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How to Set Goals Instead of Resolutions for the New Year

How to Set Goals Instead of Resolutions for the New Year

Happy New Year!

For many people, a new year is a fresh start, a do-over of sorts, that motivates you to try something new or to recommit to those tasks you put on hold because you made so many excuses were too busy tending to more important things. When we talk about the new year, one word often comes to mind: resolutions. You may ask your friends or co-workers about their New Year’s resolutions, finding that yours are similar to theirs: lose weight, get out more, save money. But, what exactly are resolutions? To make a resolution is to resolve to do something.The dictionary says that to resolve is “to make a definite and serious decision to do something.” That sounds promising. But, what happens after you’ve made that decision? How do you carry it out?

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Instead of making resolutions, setting measurable goals is more likely to lead to success in seeing your hopes and dreams come to fruition. Want to increase the chances of seeing your dreams become reality? Here are five goal-setting tips that will get you started on your journey towards reaching your goals.

Be S.M.A.R.T.

When it comes to goal setting, S.M.A.R.T. is a familiar acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive. Too often, people set goals that are vague and unrealistic. Not only does this lead to frustration, but it also decreases the likelihood of actually achieving the goal. The S.M.A.R.T. method can be applied to a variety of goals, whether professional or personal, giving you the tools you need to succeed in your goal setting endeavors.

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Write it down

The daily minutiae of life is enough to rattle even the most skilled multi-tasker. With family dinners, kids’ sporting events, and household chores, life is truly a juggling act. Still, we manage to fall into the routine of getting those things done without a need to write them down. When it comes to goals, however, we are not very likely to simply fall into a routine. Achieving goals involves deviating from the daily monotony, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and challenging yourself. Writing down your goals allows you to free up some of that mental clutter so that you can visualize those things that you want to achieve. Also, tracking your progress by checking things off will give you a sense of accomplishment, motivating you to keep going. So, pull out that journal that has been collecting dust and write down those goals!

Avoid comparisons

When you are working towards improving your life, it is common to compare yourself to other people. Your perception is that they are superior to you, or more privileged in some way. The social media phenomenon doesn’t help; your ‘news feed’ overflows with announcements of your friends’ new love interests, weight loss, and new jobs, quickly turning you into a green-eyed monster. How does this serve you, exactly? It doesn’t. When you compare yourself to others, you rob yourself of time you could be spending on your own self-improvement. It is also important to keep in mind that everyone’s journey is different; although we have similar destinations, our paths are often quite different. Follow your own path.

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Embrace failure

Rich Dad Poor Dad author Robert Kiyosaki says that “successful people don’t fear failure but understand that it is necessary to learn and grow from.” Setting goals involves learning what you need to do in order to achieve personal growth. Embracing failure by seeing it as a necessary part of achieving your goals will only make you stronger and more resilient as you continue on your road to towards achieving your goals.

Enjoy the process

Big success is made up of small victories. If your weight loss goal is 20 lbs, chances are that you will not lose it all at once. Still, you can celebrate your pants fitting a little looser every week. Having goals is important; however, we don’t stop living while we pursue them. Life happens while you are in the midst of seeing your dreams realized. Don’t allow your focus on the outcome to keep you from enjoying the process.

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Featured photo credit: Writing in a Diary Close-Up/ Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.imgix.net

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Malika Boyd

Social Worker

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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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