“Presence” is a delightful book. It’s packed with good advice, scientific evidence, and inspiring stories of people who have overcome various adversities in life, only to become stronger. Along the way, they have also acquired a precious skill—the ability to command respect and inspire others, only with their presence.
Presence is defined in many different ways throughout the book, but in its simplest form, it’s
“the ability to access your best skills, knowledge, expertise and core values when you need them, in high-pressure situations.”
It’s about the series of moments in life when we bring forward and give all of ourselves and our attention to the present time.
The vital elements of Presence, Dr. Cuddy further reveals, are confidence, comfort level and passionate enthusiasm. These have been proven by research to predict successful outcomes in various areas in our personal and professional lives. Why are these feelings so valuable, one may ask? Simple—because they can’t be easily faked.
There are other equally important bits to the ability to be truly present—such as believing your story and focusing less on the impressions you make on others and more on the ones you make on yourself.
The book itself evolved after Amy Cuddy’s much-famed TedTalk on power-posing. Much of the research behind the Superwoman / Starfish pose benefits are in the book—specifically about how expanding ourselves can make us feel more powerful and confident. Presence begins with the physical, according to Dr. Cuddy—with minding our body language, with purposely directing our gestures and pose into projecting confidence.
“The body shapes the mind, and the mind shapes behavior. But the body also directs itself.”
A very interesting notion in the book, for me personally, was the idea of Self-Nudging. Turns out, it’s a whole new theory about how small changes in behavior (nudges) lead to improved desired outcomes. Generally, as many of us personally know from experience, when people are asked to alter their habits in some major ways, such type of pressure usually fails (think of the New Year’s resolutions).
But if we are to take small steps based on “nudges” or reminders, and few other successful means of reinforcement—such as social proof shortcuts (everyone does it, it’s a trend), or the increase of the salience of a desired option (through advertising and product placement, for instance).
The Nudge Theory has been proven to be quite successful. So much in fact, that Behavioural Nudge units have been established in both the UK and the USA to pursue domestic policy goals—as urging people to use less energy, to donate blood or pay their taxes on time. This approach is successful because it focuses “on the how not the why.”
Baby steps lead to an incremental change, Dr Cuddy asserts. It’s a powerful tool, which we all can use in our daily lives to alter our behaviour and habits for the better—be it to start exercising, eating healthier or any other change we would like to make, really.
In the end, the book is definitely a great addition to anyone’s reading list. I did enjoy it and learned quite a bit about how to be present in the moment, why this is so essential to success, and how to bring my boldest self to my greatest challenges.
Presence can give you great power over your outcomes and your ability to change your life trajectory. It’s a winner, indeed.
And the neat part is that the ability to be truly present in your life doesn’t require much mental or physical commitment. It’s just really being yourself, in every moment.