(MoneyWatch) Are you ever in a professional or personal setting where you feel intimidated, unsure of your abilities, nervous, awkward or downright scared? No more.
What would your life look like if you had more confidence and felt more powerful? Would you perform better at work, during a job interview or while giving a presentation? Would you be able to engage with members of the opposite sex more freely and have a little more swag in your step? Get ready to learn a simple and proven technique toinstantly. It's a big promise to be sure and not one I make lightly. I really hate hyperbole and promises of quick fixes and easy solutions, but once in a while I come across something that really has the power to change lives. This is one of those times.
So what's the secret to a powerful performance? Preparation for sure, but don't make the mistake of thinking all you need is to be prepared. Even if you know your stuff inside and out, if you aren't confident you will fail to perform. You've seen this a thousand times -- the presentation where you focus more on the timid and awkward delivery than the message. There is no worse feeling than knowing you could have killed it if it hadn't been for your nerves, self-doubt or hesitation. When you get your shot, you have to be more than prepared.
The real "X" factor that determines who gets the job, the promotion and other rewards in life is confidence. Since confidence is the magical pixie dust that can mean the difference between success and failure, you should spend just as much time on your mental game as you do on your work. But if you're in a pressure situation and you don't have your sports psychologist on speed dial, there is another option that research shows can immediately boost your confidence.
It turns out mom was right. When she told you to stand up straight, she instinctively knew that how others view you can influence their perception of you. But what she didn't know is that when we stand up straight we not only influence how others perceive us, but how we see ourselves.As an executive coach working with individuals who need to perform at peak performance, I've long known that how clients' move their bodies can influence their confidence, outlook and performance. Now it turns out we have some research to back this up.
Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy has shown that even if we "fake" body postures that convey confidence and power -- what she calls "power posing" -- even for as little as two minutes, it "changes our testosterone and cortisol levels, increases our appetite for risk, causes us to perform better in job interviews and generally configures our brains to cope well in stressful situations."
Building on such research, here is how you can immediately boost your confidence:
1. Preparation: Get big for two minutes. If you want confidence, it's all about becoming big. Before the presentation or job interview (or frankly anytime you want to have more confidence), move and expand your body. Stretch your arms outward or to the ceiling. Exaggerate your movements. Put your hands behind your back and your feet up on the desk. Do whatever you can to become as physically big as possible. The research shows that all it takes is just two minutes of this kind of movement in order to increase your confidence.
2. Performance: Fill the space. Now that it's game time, you don't want to make such exaggerated movements and you don't want to try to overpower someone who is naturally in a more powerful role, like someone interviewing you for a job. Nor do you want to shrink into a passive position like so many others do. You need to walk a fine line between being too much and too little. Cuddy's advice is to be as "big" as you can comfortably be by standing tall, keeping your shoulders back and having your feet apart. If you are sitting, don't sink into your chair. Sit up straight and keep your arms loose and on the armrests of the chair. Resist the natural tendency to shrink in such situations by doing what you can to "fill the room."
Success is about dreaming big, playing big and now, it seems, becoming big. Just remember to expand your body to expand your confidence.
Image from Flickr user Victor1558