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The Power of Presence

PresenceI recently completed the audiobook version of Dr. Amy Cuddy’s Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, which was read by the author. Dr. Cuddy is a social psychologist at Harvard University who gave an inspiring, widely-viewed TED talk that I blogged about in Fake It Until You Become It. In that TED talk, Dr. Cuddy describes how “power poses” can change us physiologically and emotionally as well as how others perceive us. Her new book expands upon her TED talk and provides practical, easy-to-use strategies that harness the power of presence to bring out our best selves. Dr. Cuddy backs her useful suggestions with scientific research, which she artfully weaves throughout the book. Moreover, she provides numerous stories of people who have successfully used these power poses and presence strategies to live richer, more authentic lives.

Power Poses as Life Hacks

I don’t know that Dr. Cuddy would like me to refer to aspects of her work as “life hacks,” but one could argue that it falls into this category. A life hack, as defined by the Urban Dictionary, is “a tool or technique that makes some aspect of one’s life easier or more efficient.” I blogged previously about mindfulness hacks, and I am a fan of trying to use powerful but easy-to-use strategies to improve well-being.
One thing that I really like about Dr. Cuddy’s TED talk and book is that one doesn’t need to do arduous personal work or a life overhaul in order to benefit from the strategies that she espouses. In life, personal change and transformation can be deceptively difficult. Old habits die hard. Yet, sometimes small changes can have a ripple effect. Dr. Cuddy describes how we can increase our personal power and “present” more in line with our authentic (and best!) selves through some of these small changes.

Small Changes, Big Payoffs

I have heard it said that “it is easier to act our way into a different way of thinking than to think our way into a different way of acting.” There is much truth to this idea. Regarding “power poses,” the thing that I like so much about them is that they can decrease our stress, improve our confidence, and improve the way others perceive us simply by moving our bodies into different positions. For example, standing up tall and straight with arms akimbo and head held high in and of itself leads to the aforementioned benefits. Conversely, pulling our bodies inwards with our heads down and shoulders slumped causes us to feel more stressed, have a more negative outlook, and others to perceive us less favorably.

The Takeaway

There is a lot more to Dr. Cuddy’s book than just the power poses. She deftly combines research and inspirational stories into the practical advice that she provides. So, if you are looking for a great read (or listen) that has some easy-to-use but transformative strategies, I can highly recommend Dr. Amy Cuddy’s  Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.

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