Power vs Powerlessness – Action vs Avoidance

I’m four chapters in to Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence, and it’s most definitely living up to expectations. If you don’t now of her.. she’s a Social Psychologist best-known for her brilliant/fascinating/moving TED talk, entitled, ‘Your body language shapes who you are.’

If you haven’t seen it yet, then oh my days click here to do so now!

So anyway – I’ve had to keep pausing the audiobook and saving clips, because there’s just so many little #gamechangers in there. Today, I’d like to share one:

“When we’re deciding whether or not to do something (ask a person out on a date, raise a hand in class, even volunteer to help a person in need) we focus on one of two things: either the possible benefits of an action – that is a new relationship, expressing ourselves or the gratification of having helped someone – or on the possible costs of the action – that is having our hearts broken, sounding foolish or looking foolish.

If we are focused on the potential benefits, we’re likely to take the action, thereby approaching the positive.┬áIf we are focused on the potential costs, we’re likely not to act, thereby avoiding the possible dangers.

Power makes us approach. Powerlessness makes us avoid.”

focus eye

I’m nodding along as I write this now – as if, ‘Doh! Of course!’ but actually, with hindsight I can see that this focus on the negative – this sense of powerlessness – has imprisoned me for much of my life, holding me back from taking actions that I truly wanted to take. Again and again, I pushed down the needs of my authentic self, because of fear/anxiety created mostly from my own focus on what could go wrong.

And as much as I’ve come a long way from this point, if I don’t actively encourage it, then my brain quickly reverts back to this non-empowering pessimistic approach.

When I’m invited somewhere, meeting new people, trying something different or stepping up to a challenge; it’s my inclination still to turn and run. But I’m finding that after its initial hissy fit, my mind is much more easily persuaded as to the benefits of taking action. I’m finding that the negative brain chatter soon quietens down. I’m finding that it’s much easier these days to re-frame anxiety as excitement.

It makes sense right? The more you act from a place of power, the more powerful you might feel.





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