Hitting the Sweet Spot with Swagger

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By Michael J. Zappa, MD, FACEP

Think of a person you admire, look up to, or perhaps are even a little jealous of, someone you would consider successful, generally positive, or a good role model.  That individual does what they do with apparent ease and confidence, from just walking down the hall, interacting with others, or being the center of attention.  They are admirable and affable, but not quite arrogant. Picture your favorite sports figure – when they have all eyes on them, if they are relaxed, confident, just shy of cocky, they usually score.  In the game of life, from the playing field to the boardroom, and yes, even the bedside, the likelihood of success increases with confidence.

This is a real-life translation of positive psychology at work.  The opposite is also true:  worrying about failure, stressing about things out of your control, especially during a critical performance period, will all increase the odds of your worst fears becoming a reality.  This essential element of swagger, confidence, is also an extremely attractive quality.  Once you see yourself as “it,” whatever your “it” is: leader, champion, heroic caregiver, etc., so will everyone else.  Picture a large circle and a small circle that touch and barely overlap.  The large circle is competence; the small one is confidence; the overlap is the sweet spot.  Every task or interaction, from those thought to be private, to those with a crowd of observers, needs to display confidence; being competent is not enough.

It is true that not everyone who appears confident and optimistic always feels that way inside, but they employ simple effective techniques that help them portray that image.  Over the course of time, it truly becomes part of their personality. There is wisdom in the old saying: “fake it until you make it.” 

If you are struggling with putting on your swagger, here are a few tips:

  • Start Your Day Right

Always take care of yourself first:  physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Let the best parts of who you are on the inside shine through.

  • Put Yourself Together

How you put yourself together impacts your mood and other’s perception of you.  You can’t get away without looking the part – so pay attention to personal grooming and how you dress.

  • Act Like You’ve Already Won

As you arrive in your cleaned and starched uniform, the suit that fits just right, or your freshly pressed scrubs, pay attention to your body language.  Right or wrong, as humans, impressions are made quickly; we process visual clues before someone ever opens their mouth to speak.

So, dig deep inside, practice some self-discipline, push yourself a little out of your comfort zone, and find your sweet spot.  Before long, you’ll be showing up with swagger – guaranteed people will notice.

Dr. Michael J. Zappa is the president of Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital, and Cape Fear Valley Health System Vice President and Associate Chief Medical Officer. He balances business acumen with clinical expertise, and shares his thoughts on leadership and the healthcare industry at mikezappa.com.

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