Bringing your boldest self to your biggest challenges
Since finishing Amy Cuddy’s book Presence I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the critically important role posture and body language play in our lives. It was fascinating to read her personal story and to delve into the scientific research behind how our bodies shape our minds. I am recommending it to everyone i know.
Harnessing personal power, not power over others, is the key. Personal power, i.e. presence, allows us to access to our limitless inner resources, skills and abilities. Personal power enhances our ability to make good decisions and makes us more forgiving of others. It makes it easier to recall positive memories and clears our heads to make space for creativity. Personal power makes us more persistent and increases our physical strength and pain threshold.
The research into the effect our presence has on others’ perception of us is overwhelming. It plays a critical role in whether they offer us a job or accept a proposal we make. The science is real too, there are measurable changes in hormone levels simply from changing the way our body is positioned. Personal power, i.e. presence, reveals our truest and best selves.
Six Ways to Cultivate Presence
1. Power Pose before an important meeting or event. Go somewhere private (a bathroom stall works perfectly) and hold your body in a *Wonder woman* or *Starfish* pose for two minutes. Even visualising a power pose in our head has a beneficial impact. I’ve been doing this before important work meetings and I’ve also found it helpful in parenting. If i’m struggling with my girls, i’ll put my hands on my hips and ground my feet (aka Wonder Woman) for a few moments before i respond.
2. Positive Posture. Sit/stand up straight, keep your shoulders back & chest open, chin up, feet grounded on the floor, breath slowly & deeply, use open gestures (palms up), lower your voice, pause and take your time. I find myself correcting my posture dozens of times everyday. A quote from the book has really stuck with me “The way we carry ourselves from moment to moment blazes the trail our lives’ take.”
3. Fake an emotion until we actualise it. A famous Harvard professor William James showed that we can fake an emotion until we actualise it. If i’m having a rubbish day i’ll nudge myself to smile. Very often that tiny act is enough to shift my mindset just a little, enough anyway do the next small task. “Where our bodies lead our minds and emotions will follow.”
4. Self affirm i.e. remind ourselves what matters most to us. Affirming our core values and reflecting on a time we’ve demonstrated those core values before entering a threatening situation can protect us from anxiety (it doesn’t need to be related to the situation at hand). Research also shows that people are happier, perform better, and stay longer in jobs when they are encouraged to be their unique selves and are given time to reflect on these qualities. I’ve been carrying with me for a while now a list of the things i truly value in my life and I’ve found skimming it for a few moments when i’m feeling anxious can help ground me.
5. Prepare and practice. “Presence doesn’t give you skills or talents you don’t have, it helps you to share the ones you do have.” A good reminder that nothing can replace preparation & practice! We also can’t critique/judge our performance and do our best at the same time. Remaining focused on the task at hand and silencing the voice in my head is a skill i will be practising every day of my life i’m sure.
6. Reduce iHunch by using bigger devices whenever we can. The smaller the device the more we hunch and the more powerless we feel.
‘Presence is not about winning… it’s about approaching your biggest challenges without dread, executing them without anxiety and leaving them without regret’