Most of us don’t like morning. It can be difficult to get up and walk away from our warm comfy beds, even for those of us who don’t hate our jobs. But imagine if the things you do in the morning impacted your entire life? It sounds ludicrous, but a Harvard psychologist claims it’s not.
Success is the driving force that motivates us. And there a number of books, classes, and motivational speakers that are spewing with ideas and advice on how to become successful. But it’s fair to say that time, effort, and money play key roles in achieving your goals. But there’s one thing that could put you on the path to success: your body.
We may not acknowledge it, but body language is very important to us. It’s a way of communicating that’s been used since the dawn of time. Humans use it, and animals use it too. It’s such an important part of who we are that there are areas of social science that study body language in length. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, has been researching body language for years, and her findings are quite surprising.
Body language can have a greater impact than we ever imagined, for one obvious reason: it can affect how others perceive us. Sometimes, a pose or facial expression can help sway people’s decisions on who gets a job, or who’ll get a second date. Studies have shown that body language is an accurate way to predict certain outcomes. But can it really make a major impact on how successful we are?
Confidence is an essential ingredient for success. If you don’t believe in yourself, there’s no way you’ll make it in life. But many don’t know that it’s a two-step process: you need to prove to others that you believe in yourself. Showing off your assertiveness, dominance, and power lets others know that you know what you’re doing, which elicits trusts and gets them to follow you. But how can you exhibit these traits?
Size can matter, sometimes. Among animals, certain species expand their bodies to seem larger when a predator approaches, or when a potential mate is present. For example, bears stand on their hind legs, while birds stretch their wings out, cobras extend their necks and hoods. Bigger reflects strength, which in turn reflects power. But for humans, this physical concept is more complex. That’s where Amy Cuddy’s research comes into play.
The psychology of size, as it relates to power, will apply, even if people don’t come to blows. Cuddy’s research partner discovered that athletes like runners, use a similar stance to achieve success, like throwing their arms in a V shape or pointing their chins up towards the sky. This occurs even if a runner was born blind, suggesting this behavior isn’t something we learn. This amazing finding led to a study called the “power poses.”
According to Cuddy’s research, those who display “power poses,” which involves sitting with your legs wide open, stretching your arms out, are seen as confident and dominant. Ironically, those who crouch, keep their heads down, or cross their legs are seen as small and powerless. So, the research suggests that power poses can improve how others perceive you. But how does that relate with the way you wake up first thing in the morning?
Cuddy had a breakthrough when she theorized that power poses don’t just affect the way others see you, but the way you see yourself too. And hormones are involved in this process: people who are powerful produce higher levels of testosterone, the dominant hormone, and less cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Cuddy conducted an experiment that left her colleagues speechless.
In one of her studies, Cuddy got participants to pose for two minutes in a certain way, then provide her with saliva samples. The results proved that those who power posed had lower levels of cortisol, and higher levels of testosterone, while those with “low power poses” showed the opposite results. Cuddy surmised that these poses can make you feel strong, and transmit that perception to everyone else. And it all begins first thing in the morning.
People assume Cuddy’s advice is so simple and might come off as a joke, but it isn’t. Before you plant your feet on the floor, stretch your body. Expand it as much as you can, and make yourself as big as humanly possible. This ritual will ensure that you start off with the right hormone balance, and can mean the difference between success and failure. But according to Cuddy, you can do so much more.
After Cuddy published her findings, people came to her and told her that they felt fake while doing power poses. They added that they knew they weren’t really powerful, so faking it made them feel like imposters. Shockingly enough, Dr. Cuddy knew how they felt, and she confessed the heartbreaking reason in 2012 during a TED Talk.
At 19, Amy Cuddy was in a car accident, which resulted in severe head trauma. While in the process of recovery, she had been told that her IQ had dropped by two standards deviations, and was taken out of college. Her intelligence had been a huge part of Cuddy’s identity up to this point. The serious accident had robbed her of her identity- but that didn’t stop her.
Cuddy returned to college to finish her career program, but it took twice as long as her fellow students. Her determination led her to Princeton. That’s when she began feeling like she didn’t belong there, essentially, an imposter. So, she called her advisor the night before she had to give a speech, to tell her she was giving up. But her advisor, fortunately, offered up some encouraging words that altered her life.
“You’re gonna stay, and this is what you’re going to do. You’re gonna fake it,” her advisor told Cuddy. “You’re just going to do it and do it and do it, even if you’re terrified […] until you have this moment where you say ‘Oh my gosh, I’m doing it. I have become this. I am actually doing this.’” With these words in her mind, Cuddy decided to share this advice with her audience.
“I wanna say to you: don’t fake it till you make it,” she told her audience. “Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize.” Cuddy also asked them to power pose for two minutes, as often as possible, as this would help reconfigure a brain into feeling and becoming powerful. “Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.”