The Science of the Psych-Up: on-call awesomeness

Imagine being able to trigger a boost, to activate an extra jolt of juice, in your exact moment of need…calling on hidden resource to overcome a major obstacle, or capitalize on a fleeting opportunity.

Sounds good, right?

Today is all about the psych-up: what it is, why it works, and how to do it.

I promise you, there is a learnable science behind it. And you might be amazed at how many influential people in all areas of life use the psych-up in some form or another.

Let’s start with a few awesome videos to psych you up for psych-ups.

First, a common image of the pre-game huddle, where athletes psych up their bodies, minds and attitudes for the coming challenge.

Next, a video recently gone viral, of Michelle Jenneke’s body-based psych-up before her run.  Notice her face and the vibrant energy she moves through her body.

Though tongue-in-cheek, still one of my favorite examples–Dwight from the Office psyches up before asking for a raise.

And the most epic and pure example of this I have ever seen (as have 11 million others), is little Jessica’s affirmation psych-up.  We could all learn quite a bit from Jessica.

And now, a final psych-up, SuperSpark style…

A psych-up (or pump-up or power-up or SHAZAM!) is a technique, done alone or with others, to center yourself in a particular positive state of being–a resourceful bio-chemical, neuro-physiological and psychological state (whew).


I think we all sense there is something to this, but as Dwight’s video points out, there can be a poking-fun perspective that surrounds this. And this perspective can lead to a lot of misunderstanding of the science and mastery that the psych-up is really about.

The real-life psych-ups as exemplified in these videos show a way that humans can consciously and purposefully change their state of being. It is accurate to say that in these moments, these people are changing their bio-chemical state, their psychological state, and their neuro-physiological state. And, they are guiding this change consciously.

It is no inaccuracy or stretch of the word to say these people are shape-shifting. And when they shift their state, what feels possible shifts along with it. This is the power of a mood or attitude.

The psych-up is especially potent when you are being assaulted by inner Supervillains; by old stories and victimizing emotions. A good psych-up can turn a low mood on its head and reset your whole day.

No matter how many good things sit right in front of someone who is depressed and despondent, they will only see depressing and despondent choices. On the flip side, someone that is inspired, grateful and engaged will find the empowered possibility in even the most challenging situations.

So the psych-up becomes a systematized way of shape-shifting your inner state in a moment’s notice, helping you prepare to give your best in the coming sitaution.

Said another way, an effective psych-up prepares our minds and bodies for ‘peak experiences’ or ‘peak moments’. Wondering what a peak experience is? Take a close look at these images below- they speak for themselves. While you observe them, notice if you start to feel different. (click for larger images)

Our bodies and senses are so tuned to notice peak experiences that you may easily find yourself having a profound emotional response simply by seeing an image of another in a peak experience.

A peak experience is a moment or series of moments where you receive, experience and express energy at a much higher level than normal. The psych-up catalyzes and stabilizes the ability to have more consistent and purposeful peak experiences.

Mastering the psych-up

So let’s get to the learning.

Below are several aspects of a basic psych-up to help you get started. Please understand that these aspects form a basic recipe, but there is no ‘most sacred form’ here.

A psych-up may be loud, it may be quiet; it may be in motion, it may be still; alone or with others. Experiment for yourself to find what works best for you.

• Musical Support: try choosing a musical accompaniment to help you feel the mood of your psych-up. Music can be super-powerful, and very helpful as you first start to master this science.

• Stack Systems: try to simultaneously incorporate the body (movement or posturing), breath and voice (either externally vocalizing or internal monologuing) in your psych-up.

• Focus On a Positive Emotion: try to feel in your body one or more potent positive emotions. Some of the most powerful are: gratitude, unwavering belief, inspiration, love and surrender. Other powerful emotions are: confidence, passion, courage, tenderness, creativity, self-love, compassion, humility and awe.

• Focus On a Positive Inner Image: just like focusing on positive emotions, you can connect with clear and striking images inside your own mind-space to help intensify the psych-up. You can also look at external images to amplify your psych-up.

• Intentionality, Not Expectation: this is where most would-be psych-onauts fall astray. A good psych-up does not create expectation (which is characterized by anxiety and lack), but rather a potent state of positive intentionality. This is a defining key between weak and self-serving psych-ups and truly powerful ones.

• ‘Fake It Till You Make It’: beginning the psych-up, you may feel very far from the positive state you are trying to connect with. That’s fine! Use the aspects exemplified above to lead yourself into it. This is one of the most amazing abilities of the human organism- to self-actualize a totally unique state. Use this ability wisely!

A Word to the Wise…

Notice that all the psych-up examples given in the videos and images hold different contexts and intentions.

Like any other pure science, the psych-up is ethically neutral. It can be used for good or evil (or for sports)–the choice is yours to make.

What I can tell you from experience is that self-absorbed psych-ups are always less powerful than ‘transpersonal psych-ups’. By transpersonal, I mean a psych-up focusing on gratitude and love and altrusitic feelings.

This difference will give you access to more total-body resource than a psych-up just focusing on how awesome you are as an individual.

This is seen in the difference between Dwight’s psych-up about how awesome he is, and Jessica’s psych-up about amazing her family and situation are. Dwight’s is more about what may happen, while Jessica’s is about what she already has.

I’m speaking to you!

You may try the psych-up and feel embarrassed, awkward or just overwhelmed at dancing, emotional expression or speaking out your vulnerable intentions. This is a great practice to turn embarrassment, awkwardness and overwhelm into big, bold and beautiful energy.

If you have a hard time psyching yourself up alone in your own room, think of how much harder it will be to display your awesome qualities in the moment of need when you are out in the world.

Keep practicing, and this ability will become more and more natural, sooner than you think.

Like a drowning man…

The psych-up, at its core, is about tapping into the raw energy of how intensely you want something. I leave you with a deeply inspiring story from the hip-hop preacher Eric Thomas, to demonstrate the intensity a psych-up can access:

Fellow hero, please post below your own unique ways of psyching up. Images or video responses get extra points =) And share this with friends you see in need of a bit more SHAZAM in their lives.

Eye of the tiger,
Eka, aka SuperSpark

Featured Image Credit

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