ConfidenceThe “quick fix” has gotten a bad rap. “Quick” tends to imply get-rich-quick schemes, lack of attention and carelessness.

But sometimes a quick fix is all you need in life. When I’m tired, a cup of coffee is a quick pick-me-up. When I have a headache, some Advil is a quick relief. When I want to run faster, I listen to my power song for a quick boost.

So, what would you think if there was a quick fix for self-doubt? Something that was as fast and easy as taking an Advil or drinking a cup of coffee? A way to give you the extra boost you need to go the last mile and get past that interview, speech or big presentation?

Well, there is such a way, and I promise it’s even easier than you think.


Fake It Till You Make It

I was first introduced to this two-minute trick by watching Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”:

Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard University. She’s well-known for her research on nonverbal behavior and its effects on the body and, more specifically, hormone levels.

The concept she describes is simple, quick and can have profound effects on your life. If the way you feel influences how you act, then why can’t the way you act influence how you feel? You can literally fake it until you make it.

When you’re entering into a high-stress situation, two things happen: your testosterone (dominance hormone) decreases, and your cortisol (stress hormone) increases. These physiological changes are the result of your state of mind and influence everything from your body language to your speech and even your likelihood of taking risks.

The process Cuddy describes to head off these effects takes only two minutes. All you need to do (prior to the high-stress situation) is position yourself into what are called high-power poses — and your body does the rest. Testosterone is increased, while cortisol is decreased.

This change in hormone levels can have a dramatic influence on your behavior. In situations where nervousness and self-doubt are the norm, you’ll go in armed with an extra boost of confidence to help you really stand out:

  • Job interviews
  • Asking for a raise
  • Asking a cute girl on a date
  • Proposing to said girl
  • Telling your boss bad news
  • Trying something new (think: skydiving)

These are the kinds of situations where a quick boost of confidence can drastically change the outcome.


High-Power Poses Defined

Cuddy describes five high-power poses that have been shown to affect body chemistry. Again, these have been shown to increase testosterone and decrease cortisol. The names are my own (except for The Wonder Woman).

1. The Don Draper: Sitting in a chair, feet crossed up on a table, hands behind the head, elbows up.

This pose makes me think of Mad Men’s Don Draper in his office smoking a cigarette and relaxing after making a big sale.

2. The Tarzan: Standing leaning over the edge of the table, arms shoulder-width apart, fingers spread out on the table.

This pose reminds me of Tarzan, mimicking his adoptive parents, the great apes. Imagine a silverback gorilla leaning forward, knuckles on the ground.

3. The Wonder Woman: Standing, legs shoulder-width apart, chest out, arms on waist (my personal favorite).

This is pretty self-explanatory. Although when I first saw this one, I imagined Superman since I grew up playing with Superman toys more than Wonder Woman. Same thing, though.

4. The Executive: Sitting in a chair, one leg crossed over the other knee, elbows up, hands behind head.

This pose reminds me of demonstrations and meetings I’ve been in with the executives sitting at the conference table listening to my pitch. This is one of the more relaxed high-power poses.

5. The Facebook Billionaire: Sitting in a chair, legs spread, one or two arm(s) over a chair next to you.

This is also a very relaxed-looking power pose. However, this can be also look a little too relaxed depending on the situation. If you don’t really know your audience or there’s a chance of someone taking it the wrong way, I’d stay away from this one.


The Effect of High-Power Poses

Cuddy’s study found some interesting changes that occurred in people using these poses. First of all, those who did the high-power poses were likely to take a risk 86% of the time, compared to those who did the opposite, low-power poses, who were only willing to gamble 60% of the time.

It all revolves around risk-taking. Risk-taking isn’t always a bad thing. It shows confidence and, when appropriately used, good judgement. Hiring managers like risk-takers; they usually don’t want to hire robots. They want people who will challenge the status quo to make things better.

High-power poses showed a 20% increase in testosterone, while low-power poses showed a 10% decrease. In regards to cortisol, there was a decrease of 25% with high-power poses versus a 15% increase with lower-power poses.

The science is there. The research is sound. At a physiological level, your body language can have a direct influence on your behaviors.


Why Everyone Needs An Extra Boost of Confidence

Confidence is a tricky thing. Many people think they have it, and yet, when a stressful situation presents itself, they still show telltale signs that they lack it.

Non-verbal communication tells a lot about what you’re saying. Is your handshake firm? Are you smiling? Do you make eye contact? Do you sit up straight?

Adding a little bit more confidence to your repertoire allows you to put your best foot forward. Being nervous isn’t who you really are, and you don’t want to come across that way. You are strong, you are powerful, and taking two minutes to make sure you show that will have a dramatic effect in the situations where you need it most.

Otherwise, you’ll get a blow to the face from stress, among other physiological effects. It disrupts sleep, appetite, healing and basic cognition. This trick will help you head off the levels of stress that most others feel.

Doing this will literally make you healthier and more successful.


How to Use This in Everyday Life

I want to reiterate that the high-power poses described above are meant to be used before the high-stress event, not during.

You don’t want to show bravado or cross the threshold of confidence into being too cocky, whether it’s in an interview or the first time you meet your girlfriend’s parents (which is technically the same thing).

We all get stressed. It’s a fact of life. And no matter how many stressors you come across, you will likely feel the same during each of them to some extent.

For some people, paying bills are stressful. For others, going to the gym is stressful. Maybe you find loud, crowded bars stressful. (I do — sensory overload.) The point is that on any given day, you’re going to run into stressful situations. Using this trick builds your confidence back up and reduces your stress.

A great way to beat the day is to practice these high-powered poses every morning as soon as you wake up. If you do morning affirmations, do this first. You’ll feel even more powerful and committed to your affirmations.

In addition, take two minutes before you walk into a situation you know you need to be powerful in. Go to the restroom and do The Wonder Woman pose for two minute, or sit in your car in The Executive position.


Parting Advice

Like Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, I want to leave you with two last ideas.

The first is to fake it until you become it. This trick can change your life. If you want to be confident, then hold yourself the way confident people do. If you want to be powerful, show yourself what power looks like. Doing this is not for others; it’s for yourself.

Second, know that tiny tweaks can lead to big changes. (Click here to tweet this thought.) Two minutes is all it takes to be healthier, more successful, more confident, a better interviewer, a better presenter and a better leader.

 Where can you find two minutes in your life to make yourself more powerful?

Image: Flickr