The following points were taken from a discussion/interview between Amy Cuddy and Bonnie St. John.
Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, the author of the bestselling book Presence, and a speaker whose TED Talk is the second-most watched of all time, with 39+ million views. She recently joined Bonnie St. John, former Olympic champion skier, speaker, and author of Micro-Resilience, for a live Heleo Conversation about overcoming challenges great and small. Amy, who suffered a traumatic brain injury as a teenager, and Bonnie, an amputee who lost her right leg at age five, spoke frankly about their own experiences, discussed the importance of hour-by-hour strategies for resilience, and talked about how they renegotiated their relationships with fear.
we were looking at research about why certain tennis players always win. It’s what they do between the points, those little recoveries, that give them the edge. If you hang around Olympians, they’re always looking for that little extra thing. You’re going to dinner and they’re like, “I know a better place to sit. I can get seats a little closer.” If you hang around lawyers, they argue. If you hang around investment bankers, they’re all looking for the typo, because that can cost them a million dollars. Olympians, it’s what is that little thing that’s going to make me a little better? Because that’s how you make the big change, by a series of little changes.
New Year’s resolutions. I think of them as macro-challenges; people decide at 11:50 p.m. on December 31st, “I’m going to make this big change.” Guess what? By the end of January, every media outlet has some big headline about why New Year’s resolutions fail. We go through this again and again, and fail because there are a million steps between you now and that New Year’s resolution version of you. Just like any tennis match, a New Year’s resolution is a series of tiny wins and losses, but we somehow think of it as a singular thing, and so we fail and we quit. Why not instead think of it as process and break it up.
Anxiety [is] a high-arousal, negative emotion. A colleague of mine, Alison Wood Brooks, is a great singer, and she doesn’t feel a lot of stage fright, but she learned to get over that as a kid. When she became a psychologist, she realized that anxiety and excitement are both high arousal emotions, but one is negative and one is positive. She put people into stressful situations, like singing competitions, public math exams, and debates, and would have them either say, “I am anxious,” or “I am excited.” When they said, “I am excited,” and they re-labelled the high arousal emotion from negative to positive, they overcame it and performed incredibly well. They harnessed the high arousal part, and got rid of the negative part. It’s very hard to change the arousal level, but it’s easier to change the balance from negative to positive or vice-versa. First you have to go, “I am feeling fear. Wait, maybe it’s actually this other thing.” My son, he’s a quiet kid, but he plays guitar and gets up and he can play with bands on the stage with a thousand people in the audience, and be totally relaxed, because he now thinks of that anxiety as excitement about the thing he loves doing. He now goes, “Oh, I’m not anxious, I’m just so excited to do this.”