When you feel powerful and present you are bringing your best self to the table.
I’m talking about the person that you are at the best moments of your life. Those moments when you feel totally connected. That’s your authentic best self.
The question is how do you bring that person to your most challenging situations where you’re least likely to be present. Those situations where you don’t feel in control, you don’t feel powerful, and your brain goes into that familiar panic and auto-pilot mode.
Those situations can be stressful and leave us feeling powerless. Luckily, Dr. Amy Cuddy, Harvard lecturer and best-selling author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, can help us answer that question.
The key is to make yourself feel powerful. I’m not talking about power over people, but the power to bring our best self forth, to believe in ourselves, and to be present. When people feel powerful it affects their feelings, their thoughts, their behaviors, and even their physiology. You feel more optimistic, more happy, and more confident. You think more openly, more creatively. You generally see the world as a place that’s filled with opportunities, not threats. - Dr. Amy Cuddy on The Science of Success.
The first thing you have to do is understand that it’s OK to feel powerful. You don’t have to control others to feel powerful.
Think of it as power liberates you to be who you are. It frees you. - Dr. Amy Cuddy on The Science of Success
When you feel powerful you feel as though you have control of yourself. You feel as though you have the power to truly be who you are and are able to showcase that to the world and everyone you interact with.
It’s about you feeling that you control your own resources, your own inner resources. It’s the feeling that you have some control in your life and that you’re not being controlled by outside forces or situations. The feeling that you’re making these decisions and deciding who you are and how others see you. It’s a feeling of motivation and control. - Dr. Amy Cuddy on The Science of Success.
Imagine yourself in a situation such as a job interview. Really, you don’t have control over the situation at all. You cannot control where the interview is held, you cannot control who it is with, and you cannot control what questions they are going to ask you. What you do have control over however, is yourself.
Here’s the thing about it though.
We are horrible at talking ourselves down off a ledge.
If you are feeling insecure or you’re feeling completely powerless it’s really really hard to talk yourself out of that mindset. We’re just not very good at talking ourselves out of feeling bad.
What we are good at, is walking ourselves down off that ledge and changing the way that we carry ourselves. This means that rather than focusing on our mind-mind connection to help us change our state, we need to focus on our mind-body connection.
When we’re feeling powerless oftentimes it’s nearly impossible to talk ourselves out of it. It’s like our mind knows that we really don’t feel that way and shrugs off our efforts. The body overrides that. The body skips that step. If the body is acting as if it’s not threatened, the mind begins to fall in line with what the body is doing. - Dr. Amy Cuddy on The Science of Success.
By focusing on our mind-body connection is so strong we can override our negative thoughts and emotions. Where your body goes, your mind will follow.
Dr. Amy Cuddy shares with us four incredibly simple yet powerful (no pun intended) things we can do any time to override the stress in our minds and take some of our internal power back.
When we expand, we feel powerful and we control our expansiveness. - Dr. Amy Cuddy on The Science of Success
The idea of power posing is nothing new. Many popular figures including Tony Robbins have explored and demonstrated the incredible power that standing with confidence can have. When we stand like we are confident and we own what we are saying we begin to feel that way.
What’s even more incredible about power posing and increasing our expansiveness is the impact it has on our hormones. Research has shown that powerful people share more than just a job title. They actually all exhibit similar hormone patterns to one another.
Powerful (remember our definition from above) leaders tend to have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol. Higher levels of testosterone (in both men and women) lead to increased feelings of confidence. Meanwhile, lower levels of cortisol lead to decreased anxiety and an improved ability to deal with stress.
All of these hormones can fluctuate dramatically and quickly. Your environment has also been proven to have dramatic effects on these hormone levels and changes in your environment can cause them to spike or lower at any time.
By striking power poses prior to stressful meetings and situations we can combat these fluctuations and maintain our sense of control of ourselves. This can take the form of standing up straight with your chest out and hands on your hip like a superhero.
We also want to look at expanding ourselves which involves sitting up straight and having your limbs away from your torso and placing your feet further apart than normal.
Dr. Cuddy provides us a list of the most common power poses…
It’s important to note that many of these power poses can be done in front of others. However, oftentimes activating this mind-body connection can involve moving around. Always be aware of your audience and your environment as to not come across as rude.
Another common symptom of feeling nervous is that we begin to speak more quickly. Think of a time when you were asked to read out loud in front of others. More often than not we just want to get it over with. As a result we speak so fast we almost forget to breathe.
This has a few negative impacts. First, it makes it more difficult for the other party to understand and comprehend our message. It can distract them from what we are actually saying and divert their attention to our speaking speed. Next, it can cause us to feel even more powerless when we realize we were not understood or when we are asked to repeat what we previously said.
To combat this we can use our hands to help slow us down. As speaking expert Matt Abrahams points out our mouths tend to mimic the speed of our body. By moving your hands at the speed and tempo you want to speak your mind and mouth align with your body.
Try it now, try to speak fast while moving your hands slowly or visa versa. I bet you couldn’t do it!
Research has found that when you can get people to slow down their speech, they feel more powerful and others perceive them as more powerful. - Dr. Amy Cuddy on The Science of Success
So next time you’re nervous to speak remember this tip and knock out two birds with one stone. Expand yourself even more by using your hands, arms, and body while at the same time using your arms like a concertmaster in the orchestra and keep yourself on tempo.
Tempo is an important aspect of feeling powerful in your breathing as well as your speech. Getting oxygen to your brain will help you stay sharp and able to think even when you are feeling pressure.
Think about it, we’re back to expansion. Only this time we’re focusing on the expansion of your lungs. Before you are about to enter a potentially stressful situation take a few seconds. Let yourself take in three deeps breathes, close your eyes if you can, and move.
Next, throughout the experience try to focus on your breathing whenever possible and make sure you continue to take full, deep breathes.
When you breathe deeply and expansively and really fill your lungs, you are triggering what’s called the relaxation response. This is a complex circuitry in your mind that’s telling your body that you are not in a threatening situation. - Dr. Amy Cuddy on The Science of Success
Whether it be a performance, a speaking gig, a job interview, or any stressful situation you CAN retain your sense of power. Use the science of the mind-body connection to override your minds natural response to stress and potentially threatening situations.
Remember, your mind did not evolve to make you happy or to keep you happy. It evolved to keep you alive. While these days you may not be running from tigers or hiding from panthers your minds reacts to stress in the same way.
Use these tips from Dr. Cuddy and others to override your minds natural reactions and remain cool, calm, collected, and…