In times of crisis, don't look to the past or the future for answers.
That's according to social psychologist and behavioral science expert Amy Cuddy. The Harvard University lecturer and author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges explained in a virtual keynote to Inc. 5000 honorees this week that productivity-sapping emotions such as anxiety, dread, and distraction come from thinking too much about the past and future. Staying present, Cuddy explains, can help you approach difficult situations with composure and find solutions with confidence.
"It's the power to bring yourself forward to express your most confident, competent, trustworthy, decent, awesome self in stressful situations," Cuddy says. "It is the ability to control your own states, your own behaviors, and, to some extent, your own outcomes."
Here are three of Cuddy's tips for how to make the most of a bad situation.
View challenges as opportunities.
When presented with a challenge, Cuddy advises reframing the situation. If you feel nervous to approach someone, for example, think of them as a collaborator or an ally, rather than as a competitor. Changing viewpoints can make you feel more in control of coming up with a solution to your problems.
"When we feel powerful, it leads us to act," Cuddy says. "When we feel powerless, we don't act."
Don't fake it until you make it.
Faking it until you make it works in some situations, but not when it comes to relationships. The best relationships are built on trust and authenticity--not on overstating your abilities.
"Unfortunately, we often make the mistake in work situations of showing off our skills and our strengths before showing that we are trustworthy," Cuddy says. "When we neglect that piece, this other piece--the strength, the competence, the skills--they just don't matter, especially for leaders who really need to inspire people to do their best work."
Avoid panicking at all costs.
When presented with something that makes you panic, Cuddy advises business owners to think of a time when you felt your best, whether it was finishing your first successful fundraising meeting, landing your biggest client, or even at a personal event such as a wedding. By contrasting the panic with a good feeling, it can help you reset your approach to the situation and feel more present.
"When we feel present, we're not doubting who we are [and] we believe in ourselves," Cuddy says. "And when we believe in ourselves, we believe in what we're selling."