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Jack Donaghy needed to get psyched. Faced with the pressure of delivering a keynote address to his corporate colleagues, Mr. Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin on the television series 30 Rock) looked in the mirror and gave himself a rousing pep talk.

"Okay, buddy, here we go," he said. "Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth. Are you gonna step up? Oh, yeah. Because it's winning time, you magnificent son of a bitch! You go in there and you show them. Make mommy proud of her big boy because he's the best! Just do it. Is it in you? I'm loving it!"

Whether you are staring down the barrel of delivering an important speech or having to nail a meeting with the boss, a "self-talk" is the key to getting ahead in your career, says Steve Siebold, author of 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class.

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"Most of us are never trained to do this," he says. "I don't think most people really understand the power of self-talk for reconditioning the mind."

But just because you have a self-talk doesn't mean it's a good one. There are certain elements that make a self-talk truly world class, Mr. Siebold says. Follow these guidelines and nothing will stand in your way, you magnificent son of a gun!

Make it fearless

Any time you find yourself in need of a self-talk, chances are your nerves are frayed. You're on edge. You're scared. But never say things such as "Don't blow this" or "Don't screw this up." Such negativity can torpedo your chances of success.

"It's got to be directed toward what you want, as opposed to what you're trying to avoid," Mr. Siebold says.

The point of a self-talk, after all, is to help build your confidence. Focus on your goals and your ability to meet them. And never let doubt creep into what you're telling yourself.

"It's got to be totally absent of fear," Mr. Siebold says.

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Be specific

Stuart Smalley is a terrible role model for anyone who wants to pump themselves up with a pep talk. Each day, the character played by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live, would look in the mirror and offer himself this affirmation: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."

Statements such as this one are far too generic, Mr. Siebold says.

"It's got to be very specific," he says. "Saying, for example, 'I'm going to have a positive attitude' is not as good as saying 'I'm going to stay positive about how much money I'm going to make this year.' " The more specific the better. If you've got a presentation to give, for example, remind yourself of each main point and how well you know them.

Acknowledge its power

It's easy to dismiss self-talks as a waste of time. But unless you accept that it works, nothing you tell yourself is going to be of much help.

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What we really need to recognize, Mr. Siebold says, is the power of positive conditioning. "So many of us are programmed from childhood on with negative and limiting messages," he says. "People I've studied that have succeeded at it in a big way consciously recognize this and they turn it around and start using self-talk scripts that are more abundance-based."

If you tell yourself over and over again that you can't do something, then chances are you'll fall flat on your face. The opposite must be true, Mr. Siebold says. "Behaviour follows belief," he says.

Keep it short

When it comes to world class self-talks, brevity is best, Mr. Siebold says. The more you blather, the less effective your self-talk will be.

A few sentences should suffice, Mr. Siebold says. "If it's simple, it probably is easier to get the message across," he says. "The fewer words, the better."

Ideally, a self-talk can be distilled down to three or four sentences. Nail the essential points you want to cover and no more, he says.

And while it's good to create self-talks for specific situations, some of the best ones are simple mantras of only a few words. One of Mr. Siebold's favourite self-talk scripts came from a man working in the financial industry: "Making money is easy."

Now that you know the secrets to a world class self-talk, get out there and take no prisoners. It's winning time!

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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