If we are fortunate enough as a country, we will see the universal expression for victory many times over the next few weeks from our men and women representing the USA in Rio. We have all (I hope) at some time or another instinctively raised our arms in victorious celebration after achieving success, whether it was in athletic competition or because you beat your sibling at connect four. It’s the universal expression for accomplishing something to be proud of. Body language is the universal non-verbal way we communicate with each other. Have you ever considered that your body language can impact the way you feel about yourself? In one of the most viewed Ted talks, Amy Cuddy, explains how your personal body language prior to stepping in for a job interview or even 1000’s of people can make a significant difference in your performance. She asks the question; “We know that our minds can change how we feel about our bodies, but can our bodies change our minds?”
To see how true this was, I tested out her theory prior to presenting to over 120 people at a national convention. I was prepared. I was confident in what I had to say. I was also a nervous wreck. I was speaking to an audience filled with those I feel to be both my contemporaries and my role models. No matter how many times you speak publicly, you must work through the nerves. As the time drew closer, I was reminded of this Ted talk I had watched months earlier. I immediately found the closest restroom and decided to see if what Miss Cuddy said would help me. I went into the bathroom and stood inside the handicapped stall with my arms raised over my head, continuing to pump my fists into the air as if I just drained a game winning jump shot in the NBA finals. I imagined my audience applauding. I envisioned the face of those I feared the most, smiling and cheering for a job well done. After about 3 minutes, it was time.
I had never stepped onto a stage or in front of a classroom with the feeling that consumed me. It was more than confidence. It was how I felt when I was practicing and preparing. It was my passion uncorked. I felt the high I usually feel at the conclusion of a presentation, right from the start and got to ride the wave of that emotion the entire time. It not only made the presentation flow well for me, but I felt more connected to my audience than ever before. I even felt that the audience warmed up to me significantly faster than ever before.
The question that Amy Cuddy poses is, can power posing for a few minutes really change your life in meaningful ways? I would answer with a resounding yes. I now use this strategy on a daily basis. This strategy has been shown to increase testosterone levels while decreasing cortisol levels. Those are key ingredients in the formula of success.
We know many athletes use visualization exercises as a part of their training. I wonder how many of them would improve their performance if they used these body language strategies prior to competing. Try this for yourself today. Try it before your next meeting with the boss or even a parent teacher confernence. Take a moment and place yourself in one of the power poses she suggests for a few minutes prior to the interaction with another. How does it feel? How did it go?
Until next month, go USA!