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How to Live Gracefully

How to Live Gracefully

When “grace” comes to mind, we generally tend to think of flawlessness, Monaco, and all things inbetween. The idea of having grace or being graceful is an incredibly tightly-construed concept developed and it’s something that’s so incredibly far away from its original concept and origin.

“Grace” comes from the Latin word “gratia”, which means “God’s favour”, and so rather than “graceful” meaning “impossibly flawless”, it actually means to have a little je ne sais quoi. That indefinable quality which, rather than being something granted by divine inspiration, is something inside us and which we can easily bring out.

It isn’t unattainable, however—far from it. Living gracefully is pretty simple and definable, and fortunately for people like me, it has nothing to do with being physically graceful. I literally have no balance or graceful skills and am possibly the clumsiest person I know, but in cultivating a sense of gracefulness, I’ve at least learned how to take it on the chin when I do trip over my own feet.

Being graceful is a state of mind, rather than a state of physical perfection, and by utilising three simple and fundamental rules, it’s easy to start cultivating and bringing some grace into your lives.

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Rule no. 1: Be Good (to Yourself)

This first rule is both the easiest to implement and perhaps the hardest I’ve tried, and that people I know have tried as well: accept yourself. This is pretty hard when it gets boiled down to it because, let’s face it, we’re living in a society where our media is generally adept at making us aspire to visions of a perfect life; a nearly-unattainable standard of living that, while it makes us want to achieve it, also makes us feel bad that we aren’t there yet. Which, you know, is pretty mean.

So, one of the things I want you to start doing is just accepting yourself. It doesn’t have to be an overnight revelation; it can take days or weeks or months or years of slowly but surely understanding those big flaws you hate about yourself. They’re not flaws, or at least they are, but because they’re yours, you should never have to feel ashamed about them. Even if you wake up one morning and look in the mirror and decide that that one flaw you’ve always hated about yourself, that one attribute, isn’t that important.

The purpose of this rule? Well, besides everyone loving themselves a bit more (which is awesome and should be promoted all the time), being good to yourself makes you want to help other people more. On those days when your hair is great and you’re feeling awesome and that cute barista winks at you, you’re so much more likely to give someone else a helping hand or give someone who needs it a compliment. It’s kind of like that “random act of kindness” thing—you do something good for someone, they feel great and then they do something good for someone else, and so it snowballs on, having a positive chain reaction.

Being good to yourself and accepting yourself is in no way shape or form arrogance or narcissism: you’re not in love with yourself, you just LOVE yourself, and being a graceful person is all about accepting yourself for who you are and choosing who and what you choose to be. There’s a lot of talk about inner beauty and how everyone is beautiful, but you don’t HAVE to be beautiful at all, inside or out, if you don’t choose to be so. Start to treat yourself with kindness and compassion and you’ll see a massive change.

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Rule no. 2: Slow Down

Slow down, folks, slow down. Most people, including myself, have a problem with this one, particularly if you’re in a job where you’re pretty juggling seven tasks, a shopping list, social commitments and laundry all while trying to keep fit and you know, have actual human contact if you have a spare five minutes. It is exhausting, and slowing down will not remove your workload—if it could do that, I’d be marketing it as magic—but it will make it more manageable and more easy to handle when something inevitably does fly off the handle.

Slowing down doesn’t have to be a big thing: I started off by simply spending thirty seconds before work just preparing myself (tucking away iPod headphones, straightening my shirt, all that jazz) so that when I walked in, I didn’t look like a total klutz who had just nearly spilt a hot drink down himself while trying to get said headphones untangled. After a while, though, taking a minute or two out for composure started to be pretty good; I got to relax for a bit before work started, even finish a song on my iPod and think about the day ahead. I was more prepared, calmer and more at ease with everything that was going on.

Just try it if you don’t believe me: next time you’re at work or stuck in traffic or at home, just consciously decide to go a bit more slowly. Even if it means you’re an extra five minutes in the shower or in the supermarket, slowing down forces you to become more conscious of what you’re doing. We’ve all been there where we’re rushing around and we end up with the wrong orders, doing the wrong thing—you get what I mean. Take things a bit slower on the other hand and you’re much less likely to burn your hand on the toaster or pick up regular milk for your lactose-intolerant buddy.

I’m not even saying you have to do it all the time. It’s unrealistic and unreasonable—we’re not all living in zones of serenity and zen twenty-four hours a day—but even if you do it for an hour, or even thirty minutes, chances are those thirty minutes will be a haven of peace and calm for you; a time when you’ll feel like you can take on the world without breaking stride or even sweating.

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Rule no. 3 – Be Grateful and Gracious

The final, and perhaps most important rule of the whole thing, is this: be grateful. It might seem a strange thing to do but believe me when I say that being grateful for everyone you have in your life and then reflecting that outwards will be not only a fantastic step for all those around you, it’ll make you graceful.

Not that I’m saying you’re not an awesome, considerate person—you probably are—but when your inner monologue is running around at full speed, full of caffeine-fuelled panic and anger, it’s so easy to lose track of the big picture when someone cuts in front of you at the coffee shop or you get soaked by a driver while walking past a puddle. Things that annoy the hell out of you and ruin your day.

The instant reaction? Fury. Annoyance. Frustration. Sadness. Resentment. And a lot of time it is truly, truly justified: if someone does something truly terrible to you, then go ahead and call them out on doing that thing. Loudly. Angrily. But when its the little annoyances, the ones that, while not affecting your body, mind or spirit, just make your day a little less bright and awesome, it might be worth dealing with them by accepting that things could, simply, be worse.

Being grateful isn’t just looking on the bright side of life—it’s knowing that right now in the moment, you are exactly where you’re meant to be and accepting that while things right now might not be fantastic, you’re gonna be fine. The most graceful people in the world are the ones who are centred in the moment and able to be grateful for what is going on in your life.

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Think of how Audrey Hepburn acted during her tumultuous personal years: she had bad marriages, a miscarriage, and other personal problems, but always managed to be graceful by being aware of all the good things she had in her life: her children and her friends and her talent.

 

In the end, being graceful is more than just being kind or chilled out or happy or all the time. Being graceful, or adopting a graceful attitude, is about both dealing with anything life can and will throw at you, and dealing with it with the best tools available to you: kindness to yourself and to others, taking time to be conscious and in the moment, being aware of the good in your life, and choosing to act with that in mind.

Practising these rules on a daily basis is tricky. Some days I’m angry and unfocused and some days I don’t want to be graceful, but I want to keep on trying to be a better person, for myself and my friends and my family, and if practising gracefulness in its truest form helps me do that, I’m more than happy to try.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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