Trigger Words

As writers, we all know that words matter. And when it comes to our own inner dialogue and self-talk, we can all use a boost. That’s why a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience caught my eye.* In the study, people riding exercise bikes were shown subliminal visual cues on a screen. The cues included sad and happy faces as well as action words like “go” and “energy” and words describing inaction.

People who were shown happy faces and action words were able to bike longer than those shown negative visual cues. That’s why fans holding positive signs and cheering at races have such a positive impact on runners and other athletes.

While this study underscores the importance of a positive mindset in boosting physical performance, a can-do attitude is also a powerful asset we can bring to the page. So here’s some advice from a sports expert we can tailor to our own needs:

“Athletes can use positive self-talk to combat the negative effects of negative self-talk,” according to Patrick Hammond, a New York City-based coach with a master’s in sports and performance psychology. “Such encouragement can come from both internal and external sources.”

Hammond suggests pinpointing exactly what motivates you, so that the self-talk messages you give yourself are primed to pack plenty of punch and feel familiar. He also notes that “trigger words” can be especially effective in bolstering positive thinking during tough moments. As he put it, “Trigger words allow coaches, fans, and the athletes themselves to communicate clear messages and trigger positive self-talk.” For maximum impact, these phrases should be short and sweet.

“Trigger words” and phrases are a tool I use all the time: They often give me a shot of energy during my writing sessions and help me when I hit a rough patch. Just to give you the idea, here are a few phrases I find helpful when I’m writing:

My words flow like honey.
A relaxed mind is a creative mind.
Ideas come to me.
Now I’m going to concentrate as hard as I can.
I have everything I need.
I have a passion for completion.
Onward, with velocity!

Feel free to experiment with any or all of these phrases and see if they work for you. Whenever I find a motivating phrase I like, I jot it down on a colored index card. I have a stack of these by my desk and sometimes thumb through them and pick out one that appeals to me in the moment. How about you? Are there “trigger” words or phrases that you find inspire your writing and help you keep going? I’d love to hear them! Write on.

* Thanks to Coach Mike Tully ( for this story in Triathelete Europe.

About karinwritesdangerously

I am a writer and this is a motivational blog designed to help both writers and aspiring writers to push to the next level. Key themes are peak performance, passion, overcoming writing roadblocks, juicing up your creativity, and the joys of writing.
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