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5 Steps to Choosing Expansive New Year’s Resolutions

5 Steps to Choosing Expansive New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of the year when we take a break from our routine, celebrate the holidays, and get social with family and friends. It’s also the time we review our year and start looking at the new year with optimism and a fresh perspective. We excitedly come up with goals, prayers, or even a focus word for the year ahead. Unfortunately, out of the 45% of Americans that actually make new year’s resolutions, only 8% stick to them.[1]

The success of achieving resolutions or goals often comes down to our intention and the mindset we were in when we made them. What we often forget is that the purpose of our resolutions and goals is based on us expanding and stepping into the highest version of ourselves. From this place of expansion, we can better serve others and live a more fulfilling life.

If you make your resolutions and goals from a place of fear, pressure from others, or by what you feel you should do, you automatically set yourself up for failure. If you instead follow the path of logic, combined with heart and intuition, then your chances of succeeding are much higher.

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Here is a 5-step process that combines logic and heart that I use to set expansive intentions for the new year and successfully achieve them.

Step 1: Take inventory of the past year.

In agile development, “retrospectives” are frequently used to give teams the opportunity to pause and reflect on how things have been going and then, based on those reflections, identify the improvements they want to make. After answering these four questions, they then make a new plan for their next product build:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What have I learned?
  • What still puzzles me?

This process can be applied in a similar way to review your past year. You can make a list of your successes, challenges and failures, big lessons you learned, and what areas in your life you still want to improve on. This list can be used as a basis to form your goals and resolutions for the new year.

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Step 2: Choose a balanced approach.

Personal development leader Steven Covey based a lot of his work around the four fundamental human needs: physical, social, mental, and spiritual. When not balanced, these unmet needs can cause us to be unfulfilled versus when met allow us to be enriched and fulfilled in our lives. In Stephen Covey’s book First Things First, he describes these needs by the phrase, “To live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” “To live” addresses our physical needs such as food, shelter, and health. “To love” falls into our social need to belong, give and receive love, and relate to others. “To learn” includes our mental need to develop, grow, and become the best version of ourselves. The desire “to leave a legacy” is our spiritual need to make a contribution to this planet and have meaning and purpose to our lives.[2] Try picking 1 – 2 goals from each of the four categories to create a more balanced list of resolutions and goals.

Step 3: Be realistic, don’t over commit.

The optimistic feeling we get at the end of a year and beginning of new year can often cause us to place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Although it is good to dream big in order to expand to our full potential, we also need to be realistic about our time, energy levels, health, and priorities. Too often than not we set ourselves up for failure by taking a boot camp approach to making resolutions and goals; this often leaves us feeling disappointed that we couldn’t stick to a plan, which was physically impossible to achieve to start with (unless we eliminate sleep from our lives).

They key is to start with baby steps, then build from there. If you have never meditated before or have limited experience, to set the goal of meditating everyday for the whole year may be unrealistic; instead, you could start with committing to 15 minutes a day for 40 days. If you miss a day, you start your 40 days again; this way, you allow the neuroplasticity of your brain enough time to form a new habit, so you continue meditating.

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Step 4:  Break things down into time increments.

New years resolutions and goals can often be too vague, such as, “I want to lose weight,” or come with no plan on how to achieve your goals. Rather than making a blanket statement with no defined date, set specific goals for the first quarter of the year that build up towards your ultimate goal. After three months, assess where you are at, then define your new goals for the next quarter.

Planning personal expansion in short-term increments also allows room for growth, discovery, and change of priorities. We don’t always know what is best for us, so by surrendering to the flow of life we allow exactly what we need to reveal itself. The best thing is, we are always where we are meant to be and continually learning.

Step 5: Take an attitude of gratitude.

Once you’ve followed the steps above, switch your energy to a higher frequency through practicing gratitude before making your final list. Gratitude not only reminds us of all the blessings we have in our life, it also brings us the gift of being present. From this place of presence and higher consciousness, we can assess each resolution and goal to discern whether our need to achieve it is coming from the right place. For each resolution and goal, tap into your heart and ask yourself:

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  • Is this something I want to do or feel I should do?
  • If I put my ego aside right now, does this still feel like an important goal for my life?
  • Do I want to achieve this through my own free will, or by the pressure of someone else?
  • Will this ultimately serve my highest good, or is there another option for some other time?

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pixabay.com

Reference

[1] Statistic Brain: New Years Resolution Statistics
[2] Stephen Covey: First Things First

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Kelly Weiss

Purpose-driven business + lifestyle coach

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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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