Whether you’re trying to sink a free-throw on the basketball court, or give a big presentation at work, “self-talk” can literally make or break your performance. What’s self-talk? It’s the internal conversation you have with yourself - and it’s something we all do. So here’s how you can use the voice in your head to improve your performance:

First, focus on the details. A study published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science found that in certain situations, being specific about what you need to do is more effective than generalities. For example, with the free-throw.  Telling yourself, “Follow through and flick your wrist” is more effective something designed to psych you up like, “I can do it.” Or, “I know I’ll make this shot.” Saying “I can do it” can be helpful, too. It’s called “motivational self-talk” – and it’s useful in situations where you’re tired or anxious. Like, the last half of a 5K race, or the moments before you meet a new client. To get the most from self-talk, many psychologists recommend coming up with a script for your situation ahead of time. So you have a pep talk ready to go. When you do come up with the words you plan to tell yourself, remember these tips:

If you’re worried about technique, be specific. Tennis great Pete Sampras used to script thoughts about his footwork before a big match. In nerve-wracking situations like a job interview, try motivational self-talk that’ll help calm you down. Like, “I’m as good as anyone out there.” Practice both types of self-talk while you prepare for an event, and it’ll be second nature when you need it the most.