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Why “Being Like Water” Makes Us Stronger: Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts Philosophy

Why “Being Like Water” Makes Us Stronger: Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts Philosophy

“Don’t make a plan of fighting; that is a very good way to lose your teeth. If you try to remember you will lose. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water” ― Bruce Lee

Voted as one of the most influential people of the 20th century by Time magazine, Bruce Lee was an actor, teacher, father, and philosopher. Among his many contributions in the field of martial arts, what stands out the most is his famous quote on “being like water”. From kung fu apprentices to muay thai students, people from all walks of life want to embody Lee’s teaching and incorporate it into their lives to become more productive, successful, and balanced.

What does “being like water” really mean? And how can you adapt this thinking into everyday situations? Continue reading to learn more.

You Will Become Fearless

One of water’s most notable characteristics is its fluidity. If you spill your drink, it will scatter on the floor, filling every crevice or crack. It is unafraid to explore what lies beyond. It doesn’t have a plan; it will simply spread where it can. Bruce Lee was not the first to admire this fascinating ability of water. Ancient philosopher and founder of Tao principles, Lao Tzu, also believed in water’s amazing ability to find its way around anything without care or anxiety.

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Are there things you always dreamed of doing but were always too afraid to try? Have you thought about quitting something only to back out of your decision for fear of what comes next? Timing is certainly important, but if you always wait for that “opportune moment”, it might never come.

Want to switch careers but you’re already in your late 30’s? Interested in starting a business but you don’t have a budget? Instead of over-thinking, learn to let go and simply flow. Be like water – it’s not scared to venture into the unknown because it will simply make the rules as it goes. The minute you realize that there’s nothing in your way but yourself, it will open doors to possibilities you didn’t even know existed.

You’ll Be Adaptable To Change

A lot of people mistake Bruce Lee’s famous quote to being a conformist. However, there’s a difference: adapting means “to change or be changed to fit or work better in particular scenarios”; whereas conforming means “having the same behavior as most people in a group”. Water adapts – it changes based on where it is placed. If you pour it into a bowl, it will take the shape of a bowl. Its components do not change.

If you are faced with a situation that you’re not familiar with (like being a new employee at a company), adapt – but DO NOT conform! Conforming means you will obey or copy the behavior of others to gain social acceptance. Although it’s going to be difficult at first, aim to gain people’s respect above their approval. Respect is objective; even if folks around you may not like you as much, if they respect you, this isn’t likely to change even if circumstances become different.

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Once you master the art of adaptability, you’ll have nothing to fear wherever you are. Traveling alone? Facing new responsibilities at the office? Starting a family? If you’re like water, you’ll simply find better ways to adjust to your new environment. Your condition will not change you. In fact, you might be the one to change things around you!

You Can Maneuver Through Any Problem

What does water do when faced with a wall? It finds a way through it. Water will crash, erode, or seep into crevices until it can find its way again. For example, the famous Grand Canyon in Arizona was carved from a great river that once flowed through it. Water is one of the most powerful elements on earth, capable of moving boulders, shaping coastlines, and carving massive caves.

Sometimes, your problems become a huge mountain that blocks your path. It seems too tall, too big, and too powerful to overcome. So what do you do? Instead of trying to climb it, why not go through it? Often, the challenges you face have multiple solutions – but you can’t see it because you keep looking above. Answers can lurk in the most unexpected yet obvious of places. If you’re too busy viewing just one angle, you won’t be able to get through it.

Once when Lee was under the instruction of his teacher, Yip Man, he became frustrated because he couldn’t master what Yip wanted him to learn. Thus, Yip gave him a week to meditate and reflect upon his situation. Lee surprisingly found the answer to his dilemma not from something supernatural, but rather, when he went sailing alone. It was when he looked at the water that he realized what he has to do in order to be great.

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Not only was he able to overcome his problem, he also came up with his own ideology that would serve to become one of the greatest sources of inspiration today.

You are Gentle, Yet Powerful

“Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend.”

Power doesn’t mean having great muscles, being able to hold the highest position in office, or putting people down into submission. To be powerful means to stay standing despite the odds. Commanding authority means having people willingly follow you because they find you wise and inspiring. Like water that can bore through stones, you should be strong enough to break away at life’s challenges. At the same time, you should be gentle enough to respect life around you.

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Conclusion

Bruce Lee was like water: he displayed strength whenever he fought; however, he was always kind when he dealt with those around him. People tried to put him down, but he simply found other ways to follow his dreams and succeed. Water is an amazing element. Learn its ways and it will lead you to become the best person you can be.

Featured photo credit: Alex Wong via stocksnap.io

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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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