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8 Simple Steps to Lead Our Life on Purpose

8 Simple Steps to Lead Our Life on Purpose

Are we living an authentic life?  Are we excited each day to engage and lose ourselves on the path of life that we are travelling?  Are we committed to mastering the path that we are on?

Many people struggle with finding a life purpose that is authentic, personally meaningful and a source of intrinsic value.  If you struggle with this, then this article is for you.  I’ll set out 8 simple steps that will help us lead our life with purpose.

1. Determine What We Uniquely Value, Who We Really Are

Is the path that we are on authentic?  Did we pursue a career because our parents wanted us to pursue it?  Does our heart yearn for something else?  We cannot live our life on purpose unless we determine what that purpose is. The first step in determining this is to determine what we uniquely value.  What is it that makes us come alive? When is it that we are most fulfilled?

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I found great clarity in my life when I literally wrote down my unique values, and I made sure that I didn’t get caught by the trap of only valuing what everyone else values: economic security and social acceptance.  These are important values, but by fixating on them, we often make decisions (particularly relating to careers) that don’t lead to an authentic purpose.

What else do we value? For me I valued freedom, and contribution, and challenge, and variety. That led me to leave a financially secure career (law) for one that many would consider risky (entrepreneurialism and writing). But once I did I was much happier because my actions were in line with what I uniquely valued as an individual.

2. Think Action, Not Rewards

It is really, really easy to get discouraged when we fixate on the rewards of our actions as the sole motivating force in our life. Here’s why: rewards can sometimes be elusive, despite our best actions. Also, rewards can seem unfair. We see in the media all the time examples of people who become rich and famous. and we wonder why? We wonder what they did to deserve it, and why we don’t get it?

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This line of thought is a recipe for discouragement, and it is a sure-fire way to cause us to pull away from our unique purpose. If we don’t see the rewards quickly, it is easy to quit. A better way is to adopt a habit of focusing on our actions, not the rewards of our actions. When we live each day, excited to give our very best in what we can control (our actions and our attitude) we are able to live a life on purpose.

3. If It Scares You, Do It

If it very unlikely (I would argue impossible) to live a life completely on purpose without ever confronting fear. It is often our deepest desires that scare us the most. They scare us because we want them, and we know that we should be pursuing them; we just don’t know how, and we are scared to fail. I have found that by doing what scares me, when it comes to what I believe is my purpose, I grow in complexity. I am happier, and I have a greater sense of personal fulfilment. If it scares me, it is likely that I should do it.

4. Commit To Mastery

Mastery is long term. Mastery is hard. Mastery take hours and hours of mundane repetition and practice. If we don’t truly believe that an activity is part of our unique life purpose, then we won’t put in the time to become a master. Also, if we don’t intrinsically enjoy our pursuit (independent of any rewards), it is likely that we won’t put in the practice to develop our talents and skills in a way that represents mastery. Commit to mastery in the things that are uniquely you. Take the long view. If you do, you will live life on purpose because you won’t become deterred by short term distractions. You will also have much more of an impact on others.

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5. Seek Guidance From Mentors

There are always people out there who are willing to help us, and many of them have tread the exact path that we are currently on. Many of them have felt the same anxieties and fears that we feel. All we have to do is reach out to them. Find a way to add value to the mentor you are reaching out to. They will be glad to reciprocate your value by teaching you important things that will help you on your unique path. Sometimes mentoring comes in the form of books, articles, or speeches. Find whatever you can that helps you on your path.  Don’t go at it alone.

6. Create Value For Others

A fulfilling life purpose is one that includes the creation of value for other people. Creating value for other people is also something that allows us to get paid for doing what we love.  In whatever it is the we value, that we want to make our life’s work, we will be most likely to sustain this action, and make money doing it if it creates value for others. Creating value often arises by an attempt to solve a problem, or provide an insight to another. Outward directed work, that helps others, also helps us because we are rewarded for the efforts of our creation.

7. Make Plans And Take Action

Be deliberate. Be intentional. Once we have determined what it is that we uniquely value, we make it real by making a specific plan of action to take our idea, or wish, and create its tangible counterpart.  Once we have a plan of action, simply take action, build our action into a habit, and continue. Make it our life’s work.

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8. Be Thankful And Appreciate The Moment

Ungrateful people are difficult to be around.  Don’t be one of them.  Don’t be one of those people who is always complaining, and is always looking for what is wrong in the world.  This is why focusing on actions, not rewards is so important.  If we focus only on rewards, and those rewards don’t come, it is easy to “vent.”  When we are venting, what we are really doing is just complaining (the word vent makes it seem okay for us). Resist the urge to vent, but rather just be thankful for the fact that we have a chance to do something that is authentic to us.  Embrace the moment of where we are.  This will go a long way to helping us live life on purpose, and it will also go a long way to ensuring our long term happiness.

More by this author

Ryan Clements

A lawyer turned marketing professional, entrepreneur and writer who writes about entrepreneurship, career and personal development.

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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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