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Great Achievers Do Not Come From A Smooth Path

Great Achievers Do Not Come From A Smooth Path

There are many people in this world that we can look up to for their determination, success and ability to overcome obstacles to achieve greatness. As a source of inspiration for those who want to reach levels beyond our apparent capabilities, high-achievers seem sub-human; the lucky few who got their chances and worked hard for it.

But these people are just like you and me. They had their faults along the journey they set out on, they faced their challenges and overcame them. Despite how it looks, they struggled, worked hard and stuck with their beliefs that they could achieve their goals and dreams.

There’s no doubt about it – Michael Phelps is extraordinary. A 28-Olympic gold medal athlete who has dominated the swimming world for over ten years continuing, to stay at the top and beating all those who compete to emulate his unwavering success. But it hasn’t always been a smooth ride to the top and there are a few lessons we can learn from this great Olympic champion.

Limits Are There To Challenge You

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Michael Phelps 2

    Limitations can be the cause of many failed attempts at success. They give us the belief that what we want can’t be achieved or is too hard to overcome. But Michael Phelps is proof that his limitations weren’t there to get in his way, but instead guided him on a path that took him to his ultimate success.

    At school, Phelps was diagnosed with ADHD, meaning he had huge problems concentrating in the classroom. Feeling frustrated and dejected, his mother encouraged him to start swimming as an alternative way to focus and his weekly swimming became a passion. He was finally able to channel his lack of focus in the classroom into swimming practice and finally found an outlet that allowed him to flourish.

    Never use your ‘limitations’ as an excuse to give up on your dream and never let self-limitation be a hindrance to what you want to achieve – nothing is impossible.

    It’s Okay To Make Mistakes. The Key Is To Learn From Them

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    Michael Phelps 7

      Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. Phelps has made his fair share of them through his career, namely drink driving convictions and possession of marijuana, that led him to be banned from competitions for months at a time. While mistakes can understandably bring a lot of us down, the key is to learn from them and don’t let them get in your way of success.

      “I’ll make a million mistakes in my life, but as long as I never make the same mistake again, then I’ve been able to learn and grow.”

      Despite the mistakes he’s made, Phelps has managed to take stock and re-evaluate his direction showing us that, although we are human and mistakes are inevitable sometimes, it’s how you respond to them that propels you harder back onto your path. See mistakes as a honing device that redirects your focus and values. Its alright to fall, it’s more important that you get back up.

      Motivation Is What Truly Drives You

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      Michael Phelps 6

        You can’t succeed in anything without motivation and Michael Phelps used his endless hard work in the pool and love of the sport to spur him on to get better and better. The Australian champion, Ian Thorpe was Phelps’ idol growing up and when Thorpe claimed that he didn’t think it was possible for Phelps to win eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps used these remarks as motivation. He stuck Thorpe’s words on the inside of his locker as a reminder that he was going to do everything to prove him wrong.

        “I’m really proud of him not just because he won eight golds. Rather, it’s how much he has grown up and matured into a great human being. Never in my life have I been so happy to have been proved wrong.” – Ian Thorpe on Phelps winning gold in 2008.

        Motivation sparks determination and is the number one element to achieving any goal in life. Motivation allows consistency and it’s this consistency that builds up your dream and makes it a reality.

        Be A Great Achiever, But Be An Even Greater Inspiration

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        Joseph Schooling and Michael Phelps

          For anyone who watched this year’s Olympic Games in Rio, you will have seen Singapore’s Joseph Schooling win gold against Phelps in the 100m butterfly final and it was a humbling picture of the young Schooling standing beside his hero that showed just how much Phelps has been an inspiration to young swimmers.

          “If it wasn’t for Michael, I don’t think I could have gotten to this point. I wanted to be like him as a kid. I think a lot of this is because of Michael. He is the reason why I wanted to be a better swimmer.” – Joseph Schooling

          “I’m proud of Joe. I wanted to change the sport of swimming. With the people we have in the sport now, I think you are seeing it.” [I want to teach kids] to believe in themselves, to not be afraid to know that the sky is the limit.”

          Phelps demonstrates that real success isn’t just about personal achievements, but by how much we can influence others. True achievers are the ones that inspire others to be better.

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          Jenny Marchal

          A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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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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