From TED.com, “Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.
“Amy Cuddy is a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School, where she studies how nonverbal behavior and how snap judgments affect people from the classroom to the boardroom.
Her research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions.”
I learned about the power of our external physiology to shift our internal experience years ago, while studying NLP with its co-founder, John Grinder. But Professor Cuddy now adds the scientific validation of identifying chemical changes in our bodies.
Although I used this knowledge in my executive coaching practice sparingly, it always worried me a bit because at some level it implied that a simple shift in our body posture and the related change in chemistry is enough to be successful. That has not been my experience in the business world.
Admittedly, power posing can help a competent person to feel more confidence and confidence is a part of success. But if a person lacks the competence, power posing isn’t enough to produce success, although it can help overcome perceived obstacles to developing competence.
Success is an emergent property of a system of human factors in response to changing external variables: What we might call life’s circumstances. The system of human factors include a person’s knowledge, skills, attitude and aptitude.
In other words, the choices people make in life determine how successful they become. And those choices are influenced, not only by the circumstances, but also by how each person perceives them.
To be sure, circumstances not only vary from situation to situation but they also vary by how each person, as a party to the exact same situation, perceives it. In fact, this is probably the most important predictor of success.
So yes, different circumstances can give or take away opportunities to any of us but they are not the only determining factor.
What I’m writing is, given the exact same circumstances, some people will succeed and some will fail, based on their individual perceptions, interpretations, assessments and choices, 95 percent of which will be made subconsciously.
Those vital decision processes function subconsciously and then are sent into our conscious minds so it feels like we know exactly how we make a decision.
The conscious explanation that accompanies our decision is called “story telling.” Our minds abhor a vacuum in logic so we make up a story to explain why we did this or that.
In summary, there’s no question that confidence is a powerful success factor but it is only one and cannot replace competence. Competence, in turn, depends on using our knowledge, skill, attitude and aptitude effectively through our choices.
Knowing some of those choices will be disastrous, successful people clean up the messes they make and move on. And that does take the confidence Dr. Cuddy is speaking about.