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What is Self-Nudging?

As a result (studies have shown), the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned. As an alternative, Amy Cuddy recommends “self-nudging”: making small changes to body language or mindset that can lead to incremental improvements in your emotional states and your overall well-being.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to change old habits and improve performance is to attempt total, instant self-transformation. New Year’s resolutions are the perfect example.


People vow to lose 100 pounds, to “finish that novel”, etc. without breaking these monumental goals down into the incremental actions that might make them achievable. As a result (studies have shown), the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned. As an alternative, Amy Cuddy recommends “self-nudging”: making small changes to body language or mindset that can lead to incremental improvements in your emotional states and your overall well-being.

Self-Nudging: Making small changes to our body language or mindset to achieve incremental improvement in how we feel and perform.

  • Avoid setting big, sweeping goals, which are distant, unspecific, and outcome-focused. Concentrate on making small advancements over time. Eventually, in aggregate, you’ll get better.
  • Develop a growth mindset. Focus not on winning or failing but on the process of stretching yourself. A growth mindset seems to promote greater resilience.

A Growth Mindset

Psychologist Carol Dweck’s studies of “growth” vs. “fixed” mindsets demonstrate that our cognitive development depends to a great extent on our ability to treat ourselves as a “work-in-progress”. Adhering to a “fixed” mindset means clinging to the belief that most situations are win-lose. A “growth mindset”, by contrast, means taking risks that stretch your capabilities, even at the risk of temporary setbacks. Over time, it develops resilience, a flexible strength that is conducive to long-term success.

So if you’re trying to adopt the habits of body and mind Amy Cuddy describes, don’t try to go from zero to sixty. Start by taking into account what your current baseline is. Make subtle adjustments in the direction you want to go. Track and take heart in your stepwise progress over time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Self-Nudging in Practice

Think of a relationship dynamic or work situation that is challenging to you and you would like to navigate more skillfully. Before your next interaction with this person or situation, choose one of the following goals for yourself:

Deploying the core values exercise you’ve learned in this module. Striving to achieve that great feeling you get in your body after an achievement and keeping that in focus. Maintaining awareness of breathing throughout entire interaction. Implement: Put your action plan into play.

Reflect: How did this activity help your sense of presence when confronting the person or situation that was stressful to you? Every interaction you have where you apply one of these goals is a victory. Acknowledge the victory to yourself.

Over To You

After you watch the video take a moment to privately reflect:

Check in with how you’re feeling right now. Relaxed? Annoyed or impatient? Bored? Tired? Inspired? Whatever it is, just take note. Try to detect the connection between your mind state and your body – posture, physical tension, etc. Now, make one very slight adjustment to the body toward a more relaxed and open state. Notice how it feels to do this incrementally. Now, attempt a massive, radical physical adjustment. How does that feel?

What broad goals do you have for yourself in terms of progress in your physical and/or mental well-being?

Pick one of the goals above and break it down into concrete, actionable steps. Baby steps, as it were. Which of these could you begin incorporating as soon as…today? Tomorrow?

Use the following discussion questions to synthesise what you’ve learned, keeping in mind that others’ insights will likely be different from your own, and of great value to you.

  • Think of a leader in your organization who has a strong sense of presence. How does their communication reflect their self-awareness? What aspects of their approach would you like to emulate?
  • As you worked through the steps – defining, perceiving and achieving presence, boosting self-awareness before your biggest challenges, and self-nudging for incremental improvement – what was something that surprised you?
  • What did you learn about yourself that may alter your behaviour going forward?
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Emotional Intelligence in Practice

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