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Friday, March 4, 2016

Book Review: Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

I picked up this book, aiming for a book that would be quiet and technical, thinking it would be great to read before bed (and put me to sleep.) Instead I found an utterly fascinating and profound book that I can't stop talking about.

Amy Cuddy did the now-famous TED talk on power poses and this book grew out of it, but it is about so much more. We need to be present for things in our lives, and that often starts with the body. if we sit in a position of powerlessness (legs wrapped around each other, shoulders caved in, arms crossed), we feel powerless, like a victim, and that affects our responses to life: we are more aware of outsiders, we don't listen well since we are distracted by potential dangers, our self-confidence is shot, among other things. But something as simple as shifting our sitting position--to crossing your knee at the ankle, putting your shoulders back, and even spreading your arms onto an adjoining chair if possible--can change your attitude, change your ability to listen and absorb what you're hearing, and change others' opinion of you (mostly from your confidence level).

There are a lot of nuances to this theory and she talks about everything form breathing to yoga to visualizing power poses. Backed up by clinical studies, this book is 100% science, not just some woo-woo notion that someone made up. Instead, you read about study after study where after sitting in the Coba position for two minutes, people picked power words out of a list of words, and vice-versa, things like that. Dr. Cuddy is a professor at Harvard Business School so she's eminently qualified to write this, and she gives both personal examples (she had a traumatic brain injury in her late teens which impacted her forever, and she has experienced Imposter Syndrome herself, partly as a response to that earlier injury) and examples from the hundred of people who have contacted her to say how her talks have affected them. I particularly liked the last chapter which was almost exclusively anecdotes from people who have put the power poses into practice and how they worked (the most interesting one being a horse trainer who got her horse to do power poses of a sort.)

I couldn't stop reading parts of this book out loud to my husband. I told my therapist and personal trainer about it. I have started doing some of its suggestions. This morning I danced in my office as studies show that dancing and singing are things you do not because you are happy, but in order to make yourself happy. This book is impacting my life. I am an evangelist. You must read this book now.

I got this book for free at Winter Institute.

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