I recently finished reading a great book called Presence by Amy Cuddy. (She also has an excellent TED talk that you can see here.)
The main idea from the book is that we can change our bodies to influence our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, particularly as they relate to presence, power, and bringing our best selves to our biggest challenges.
It’s an intriguing idea. As a counseling psychologist, I generally think about the importance of talking… about your problems, thoughts, feelings, behaviors, etc. But sometimes talking isn’t enough. I know for me, there are times where I know intellectually what would be best for me, or what I need to do in order to move forward or change, but then I don’t end up actually doing anything differently. I can’t seem to transfer what I know in my head to my heart, body, and actions.
Cuddy suggests trying something different. Instead of talking a lot and hoping our talking affects our body in the way we want, she suggests an intervention that goes the other direction—directly changing our bodies and body language, and seeing if that change affects our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
She talked about hundreds of research studies in her book, but a typical study went something like this: Participants come into the lab, and are randomly assigned to one of two conditions. One group of participants holds a ‘power pose’ for two minutes. (Think about the typical Wonder Woman pose—hands on hips, chest expanded, shoulders back, and chin up.) The participants in the other group weren’t given any instructions about how to stand.
It might be hard to believe, but holding the power pose for two minutes resulted in significant changes between the groups. The participants who held the power pose felt more confident, powerful, and they were even more likely to take a risk in a future lab task. Interesting, isn’t it? All from the power pose.
I’m not sure about you, but I could definitely use help being more confident, powerful, and bringing my full and best self to my most challenging circumstances. So now I’m starting my day with a 2-minute power pose. Also, if I’m anticipating a stressful situation or a difficult conversation, I do a quick power pose beforehand. Every little bit helps.
Action Step: When you get up tomorrow morning, try starting your day with a 2-minute Wonder Woman pose. Also, if you have a challenge coming up during your day, get away for a minute or two and repeat the power pose. Take note of any changes in feelings of power or confidence.