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2-Second Motivation Boosters

Whether you’re facing a big meeting with your boss or the last half-mile of your evening run, staying motivated when you’re intimidated, nervous, or wiped out can be a huge struggle. Fortunately, there are easy ways to pump yourself up that don’t involve looking at corny posters of cats dangling from clotheslines. (Hang in there!) Here are five research-backed ways to stay stoked when life throws you a challenge.

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Use the Second Person
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When people encouraged themselves in the second person (“You’re a rock star,” or “You’re going to kick butt”), they performed about 10 percent better on a tough task than people who tried to motivate themselves in the first person (“I’m a rock star”). That’s according to research from two U.S. universities. The study authors think it might have something to do with the way your parents and teachers instructed you as a youngster. Because you learned to respond to commands in the second person, your adult brain still reacts strongly to that type of language, the researchers speculate.

Rely on Mindy
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Thinking about your favorite TV character for a minute or two can energize you and restore your willpower when you’re feeling sapped, shows a study from the University of Buffalo. Yeah, that sounds nuts. But positive social interactions—even ones that take place in your head with fictional characters—have the power to recharge your motivational batteries, the study authors say. (Spending time with close friends has the same effect, they add.)

Keep Your Goals to Yourself
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Forget what you’ve heard about looping in your friends. People who share their dreams or aspirations with others are less likely to follow through with them than those who keep their ambitions a secret, found a study from New York University. That may sound backwards, but when you announce your goals to others, the act of sharing may make you feel like you’ve taken a first step and are receiving credit for it, which may lower your motivation to chase your goals, the study authors say.

Recall a Time You Kicked Butt
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Remembering an instance when you were in charge or having success can energize your self-confidence and improve your performance, indicates research from Stanford University. The trick works by wiping away thoughts of self-doubt and replacing them with confidence-boosting memories, the study team suggests.

Think of Nouns
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Labeling yourself using nouns (“I’m a badass speech-giver,” or “I am not a dessert-eater”) instead of encouraging yourself using action verbs (“I’m going to give a badass speech,” or “I’m not going to eat dessert.”) leads to more successful outcomes, according to a study from Harvard and Yale. Thinking of your goals in terms of who you are as opposed to what you do attaches your behavior to your sense of self, which is more motivating, the study shows. Combine this advice with the first tip for the ultimate self-talk results: “You are a rock star presentation-giver.”