If a happy client heaps praise on you and you remember the kind words long after he or she has left your bookkeeping business, there’s a good chance you will find yourself smiling, even if you are sitting alone.
If another client calls you and screams that you have made a horrible mistake that will cost them thousands of dollars and is threatening you, you may feel your heart pounding and know that your blood pressure is rising.
If you exit your office via an elevator and a stranger tells you your shoelace is undone or your skirt is tucked into the back of your pantyhose, you will blush bright red with embarrassment.
We know for a fact through these and other things that happen to us that our mind and body are somehow connected.
Up until quite recently, we have believed that our mind controls our body.
But things are changing now. More and more scientists are considering new evidence that altering our bodies can actually change our mental state.
The embodied bookkeeper is a new reality
This new science is called embodied cognition. It means that there is a growing mountain of research showing that our minds are not only connected to our bodies, but that our bodies can actually influence our mind.
Some of these studies dazzle us with their inventiveness and have potential to be incorporated into our bookkeeping businesses.
One scientist discovered that how you lean your body impacts how you perceive size. Lean to your left and that tall building looks shorter than if you lean right.
Feeling guilty about something? Wash your hands like Lady Macbeth and you will feel your conscience soothed.
Embodied cognition challenges the idea that our minds and souls are different from our bodies. The concept attracted the attention of scholars like Martin Heidegger, John Dewey and Maurice Merleau-Ponty in the early 20th century and more recently led to an amazing body of study by George Lakoff, a professor at University of California at Berkeley.
Lakoff was led to study embodiment when he discovered that the idea that our minds are like computers was flawed and sought other explanations for our mind and body links. His work led to the 1999 release of a 600-page book co-authored with Mark Johnson and called Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought.
Examples of how embodiment works
The round of research exploring the idea that our bodies can influence our minds that followed produced some amazing results. Here are some examples that emerged from a variety of studies:
- When people were asked to think about the future, they leaned forward slightly. When asked about the past, the same subjects leaned backwards.
- Subjects looked at a picture of a gender neutral face. If they squeezed a soft ball, they said the face was female; if they squeezed a hard ball, they said it was male.
- People who carried heavy clipboards thought their opinions were more important than those who did not.
- Subjects who wrinkled their noses at an odor judged it to smell more unpleasant than those who did not.
How you can use embodiment in your bookkeeping business
While being a professional bookkeeper is considered a mental profession, there are ways you can test out the validity of embodied cognition in your own life. How much is your body capable of doing to influence how you think as you go about your work day?
If you are having a phone conversation with a person who is wearing you down and pushing you to accept a contract, a way of working or a fee that doesn’t meet your standards, and you feel you are weakening, stand up for one minute and extend your arm (both if you are using a headset or speaker) as broad as you can. In other words, expand to fill the largest possible space with your body. After just 60 seconds, you will feel more powerful and in charge of the situation. Your stress hormone cortisol will actually decrease.
If you need to increase your self-confidence, even if you are sitting at your desk, suddenly sit up straight and you may often feel stronger and more confident.
Embodiment tackles procrastination
If you are sitting in your chair staring at your screen and not taking the action that you need, take the ankle on one leg and rest it on the thigh of your other leg. Place an arm on the back of your chair.
You will suddenly find yourself inclined to get going again, to take an action, and your sense of personal power will be higher.
However, if you are trying to feel confident but you are sitting with your shoulders down, your legs together and your hands tucked under your thighs, you won’t be able to pull it off.
Start paying attention to your body
More and more studies show that if you want to secure jobs or contracts, take your confident body to the meeting and your mind will match it. Sit up straight with your chest out, not slumped down and looking at your knees. You will be transmitting power and your clients will be impressed.
Even if your mind is telling you that you are a pawn in this negotiation, if your body can speak of power, your mind will catch up.
There is one caveat with all of this. Be conscious that body postures send different messages to people from different cultural backgrounds. So while spreading your hands wide on a desk bespeaks power in most cultures, the concept of putting your feet on the desk so often depicted in movies about power-brokers in North America would be highly offensive in many Middle Eastern cultures.
It is not considered proper in the latter instance to display the soles of your shoes. 🙂
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