Belief is the precursor to success. Great people across the ages have all known this powerful secret.
Each one of us has the right to achieve success in our lives and the ability to learn to believe. Here is one simple way to engage your body to launch you toward success.
Early in our development, we learn to read body language. Even before we can understand spoken language, we react to the touch and gestures of our parents and families. Deep inside, our brains are constantly observing and reacting to non-verbal cues from the people we interact with.
But what about our own body language? How does our brain react to this?
Picture a low point in your life. Visualize yourself when you were filled with doubt and fear. See yourself in detail in the theatre of your mind. What do you see? You were small, hunched, and closed. Your voice and non-verbal gestures were small. You shuffled along with cautious, little steps.
Now transport yourself to a moment of success, a triumphal event when your mind was filled with elation and pride. Again, picture yourself. How did you appear to the world? You stood tall and open. Your head was high and your shoulders back. You may even have raised both arms above your head in the broad V for victory. Your stride was long and meaningful. Your voice was strong and your gestures generous.
We know that our bodies mirror our feelings. When we are afraid, our bodies shrink away from the world. When we are successful, our bodies expand and stand tall with pride. Our body language is highly responsive to our emotional state.
But what about the reverse? Does our brain listen to our body language?
Science is beginning to answer this question for us, and the conclusions are robust. Here is the exciting truth: Our brains watch our body language and learn from it. When we act powerless, we become powerless.
But, when we act powerful, we become powerful!
Researchers have shown how we are able to change our mindset by changing our posture. It all started with a smile. Many years ago, social scientists asked people to put a pencil into their mouths, holding it horizontally between their lips in a manner that forced a smile. Nothing else changed except that their facial gesture was forced into a fake smile…and they became happy.
A lot more research has been done since then to not only prove the science but also demonstrate the mechanism. Two critical hormones mediate the balance of confidence we enjoy in our lives. Testosterone is the hormone of positivity and power (both men and women have it, but at different concentrations). Cortisol is the stress hormone of negativity and doubt. Powerful, successful people tend to have higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol.
Here is the liberating science: If you adopt a power pose for as little as two minutes, you increase your levels of testosterone and decrease your levels of cortisol. Your brain senses these changes, and your level of self-belief rises. Researchers have demonstrated in several different situations how this simple act not only improves your own belief but spills out to influence those around you. When you believe and they believe, success flows for everyone!
Amy Cuddy, a social scientist from Harvard, recommends a simple daily ritual: Stand tall with an open body in an explicit power pose for two minutes every day. Allow your brain to enjoy the boost of testosterone and reduced levels of cortisol. Do this before important meetings, sporting events, or performances, and your elevated self-confidence will translate into enhanced performance.
For many years, personal coaches have advocated that their clients fake it until they make it. We have now substantiated the science behind this advice. We now know that our bodies can change our minds. You can fake it until you believe it. And then…
When you believe it, you will make it.