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5 Tips For Making Good Decisions To Avoid Regret Later On

5 Tips For Making Good Decisions To Avoid Regret Later On

Making good decisions was not something that came naturally to me. That’s why, by the age of 21, I was an alcoholic prostitute with barely a roof over my head. It wasn’t that I was stupid. I just had problems that I didn’t know how to fix, and the decisions I made to cope with a difficult life were, quite frankly, terrible.

It all started with an anxiety disorder that I didn’t know how to manage. I was agoraphobic, and I turned to drink just to be able to deal with the fear of leaving the house. Initially, my plan worked quite well, so it seemed like a good idea. But the decision to drown the fear in drink caused me far more problems, over time, than it solved.

I’ve recovered from all my issues now, after learning how to make good decisions that don’t lead to regrets. I was desperate to help others make good decisions in difficult circumstances, which led to me becoming a therapist. Here are some lessons about decision-making that I share with my clients. I hope they help you make good decisions too.

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1. Face the truth bravely.

People sometimes flee from the truth, because it’s scary or unpleasant. Instead of making good decisions based on the reality of a situation, people procrastinate, hide, or delay taking real action. That’s precisely what I did when I decided to hide in a bottle.

I now have a tattoo (yes, therapists can have tattoos) that reads: “Face Your Truth—Take Your Freedom.” It’s a formula for making good decisions. You can only truly be free by acknowledging the truth, however difficult, and dealing with it, rather than burying your head in the sand. You’ll thank yourself later on for being brave.

2. Look at the long-term.

It is easy to make quick decisions that seem to work in the short-term; but what really counts is the impact of a decision in the long-term. Don’t go for quick fixes—look at what really works over time. If I had done this, I might never have lost my pancreas, my sanity, and a decade of my life.

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Ask yourself whether this decision is a real solution with beneficial long-term consequences. Good decisions sometimes bring pain in the short-term, but that’s not the rest of your life. It’s always worth temporary pain and struggle to make good decisions you won’t regret.

3. Do a value-tally.

The decisions we most regret are usually those that don’t match up with what we value. As my later career as a therapist and writer shows, what matters to me is being able to help others, to express myself, and to make a difference. Drinking my way into oblivion was no way to live the life that I wanted.

It’s never a good idea to do something that clashes directly with your own values, because it will make you very unhappy. Good decisions match your values, and allow you to lead a life that fulfils you.

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4. Consider what’s at stake.

Good decisions are those which give us benefits without losing us anything important. When I chose to drink to get through life at university, I hadn’t factored in that if it didn’t work out, that was one thing I would really regret screwing up.

And of course, I did screw it up. I was in and out of university for years between ill health, suicide attempts and generally losing the plot. I try not to regret anything these days, because it’s a wasted emotion. But of all the things I look back on the most sadly, it’s the fact that I had to jettison university permanently in the end. I will most likely never again get a shot at something I loved so dearly. Good decisions are those which don’t burn bridges you can’t rebuild.

5. Do the death-bed test.

A great way of making good decisions is to ask yourself if, on your death bed, you would regret anything about your choice. This applies as much to not doing things as to doing them. If you decide never to have a shot at improving yourself, starting your own business, or writing a book, would you look back on your life and wish you’d just given it a go?

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The greatest regret usually comes not from failure, but from not having tried at all. I don’t regret much of my life now, because I eventually made good decisions and turned my life around before I reached my death bed—although it was a close call. No matter how hard or scary the work is, the decision to try for all you are worth is better than looking back with regret at things you never even attempted.

Featured photo credit: Impact Hub via flickr.com

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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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