“Stand up tall and close your eyes,” I told my client. “Now, stretch your right arm out in front of you… sweep it up above you… and now circle all the way back behind you.” He did.
“Let’s do that again,” I said, “but this time I want you to imagine you’re reaching all the way to the front wall, the ceiling, and the back wall…” We continued with each arm, gradually increasing the amount of space he claimed with every new circle, until he was imagining reaching all the way out to the street, the sky, the river…
When we finished the exercises, I asked him how it felt. “Great!” he said, “But expensive! It took a lot of purpose and energy.”
I speak and write frequently on Presence: staying present, purposeful body language, claiming space, and cultivating an awareness of others. Each of these ingredients takes energy. When you’re in survival mode and running on fumes, you cannot access, let alone communicate, a powerful Presence.
As you may remember from your high school physics class, energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be transferred from one form (or object) to another. We usually think of this in terms of kinetic energy—your moving hand knocks something over—but it applies to mental energy, too. If you want to have a big presence, you need to take in energy and reserve it.
That means you have to take care of yourself. But as Brené Brown says, we live in a culture where exhaustion is a status symbol. The more burned out you are, the more busy and important you must be. That’s all fine and good if your goal is to impress others with how stressed out (and therefore significant) you are. But if your goal is to communicate a strong, safe, purposeful Presence in order to convey credibility and invite a connection with others, you have to start by investing in yourself.
It’s during the times when you have the least time that you most need to refill your well. Frequently over the years I’ve done “crazy” things during times when I’m adding more to my To Do list than I’m crossing off at record speeds, like nap in the car for 20 minutes to give myself a boost, take the long way home through a pretty neighborhood or scenic area, find a quiet place to journal, sit by myself on a park bench and breathe… Often, all it takes is a few minutes of peace and quiet for me to feel restored enough to think and work and press on again.
Our achievement-oriented culture does not value self-care. Yet we shoot ourselves in the foot when we don’t recharge our mental and emotional batteries. You would never expect to win a race or climb a mountain without putting energy into your body. How do you expect to think, reason, communicate, and stay present without taking care of your mind?
So take one minute—yes, just one—to do something good for yourself. Here are some ideas:
- Step outside for a breath of fresh air
- Think of a person or memory that makes you laugh
- Give someone a kiss (only if you have permission!)
- Check in with your senses—what do you see? hear? smell? taste? feel?
- Think of three things you are thankful for
- Take three deep, cleansing breaths
Stop reading and DO one of those things.
Presence IS a physically, mentally, and emotionally expensive endeavor. If you want to be big and put yourself out there, the energy to do so needs to come from somewhere. Take care of yourself. Then you will have the power FOR Presence.