The first step to brain mastery is to take inventory of how you inhabit space, how you stand, how you sit, how you move, and how you interact with others.  When you’re sitting alone, do you slouch or sit straight?  When you stand, are you taking up all of your space, or do you shrink into corners?  When you move, do you move confidently, or do you slink — or do you careen?

And your interactions with others – what do they look like?  Do you come alive when other people are in the room with you, or do you go on the defensive?

Try to catch yourself in unconscious behavior.  You need to know how you’re behaving when you think no one’s watching – especially you.  And try not to judge yourself.  Choice and change can come later.  For now, just be compassionate, non-judgmental, and try to get a picture of how you inhabit space.

Your body is the physical embodiment of your unconscious attitudes, intents and desires.  As the old saying has it, in your youth, you have the body you’re born with; by the time you’re middle-aged, you have the body you deserve.  So take the sting out of that saying and simply observe yourself and learn what those observations tell you about your attitudes, intents and desires.

Again, be non-judgmental.  Just notice what you do.

If you have a hard time catching yourself ‘unawares’, then think about setting up a video camera when you’re in a meeting or undertaking some routine chores.  At first, you’ll be self-conscious, and your behavior will be distorted from your usual modes of being, but after a few minutes you’ll forget the camera is there.  So be patient and use the video for what it can tell you about your habitual behavior.

As you watch, ask yourself, how am I showing up?  Expressive or bottled up?  Happy or sad?  Active or passive?  Strong or weak?  And so on.  Keep a daily diary of your physical presence and attitudes.  The process might take a few weeks, depending on how easy or difficult it is for you.

If you can take personal inventory in even a moderately detached way, you can take the first step to understanding yourself as an active presence in the world – and decide what you want to do about it.

More in this series:
Step 1 »   |   Step 2 »   |   Step 3 »   |   Step 4 »   |   Step 5


  1. Amy Cuddy’s TED talk provides excellent support for this post. Our bodies communicate so well, even if we when we are unaware. Nicely stated… I have enjoyed this series about the brain and communication.

    1. Thanks, David for your comment and the mention of Amy Cuddy’s talk. I’ve blogged on it before, and it’s a wonderful addition to the discussion of brain science and communication.

    1. Colin, thanks for the comment, the link, and the idea. The only caveat in this discussion is that you can’t literally go around posing like Wonder Woman — your stance has to make sense in the context!

  2. Hi Nick,

    I’ve just finished two interesting books: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and The Willpower Instinct by Kelly Mcgonigal. Both books discuss the importance of self-awareness and, as you say, not being judgmental. The first step is knowing where we are, who we are and what we are doing. Once we know that, we have a platform from which to build the changes that we want to make.

    I look forward to reading the follow-up posts.


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