“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
Beyond your comfort zone lies what you really want: to grow, change, and live your life with passion. The problem? Getting there requires you to break out of your comfort zone, and going outside your comfort zone is intimidating. As scary as it is, however, pushing through your fear and getting out of your comfort zone is essential for growth. “Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” – Brian Tracy
The below guide is a one-week action plan that you can use to break out of your comfort zone. Starting with these small steps will give you the confidence booster you need to eventually take bigger steps out of your comfort zone. By experiencing success with these small action steps, you will rapidly develop the momentum needed to make a breakthrough.
Follow this action plan for the next 7 days and you will be excited to continue stepping out of your comfort zone!Advertising
1. Do a random act of kindness
Is there a better way to start your week by pushing out of your comfort zone to do something kind for a stranger? I think not! Random acts of kindness are awesome. They make another person’s day start off great (and honestly, who doesn’t need a mood booster on Monday morning?). There’s also a benefit to your life. By doing kind hearted things for others and expecting nothing in return (no thanks, no praise, just you quietly doing amazing stuff), you feel great. It’s Monday, grab your caffeine and get out of your bubble… it’s time to break out of your comfort zone and do something thoughtful for a stranger.
Monday’s Breakthrough Tip: Pay for a coffee for the person behind you in line at Starbucks.
2. Startle your taste buds
Coming out of your comfort zone can start in your very own kitchen! You can begin by experimenting with a new spice. Gradually you can progress to trying entirely new foods and perhaps some totally exotic foods. Some you might love, and others not so much, and that’s okay. How will you ever know if you don’t try them? The key is to start playing with different flavors and expand your palate. Instead of mindlessly creating the same boring meals from recipes you’ve used repetitively for years, start experimenting. Try arugula instead of spinach in your salad, mix a new refreshing drink, or buy some cheese you’ve never heard of (black bomber, anyone?).
Tuesday’s Breakthrough Tip: Use a new spice while cooking dinner.Advertising
3. Strike up a conversation
Strike up a conversation with someone you never talk to – either a stranger or an acquaintance. As always, be safe (avoid late-night conversations with strangers in dark alleys). Feeling awkward and not sure what to talk about? Pay them a compliment. Better yet, tell them their kids are super cute. Everyone likes that. You never know who you’ll meet; there are likely a lot of amazing people around you every day. Who knows, maybe the person who sits next to you on the subway every day will become your new friend.
Wednesday’s Breakthrough Tip: Compliment a stranger.
4. Say I love you
How often do we tell our friends and family members how much we love and appreciate them? I’ll give you the answer – not enough. Life is short, and too often it ends abruptly. Even if your family isn’t overly emotional and doesn’t talk about feelings, get out of your comfort zone and tell your loved ones how much you care about them. It doesn’t matter if your words are written in a letter, spoken over the phone, or shared in person. Just get your thoughts out of your head and share them with those who are dearest to you.Tell them how their influence in your life has made you who you are today.
Thursday’s Breakthrough Tip: Send a card to a relative stating why you’re thankful for them.Advertising
5. Take one baby step
According to author Joseph Epstein, “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them.” There are hundreds of millions of people who apparently aspire to write. If you’re one of them, start today by setting tiny goals. If you dream to write a book, write 2 sentences today. If you have different aspirations, take a baby step in a different direction. If you want to go back to school, sign up for one class this semester. If you want to eventually run a marathon, set an initial goal of walking 5 minutes. You just need to start putting one foot in front of the other. Looking ahead at your overall big dream may be overwhelming and far out of your comfort zone; breaking it down into small chunks will significantly decrease the intimidation factor.
Friday’s Breakthrough Tip: Consider a big dream you have that is out of your comfort zone. Break it down. Set a tiny starting goal you know you can accomplish and do it today. Repeat this daily.
6. Scan the ads
Look through the newspaper and your local community education flyer. Are there any upcoming events or classes that picque your interest? Taking a class, even if it’s just a couple hours, can be out of your comfort zone if it’s something completely new to you. By learning a new skill, you just might stumble upon your passion. A friend of mine stepped out of her comfort zone and signed up for a random glass-blowing class a couple years ago, thinking it would be a fun way to kill a few hours. She absolutely loved it. So much, in fact, that she’s considering decreasing her hours in the healthcare field (she has a doctorate degree and an excellent career) to spend more time glass-blowing. She started by returning to the studio to take more classes, then began selling items she created to family and friends, and now her work is being featured in a store front.
Saturday’s Breakthrough Tip: Sign up for a local workshop to learn something new.Advertising
In today’s always “on” society, where we have instant access to all kinds of information, and we’re constantly connected to social media, it can be uncomfortable to turn it off. Yet disconnecting from your phone and internet can spark true connection with others, and give you time to reflect. Many people have a continual “fear of missing out,” and are attached nonstop to electronic devices…but does it really matter if you turn off your social media for a day? Is it seriously important for you to know what your friend from 20 years ago had for breakfast? No, it’s not, but nevertheless, unplugging in today’s world can feel uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone. Developing a habit of unplugging one day per week, as difficult as it can be, can promote mindfulness and true connection with the people who matter most in your life – those that you actually spend time with in real life, not just online.
Sunday’s Breakthrough Tip: Have everyone in your family place his or her phone in a basket on the kitchen counter, where it will stay all day, turned off. Then go out and spend the day doing something fun as a family. Actually talk to each other in the car, and spend time having fun for the sake of having fun. Don’t take pictures with the intent of posting them on social media. Just be.
You’ve done it! You’ve officially survived a full week of spending time out of your comfort zone every day. Way to go!
You will do great things if you continue to have the courage to take bigger and bigger steps out of your comfort zone!
Featured photo credit: Peeking Out/Simon Turkas via flickr.com
Last Updated on January 15, 2021
7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language
The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.
Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.
First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.
- Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
- When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
- Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
- When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?
All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.
Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?
- Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
- Frowning and/or furrowing brows
- Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground
If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.
1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions
A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.
The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.
This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards
2. Relax Your Face
New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.)
To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension. You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.
3. Improve Your Eye Contact
Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics? It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.
The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.
To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).
3. Smile More
There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.
Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.
4. Hand Gestures
Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.
It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.
5. Enhance Your Handshake
In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:
“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”
It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.
6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures
As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.
Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.
Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.
Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.
If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.
More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language
- Increasing Confidence with Body Language
- 8 Fatal Body Language Mistakes To Avoid During Presentations
- Be Instantly Irresistible With These 10 Body Language Tips
Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com
|||^||Berkeley News: The 16 facial expressions most common to emotional situations worldwide|
|||^||Science Daily: Teeth grinding and facial pain increase due to coronavirus stress and anxiety|
|||^||National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint & Muscle Disorders|
|||^||Michigan Medicine: Stress Management: Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation|
|||^||Spectra Magazine: Oculesics: Science Speaks Where Words Do Not|
|||^||NCBI: Attention to Eye Contact in the West and East: Autonomic Responses and Evaluative Ratings|
|||^||ResearchGate: An Anthropology of the Handshake|
|||^||Sage Journals: Mapping the Range of Information Contained in the Iconic Hand Gestures that Accompany Spontaneous Speech|
|||^||Journal of Experimental Psychology: Hand Matters: Left-Hand Gestures Enhance Metaphor Explanation|