8 Mantras for Keeping Perspective When the Pressure Is On

Recently, I’ve taken on some opportunities that have been pretty big, awesome, and scary. My TEDx Talk and Pecha Kucha Talk come to mind but so do some other wonderful and intense opportunities in my life recently. The things that matter most to us are also the ones that scare us the most. The pressure was on and the fear of failure came with it. This gave me the opportunity to work on managing my anxiety and focusing that energy. Here are a few of the mantra’s I adopted or others prompted me into during these processes. Below is the piece of paper I brought with me into the green room for these talks instead of my notes or scripts. This is where I wanted my focus.

Letter to self during high pressure moments

1. “It’s No Big Deal”

Pema Chodron

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron describes coming to a great insight and coming to tell her teacher. The teacher listened to her great enthusiasm and then smiled and said, “It’s no big deal.” Repeating this simple phrase to myself really helped me move away from thinking what a big deal some of this could be.

2. Be like Beyoncé

Beyonce, dancer

As I was prepping for the TEDx Talk, my partner said, “Just be like Beyoncé. She fell down during the Super Bowl half-time show and all anyone talks about is how well she recovered.” It was great to shift my thinking from “don’t mess up” to how I could recover if/when I messed up.

3. If you are gonna do big things, you gotta do big things.

This is my reminder that if you want to have a big impact you have to take big risks.

4. Be Present

This was helpful in keeping me focused on just being in the moment and not thinking about what could go wrong, how many people would view, and other less than helpful places to focus.

5. A Chance to Shine

You’d think that doing a TEDx Talk is so fun and exciting. I would have thought so too. That wasn’t my experience. Mostly, I was just focused on not screwing it up and wasting such an incredible opportunity. It was helpful to remind myself that this was a chance to shine to help move me away from “DON’T MESS UP!”

6. Don’t Shrink. Don’t Puff Up. Stand Your Sacred Ground.

Brene Brown, don't shrink, don't puff up

This is Brené Brown’s own personal mantra when she feels the pressure. First, in my head Brené Brown has things all figured out and the fact that she gets overwhelmed and has a mantra she regularly turns to is just in and of itself reassuring. Second, I love the middle ground of this. Often when the pressure is on we can shrink and not be our full selves. At other times when the pressure is on we can puff up and try to convince others and ourselves that we are more than we really are. “Stand your sacred ground,” is a reminder to just be the best version of who you are – nothing less, nothing more.

7. So Hum

This is a common meditation mantra that means “I am.” This was just a great reminder to keep things simple and brings me back to my meditation practice.

8. Be the Man in the Arena

From the Theodore Roosevelt quote via Brené Brown. It’s not the critic who counts, but the man in the arena.


Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena, critic
Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena Speech

9. Be Stream-Like

stream, calm, water

This came from one of my coaching sessions during my coach training. The metaphor of a stream really resonated with me. The stream just moves down the mountain. If an obstacle is in its way, it just moves around it. The stream doesn’t get frustrated that there is an obstacle, doesn’t take the obstacle personally, doesn’t think that it shouldn’t have to deal with obstacles – just goes around it. I love the emotional effortlessness of this.

10. Be Mountain-Like

This came from the same coaching session as the one above. This metaphor is a reminder of the solid foundation I have. Decades of practice and experience; reading, learning, and writing on these topics; discussing these ideas with others and evolving what I think and how I communicate it as a result of those conversations. I don’t just bring a performance in this moment but a solid mountain-like foundation to the experience.

11. Your Turn

What are you mantras when you need to keep perspective? Any of these resonate with you?

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