We Have It Backwards – The Secret is Inside

We are told by people in our workplace, the media, our culture and other sources of external information that if we imitate what’s “in,” work hard to earn “enough” (position and money) and save for retirement, we will be happy – eventually.

Going from the “outside in” doesn’t work. I’ve interviewed many hard working leaders in business who delayed gratification to follow the success template outlined for them. They’ve expressed regrets – about lost relationships with family and friends, undue pressure and stress, physical decline due to lack of exercise and poor diet, and most of all, leaving their dreams behind.

The reverse is actually true – happiness comes from the “inside out.” If we’re happy now and set goals that engage us, we will attract the right people, situations and careers that will align with that happiness. It’s the internal state of consciousness that sets the stage for fulfillment and the achievement of sought after goals.

You might argue, “I can’t just make myself happy! Willing doesn’t make it so.” The latest research in neuroscience and physiology indicates that our expressions, gestures and the positioning of our bodies impact how we feel. Studies in the animal kingdom as well as with humans show that our body positioning and gestures do make a difference in our emotional state and in the reaction of others.

Smile and you will start feeling happier. Your body chemistry changes for the better and influences how you feel. Take a powerful stance like the universal victory stance (where your hands go up in a V and your legs are comfortably apart while standing tall) and hold it for several minutes in private and you can enter a high stakes meeting feeling more confident. Position yourself by standing/sitting erectly and using body movements that “fill your space” and you will feel more like a leader. (See Presence by Dr. Amy Cuddy.) Our emotional states are influenced by our physical positioning.

Try an “inside out” workout today. First, notice how you are feeling. If you are experiencing a negative or unproductive emotion, change your expression for the positive and/or your physical positioning. Hold it for at least 2 minutes. Keep a journal or use an app to track how you feel as you trade in a worrisome physical presence for a more powerful one. Like anything the “inside out” approach develops a positive habit that can create lasting change.

Our Performance Letter tool can help you manifest what’s important to you in 2017.