Peechaya Burroughs for TIME
April 8, 2016 12:17 PM EDT

Maybe you’ve scored that prized interview you’ve been after for some time, or maybe your CEO chose you to deliver a presentation, or maybe you have a big networking event—whatever the case, you’re obviously excited, but you’re also really nervous.

Here’s where mindfulness comes in. Regardless of if you’re a seasoned meditator or a newbie, you can test out S.T.O.P.—a powerful, yet surprisingly basic strategy that helps you to be focused, alert, relaxed, and at your emotional best when a big moment presents itself in your life.

Simply put, it’s a four-step mental checklist to use anytime you want to add a burst of fresh energy, creativity, or insight to whatever is going on. The whole idea behind it is that by taking a very brief break—even less than one minute—you can determine the very best action to take in the moment. 3 Reasons Why “Take Whatever Job You Can Get” Is The Worst Advice Ever

Let’s walk through it together:

S = Stop
Stop what you are doing: Press the pause button on your thoughts and actions.

T = Take
Take a few deep breaths to center yourself and bring yourself fully into the present moment.

O = Observe
Observe what is going on with your:

  • Body: What physical sensations are you aware of (touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell)?
  • Emotions: What are you feeling right now?
  • Mind: What assumptions are your making about your feelings? What is the story you’re telling yourself about why you are having them?

P = Proceed
Proceed with whatever you were doing, making a conscious, intentional choice to incorporate what you just learned.

Putting it Into Action
Let’s say you have a big interview coming up and you are practicing your answers to questions with a friend.

He asks, “What direct experience do you have working in our industry?” You stress out because you’re changing careers and you don’t have any direct experience. But, instead of panicking and telling your friend the mock interview’s over and you can’t do this, S.T.O.P. 4 Nosy Interview Questions You’re Allowed To Ask (Because The Answers Matter)

Write the question down, then pause.

Very intentionally take a few deep breaths


  • Body: You might notice a tightening in your stomach or that your breath gets shallower.
  • Emotions: Did the question make you feel nervous? Unsure of yourself?
  • Mind: What are you thinking? Maybe: “I always feel this way when I try something new, and it always seems to turn out OK…” or “Wow, I’ve always talked about changing to a new industry, and here I am actually doing it!” The 3 Small Words That Real Leaders Are Brave Enough To Say

As you think about your answer, consider what you’ve just observed about yourself, and what you want to do with what you just learned. You might say to yourself: “I’m going to remember when I notice my stomach tightening that I’m excited to be taking steps tochange careers.”

So now, instead of panicking, your inner monologue says to you:

“I have a lot of relevant experience I can bring from my previous work, so I’ll be genuinely positive and focus on my excitement and my transferable skills when this question comes up.”

Now, when you get asked this for real, you’ll be able to put your S.T.O.P. lessons to good use and answer without missing a beat. And remember, this doesn’t just apply to interviews, but to any situation that’s causing you anxiety. The more mindful you are of what’s going on in your own body and brain beforehand, the easier it will be to shine when it counts.

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