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Life Isn’t About What Happens To You, It’s About How You React To It

Life Isn’t About What Happens To You, It’s About How You React To It

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

I am sure many of you would have encountered this famous quote by Charles R. Swindoll. Swindoll, who was born on October 18th, 1934, is an author and an educator. He emphasizes the importance of our attitudes in life, and how each morning when we wake up, we have a choice as to which attitude we will choose to embody that day.

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For Swindoll, attitudes are “more important than facts”, “more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes.” They are more important than what people think, say, or do, “than appearance, giftedness, or skill”. According to Swindoll, attitude can “make or break a company… a church… a home.”

Our attitudes shape our feelings, beliefs, and very often our behaviors. Our attitudes, whilst sometimes indifferent, are often either positive or negative. They play a big part in life – which at times can be immensely harsh. Things and events will happen over which we have no control.

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For some – they will accept the harsh reality of their situations, blaming their circumstances for their shortcomings. For them, the event and the outcome are seen as equivalent. They will make rash decisions, clouded by emotions. Decisions which they will regret later on.

For others, harsh realities are not accepted. These people are remarkable individuals. They succeed, despite. Despite what has happened to them, their past, and their difficulties. They overcome chronic diseases, disabilities, and human injustices (among others). They overcome despite adversity. Why?

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Because they recognize that they always have a choice as to what attitude they want to embody. Each and every day. They have a positive mentality, and a lot can be said for developing a positive mentality. For example, studies have shown that your perceptions of your age, have a direct impact on your life expectancy.

They also recognize that they have a choice as to how they react to everything that has happened in their past. They have control over their emotions. They overcome the odds, despite their situations.

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Consider the following examples:

  1. Jim Carrey, dropped out of school to support his family when he was 15, and at one point he was homeless living in a caravan. This did not stop him from achieving his dream of becoming a comedian.
  2. Bethany Hamilton’s arm was bitten off by a shark at age 13. She was back on her surfboard one-month later. Two years later she won first place in the Explorer Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championships
  3. Benjamin Franklin dropped out of school at the age of 10 as his parents could not afford the fees. This did not stop him from educating himself.
  4. Richard Branson has dyslexia. At school his grades were poor. Yet he has achieved mega success.
  5. Stephen Kings first novel was consistently rejected by publishing houses. His wife retrieved the manuscript, urged him to complete it. It has sold 350 million copies worldwide.
  6. Oprah Winfrey gave birth when she was 14, lost her child and ran away from home. She was also repeatedly molested by her cousin, uncle and family friend. She has achieved despite this.
  7. Thomas Edison failed a lot of times (there are debates that this figure is anywhere from 1000-10000 times) before he created the light bulb. Imagine the world without a light bulb?
  8. Kriss Karr was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 32. Instead of feeling sorry for herself she tackled the disease. She created a new nutritional lifestyle and created several self-help books and documentaries.
  9. Franklin Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down, at age 39. This did not stop him from leading his country.
  10. Charlize Theron at age 15, witnessed her own mother shoot her alcoholic father in an act of self-defence. This painful experience did not stop the actress from becoming the first South African actress to win an Academy Award.

Countless other examples exist, not only in terms of celebrities, but also in terms of people you may know personally.  The fact remains, these people recognize that life can be hard, things and events occur that are out of our control. But we always have a choice as to how we react.

And ultimately we are responsible for our own lives

“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain, and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” -Walter Anderson

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Nick Darlington

Nick is a Multipotentialite, an entrepreneur, a blogger and a traveler.

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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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