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10 Reasons Why Life Has No Rules

10 Reasons Why Life Has No Rules

Life has no rules. There’s a controversial life hack for you.

Today we are blitzed with shouty online tips and advice, prescriptive ways to be better, live better and achieve more. Many of these are possessed of a frightening confidence that This-Way-Is-The-Only-Way-And-There-Is-No-Other.

It’s time to calm down and call ‘baloney’ on some of that.

For the most part, life has no definite rules. There are multiple roads to wealth, health, success and failure. You can afford to take a wrong turn here or there. Here are a 10 reasons why.

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1. All Lives Are Unique

We are all different characters partly because we all have different experiences of life. Those experiences form who we are and influence the decisions we make. Experience shapes whether we are an optimist or a pessimist, whether we are likely to pick a more adventurous and ambitious route, or stick to a steadier path.

2. Dumb Luck Is A Big Factor

“Pah! You make your own luck in this world!” This is what some people say. But dumb luck plays a part in pretty much everything about our lives: where we are born, and to whom, the people we meet or don’t meet, our health and safety. Try telling the families of plane crash victims that ‘you make your own luck in this world,’ tell parents of children who die young with obscure diseases, tell people who have all their family, friends and worldly possessions wiped out by natural disaster.

Luck, good or bad, can come at you out of nowhere. It can help to propel you towards an incredible victory, or it can crush you in a second.

Many humans need to feel they are in control of everything, and the idea that they’re not is terrifying. The truth is that we are all tiny insects, playing around on this planet at the mercy of dumb luck. Reconciling heavy things that don’t make sense (sudden untimely death) and trying to find reason where there plainly is none (unfairness and corruption): these are amongst hardest things to face. But face it we must, and accepting dumb luck is a part of that.

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3. Success Convinces People Into Thinking They Know Everything

Success feeds the esteem and bolsters the ego like nothing else. People tell you you’re awesome, your business is flourishing, your bank managers visibly glow when they see you, your family and loved ones worship you, basking in the comfort you provided. How can that not have a pretty major impact on your outlook? You’re a rock star! All this life stuff is easy! You should share your brilliance with the world! This is when life prescriptions and self-help evangelism might begin to flow, based on one narrow life experience.

4. Success Makes People Compelling

Our heads are turned by flowery pearls of wisdom and inspirational quotes when they’re credited to a widely celebrated businessperson. If the exact same words were uttered to you through stale breath and spittle by your local miserly shopkeeper, you’d probably regard them differently.

5. You Are Free To Think Independently

You can always choose whether or not to respect someone’s opinion. Have the confidence to think independently and know your own mind, even if it’s directly opposed to a book, a bunch of people, the general consensus, or that guy the whole world seems to love.

6. We Are All Making It Up As We Go Along

Everyone is winging it. The chances are, your local miserly shopkeeper followed a business hunch, improvised and made stuff up as he went along, much the same as the celebrated business person you admire. Some people naturally improvise better and more convincingly than others.

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There are many exponents of specific business formulae, certain best practices and personal self-help guidebooks. But placed in the moment with a decision in front of us, most of us will click on the autopilot and try to wing it.

7. Noble Failures Are Ignored, Until They Become Successes

It’s acknowledged by some of the most successful entrepreneurs that there are a great many lessons to be learned from failure. But it’s usually only after achieving success that you earn an audience, credibility and respect. Not after failure.

While you might have failed at something, or maybe it didn’t turn out how you hoped, you learned from the experience. Sure, you could be feeling a little low, your ego and esteem has taken a blow, your credibility isn’t hitting the peaks. But now is your chance to apply what you learned into something meaningful.

8. There’s Always More Than One Path

The endlessly fluid, linear, one-thing-after-another nature of life means that you never really know where decisions will lead until you take them. And you always have more than one option. Some paths look scarier than others, obstructed and challenging; some look easier and more inviting.

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People promote paths that they know worked for them. They might work for you too, but they might not. There’s often no right or wrong. Listen to your gut, trust your instinct, believe in yourself, be ok with the chance of getting it wrong.

9. We All Have To Gamble

We all have to put ourselves out there at one time or another, and take a leap of faith. Whether it’s to do with matters of the heart and allowing ourselves to get hurt emotionally, or whether it’s taking a big business gamble, we have to make decisions without knowing the outcome. Of course we hope that it will all pay off beautifully, but we don’t and can’t ever truly know. Indeed, some magic of life would be removed if we did.

10. We Will Be Wrong Sometimes, And That’s Ok

There’s a roughly equal amount of failure and success. In truth, there’s probably more failure, but it’s less well promoted in the media. Relationships fail, businesses break down, other bad stuff happens. And this may be in part, or in whole, down to us. We’re humans and we get it wrong sometimes. Getting it wrong is a thing that will happen, however much we defend against it, and we should be ok with that.

You can listen, read, take all the life prescriptions going, but ultimately there are no real hard and fast rules. Life is in your hands, until it’s not. At which point there’s not much you can do about it.

Featured photo credit: Misty Morning Runner/Mark Hawkins via composedimages.co.uk

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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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