”

To you extroverts, this probably sounds extreme. But that was my thing. Whatever that thing is for you—that’s what to focus your mantra on.

Feel Free to Overcompensate

The great thing about your mantra is that it’s for you only. It truly doesn’t matter how silly, extreme, or downright arrogant it is, because you’re the only one who ever has to know, say, or think it.

Maybe you’re looking for a job, but you have a tough time selling yourself with confidence. Going into an interview, you might think to tell yourself, “I can do this.” But why stop there? Boost your confidence with something much stronger—like, “I am freaking great at what I do, and they would be lucky to have me.”

Feeling nervous about a networking event because you’re not a good small talker? Don’t just say, “It’s only a conversation”—go all out and tell yourself, “Get in there and own the room!”

The whole idea is to get away from your natural tendencies—so by allowing yourself to overcompensate a little, you’ll end up at the perfect middle ground.

Let it Push You to the Finish

Now, rely on it. Say it over and over in your head. You might laugh at yourself—you are chanting something that may sound a little cheesy—but that’s OK. The laughter will only help relax you even more.

The more you say that empowering phrase, the more you’ll believe it, and that will help you get through whatever tough situation you’re facing. And eventually, you’ll find you don’t need it anymore. Try it, and see what happens.

Need a little more inspiration? Here are 32 career mantras that will get you started.

Photo of biker courtesy of Shutterstock.