If we want to increase our influence and impact, we need to get ourselves and others to look up more often.
Scientists have known for years that our behavior follows our feelings. Watch any competitive sporting event and you’ll see the winning players and fans looking up with their arms in the air enjoying the thrill of victory. While those on the losing side of the contest have their heads down dealing with the agony of defeat.
When the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl last year, Tom Brady looked like a winner when celebrating with his team, family and friends after the game.
When they lost to the Giants in 2012, he was by himself and his body language told a different story.
Whether you’re rooting for or against the Patriots this year, you can bet Brady will be looking up or down when Super Bowl Sunday ends. We all respond in similar ways when we win or lose in any important area of our life.
What is less known is that the opposite is also true. Our feelings follow our behavior.
If you know someone who wants to feel more positive and powerful, they don’t have to wait till they win “Their Super Bowl.” They can accomplish that objective by picking their head up and thinking about what’s gone well in their life. When they start training themselves to look up consistently and start thinking about the times when they worked hard to achieve a challenging goal, they’ll start to feel better. If they look down too much and ruminate about their failures from the past or worries about the future, they’ll start triggering negative emotions that will produce behavior in the present that will be way below their potential.
Most people report feeling better after just one minute when they look up and recall, in detail, the times when they were at their best. The positive emotions that get created during this short trip down memory lane help individuals engage in the kind of behavior that motivates them to use their God-given strengths to add more value to the people they work with, live with and serve.
When someone’s body language is depressed, they look down, hunch their shoulders and retreat in isolation to their comfort zone. Before long, their beliefs about what they can’t do stop them from doing what they can do.
Being powerful or powerless is a choice we have to make all day every day. It’s not a character trait. Unfortunately, too many people have powerless body language most of the day and don’t even know it. As a result, they focus on the negative aspects of their life.
This week, notice how many people you see with their heads down looking at their smart phones as they walk, eat and even participate in meetings. This smart phone posture, called the “iHunch,” is exactly how people look when they are depressed. Even if you were in a good mood, if you stay in this posture long enough, you’ll start feeling negative emotions.
I encourage you to make a commitment this week at work and home to increase the amount of time you look up and reflect on what’s working well in your life.
Your behavior will also have a positive influence on others. The people you lead and love may not always follow your advice, but they usually emulate your example.
Looking up and thinking about positive stories from the past doesn’t make anyone smarter or give them new skills and abilities. However, science has proven that it will make people of all ages happier, healthier and more productive. It also helps individuals develop the resilience to be at their best when their best is needed.
The great philosopher Charlie Brown thinks it’s a good idea too.
Let’s Get Better. Together! Bill Durkin