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8 Uncomfortable Actions That Result in Self-Improvement

8 Uncomfortable Actions That Result in Self-Improvement

Stepping out of your comfort zone is the toughest action you can take. It’s right there in the name: comfort zone. Obviously, stepping outside of it would make you uncomfortable. And who wants to be uncomfortable?

However, doing so is the only way you’ll ever grow as a person. In today’s fast-moving world, self-improvement is the key to getting ahead. It’s no longer acceptable to be just average; in order to succeed in life you need to excel in everything you set out to do. Making these changes might scare you, but the success you’ll experience after doing so will make all the discomfort worth it.

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1. Being skeptical

There’s a terrible saying that complacent people use when they don’t feel like standing up for what they believe in: “It is what it is.” It’s a resignation that, even though they know something is wrong in the world, there’s nothing they can do to change it. The greatest minds of our time never used this phrase; they questioned why “it is what it is,” and put their all into changing, and bettering, the world around them. Be the person that acknowledges that things don’t have to be the way they are, and that we all can change for the better.

2. Being honest

Being honest is not always the easiest thing to do. But it’s always the right thing to do. And this doesn’t just mean you should be honest when you know there’s a chance of getting caught. Hold yourself to the highest level of integrity. Live in private the way you live in public. Keep your promises. Even if everyone else around you is a back-stabbing weasel, take solace in the fact that you continue to maintain a high standard for yourself.

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3. Waking up early

The most successful people in the world wake up hours before they actually start working. They use this time to exercise, eat a healthy breakfast, and prepare themselves for the busy day ahead of them. Your time on Earth is your most valuable commodity. Once it’s gone, you can’t ever get it back. While it’s definitely easier to stay in bed as long as you can before you have to get to work, you’re really just wasting the most important gift you’ve been given.

4. Tracking your spending

So many of us can’t start our day without Starbucks or some other pick-me-up that costs $2-3 per day. While that doesn’t seem like much, it ends up costing you anywhere from $300 to $500 over the course of a year ($15,000 over the course of a career!). I’m not saying you should never indulge yourself, but you also should never get in the habit of spending money just because you feel like you need to. Keep track of every penny you spend, and you’ll almost immediately realize there are things you’re spending too much on that you can cut out right away.

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5. Tracking what you eat

One of the keys to self-improvement is watching what you eat. This goes along with the last point about spending money: if you eat a donut every day just because “you always do,” you might want to think about cutting down. Again, I’m not saying you should completely give up the sweets, but you should definitely acknowledge that not everything you put into your body is healthy. Making healthy changes to your diet will not only leave you feeling better physically, but you’ll also end up with a healthier mental attitude as well.

6. Speaking in public

There’s an old Seinfeld joke about people’s number one fear being public speaking, while number two is death: People would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. If you think about it, having a fear of public speaking makes no sense. Since almost everyone is terrified of it, there’s no reason for you to be afraid of it. Remember in college when everyone had to give a speech? Did you actually care if the person up front made a mistake or didn’t perform well? No! The only time people care enough to remember a speech is if it’s incredibly good. Think about that the next time you have to give a presentation: You’ll only be remembered if what you said was worth remembering.

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7. Focusing on one improvement at a time

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the areas of self-improvement you should be focusing on. But it’s impossible to attack them all at once. If you’re trying to quit smoking, you probably shouldn’t also try to give up your daily donut at the same time; you’ll drive yourself (and others around you) absolutely crazy. Take the time to make a plan of attack, so you’re able to focus on one area of improvement at a time. After a year of self-improvement, you’ll feel like a completely new person.

8. Setting and achieving improbable goals

When setting goals for self-improvement, you don’t want to make them so easy that you reach them with minimal effort, or so hard that you become completely overwhelmed. Set goals that are just out of reach, so that every time you hit one you feel a sense of accomplishment. For example, if you want to start working out, it’s a terrible idea to plan to go to the gym seven days a week; it just won’t happen. But it’s also too easy to just go once a week. Make a plan to go at least three times, and, if you feel up to it, four or five. No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, plan so that you have to strive to reach the minimum goal you’ve set, but you also have room to improve.

Featured photo credit: 04222014 – Success Boot Camp Graduation at PCP – US Department of Education via farm8.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

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.

Posture

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.

Facial Expressions

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.

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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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] 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.[5]

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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?[6] 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.[7]

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.

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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:[8]

“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.[9]

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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.[10]

Final Takeaways

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

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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