Focus is a choice


Wild 150

But focusing isn’t easy

“The runner who is concentrating on how much his left toe hurts will be left in the dust by the runner who is focusing on (running). Even if the winner’s toe hurts just as much.”

We can focus on toe discomfort, or on running. We can focus on how frightened we are to be speaking to a crowd. Or we can focus on breathing, opening with enthusiasm and moving on the stage.

Fear is a perception, of course. Even social scientists agree that most of what we fear doesn’t happen, and nearly all of what we fear is improbable. But fear can degrade  performance.

Instead of focusing on our fear, or trying to banish it from our minds, we can replace it with a focus on what we are doing – here. Now. Focusing on our fear is instinctual, but in the 21st Century, in most of the United States, it’s unnecessary – and it’s counterproductive. There’s another way to get past fear:

Amy Cuddy, in a fascinating TED talk,* told us that adopting a “power pose” for only two minutes changes both hormonal balance our performance and success.

She described having research subjects adopt either a power pose or a submissive pose for two minutes before a deliberately stressful (mock) job interview. The two different poses – held for only two minutes — changed hormonal balance very differently for the two groups. Even more surprising, when the videos were viewed without sound, hiring executives overwhelmingly said they’d hire the members of the group that had adopted the power poses, and that they wouldn’t hire the ones who had used a submissive pose for two minutes prior to the interview.

Further, executives who listened to the audio of the interviews rated most members of each group as equally likely to be hired – their presentations and answers were similar in quality.

Before your next Toastmasters speech try this: adopt a “power pose” for two minutes. (The restroom might be a reasonable place for this.) During the presentation focus on your opening, closing and use of the stage – let the “power pose” do its work.

I’ll bet that you are more comfortable, and if Cuddy is right, you’ll give a better speech.




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