At the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Skier Alexandre Bilodeau used a technique sport psychologists call cue words to help him win a gold medal. I've renamed cue words as Power Words - I think they're super impactful so the new name works better for me. I hope you agree.
Let me explain. As Alexandre stood looking down on the moguls run, the potential for distraction was massive, including 10,000 cheering fans. So he focused on the two things that he and his coach had decided were key to victory: letting his knees go forward over the bumps and being soft and relaxed during his second air.
To do so, he stood in the starting gates and said softly to himself “forward” and “soft” – pre-arranged Power Words he used to focus on the most important elements of his run. The result? Pure gold.
But Power Words aren’t just a technique for athletes – they work in almost any situation, even for leaders of massive social and political movements.
When I rode across Africa in 2003, I had time at night in my tent to avoid the malaria-carrying mosquitos. With no Internet, all I could do was read. So I took in a few autobiographies – Mahatma Ghandi’s, Nelson Mandela’s – and a biography of Mother Teresa.
All three books were profound. Especially the way they illustrated that each figure had single words that represented their beliefs and guided their decision-making in the face of threats to their life, imprisonment and regular contact with the worst possible conditions of life.
Ghandi liberated India from the British Empire using “Truth.” Mandela endured 25 years in jail and forced the South African government to abandon apartheid using “Equality.” And Mother Teresa became a saint for her work tending the poor and the sick using “Love.”
We can all apply this technique at peak performance moments. Think about what you need to do to have a great performance and then see if you can describe those actions in one or two words. Then say those words to yourself right before the performance to remind yourself of what you need to do to be successful.
Today's POWER-UP: Build your Power Words to supercharge your performance
Follow these steps to establish your own Power Words.
1. List a skill, technique, strategy or other element that is critical to your execution of your dream / goal performance.
2. List the key elements of that skill, technique or strategy that will result in a successful performance.
3. Is there one word or phrase that could summarize the response that you should have? That is your Power Word.
4. When is it most important to remember to use your Power Word?
Power Words remind you of who you are and what you should be doing in a challenging situation. Figure yours out and use them to power through tough challenges.
If you'd like feedback on your own Power Words, you can fill out this form and we'll back to you with specific suggestions.