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  • Can you really fake it until you make it?

    I recently attended the 8th annual Coaching in Leadership and Healthcare Conference, sponsored by Harvard Medical School and others, and came away inspired after hearing some world class scientists talk about the latest studies that relate to your health and mine. In future months I’ll share more highlights of the conference. For this post I want to focus on one topic at the conference that was especially intriguing.

    For decades we’ve known how significant our body language can be as a communicator of what we’re thinking and feeling. A roll of the eyes; our arms folded across our chest; the way we might slouch in a chair. These are just a few of the examples of the way we send messages non-verbally. We continually ‘telegraph’ all sorts of information to those around us without saying a word.

    One of the presenters at the conference, Amy Cudder (you can catch her TED talk to get the short version of what she told us at the conference), shared with us the results of some fascinating studies she has done relating to non-verbal communication, suggesting that our body posture can trigger the release of certain hormones which can in turn determine how we will feel and behave in certain situations.

    In other words, our body language says a lot to ourselves, not just to others. And the evidence seems to show that adopting powerful, expansive postures (think of Wonder Woman’s pose or the way we raise our arms in victory after winning a race or scoring a goal) can give us an advantage in high pressure situations (job interview, speaking in public, etc).

    What she and her fellow researchers have found is that when we are open and expansive in the way we carry our body, the levels of testosterone go up and the levels of cortisol go down. The opposite is true when our posture is closed and diminished (picture yourself hunched over your electronic device). Testosterone levels decline and cortisol levels increase.

    Generally speaking, testosterone is a good hormone (for both men and women) that can make us feel strong and confident. Cortisol on the other hand serves many useful purposes but when activated too often (they don’t call it the stress hormone for nothing) can leave us feeling weak and depleted.

    Since we know that our mind cannot tell the difference between a real event and one that is vividly imagined (the same neurochemistry is triggered), the implication is that it is possible to ‘fake it until you make it’. In other words, by acting as if you are strong (body posture), you can influence your physiology (hormone release) which in turn can impact your state of mind (confident or not), which can determine how you act (your behavior) which can affect your end result (success or failure).

    Think about the implications for this science in your own life and do a little experimentation of your own. I hope you are pleasantly surprised by the outcome.




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