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How to Make 2013 The Best Year of Your Life

How to Make 2013 The Best Year of Your Life

We are now a couple of weeks into 2013—have you set yourself up for success this year?

In preparation for the new year, I recently posted the article “How to Reflect on 2012 and Set Yourself Up For Success in 2013

I had a number of emails from people that actually did the exercise and all of them made mention of the huge insights and benefits they got from doing so. One comment on LifeHack summarises exactly why I suggest you do the exercise:

“I just did this today and it was amazing. I went outside to a park with a beautiful view of San Francisco and wrote everything down on my iPad. I felt so thankful, happy, and inspired afterwards. It gave me great insight into how I want to approach 2013. Thanks for this post!”

best year of your life

    Reflection is the first step of understanding where you are. Before setting goals and planning the year, it’s important to look back over what you have done well, what challenges you faced, how did you overcome them, what relationships you developed and more. The best part of reflection is that it helps you to learn and develop from your experiences—something you most definitely want to do to set yourself up for success in 2013.

    I’m going to assume you have already read the article on how to reflect on 2012, so you can now progress to setting your goals for this year.

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    Ready? Let’s do it!

    1. Preparation

    Find yourself a peaceful and quiet area where you will have no distractions: perhaps head outdoors to a local park or to the beach. Even better, go to a place that inspires you and find a nice, comfortable spot  to sit.

    Take a notepad and pen with you, or if you’re “with the times”, take your iPad or other digital device for writing on. Also, don’t forget to take along the notes that you took when you did the reflection exercise.

    Spend 10 minutes reading over the notes you took from that previous exercise, which will help you to get back into the state of deep-thought and inner being. You might even find there are additional thoughts that come to mind—that’s fine, simply include them on your reflection sheet.

    2. Describe Your Ideal Life

    That’s right, we’re not getting into goal-setting just yet. First, you need to gain clarity around the longer-term.

    Describe what your ideal life looks like. Perhaps that is 5 years from now, perhaps it’s 10 years or even 20 years. Be realistic with what you think is possible, and think deeply about what you would absolutely love to be doing. You can use the questions below as thought prompters.

    What are you doing?

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    Who are you with?

    Where are you?

    Where do you live?

    How do you spend your day?

    What income are you earning?

    What’s generating your income?

    It’s important to gain clarity around where you want to get to in the longer-term before setting specific goals for the year, as you want your goals to be aligned to and help you progress towards your ideal life.

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    Take as long as you need to do this exercise.

    3. Set Your Goals

    Here is where we get specific.

    Using the inputs of the ideal life and reflection exercises, start thinking about what can be achieved realistically in 2013. Write SMART goals that you can achieve this year. To recap on SMART:

    S – Specific

    M – Measurable

    A – Achievable

    R – Relevant

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    T – Time bound

    Set yourself stretching targets. Psychologists have proven that incorporating the above elements from SMART into your goals and also making them “stretching” is the most effective way of ensuring motivation, drive, commitment, performance and ultimate success. Just remember that they also need to be realistic and achievable, otherwise you will demotivate yourself.

    Your goals should be aligned to your ideal life—if they’re not, ask yourself why you are even considering putting it down on paper and committing to it.

    Next Steps

    You know where you want to go and you’re set up for success this year!

    You’re now ready to take action. You should have a clear understanding of where you are now and where you want to get to longer-term, as well as specific and measurable goals that can create amazing change in your life this year. Change and progress happens one step at a time.

    The most important thing is that you actually take that first step. Momentum is a beautiful thing: once you start taking a few baby steps, you will learn to walk, and once you’re walking properly ,you’ll learn how to run. Your habits will be defined, and they will start to create success for you.

    I’m looking forward to sharing this amazing year with you. Here’s to making 2013 the best year of your life!

    Featured photo credit: lonely man walking via Shutterstock

     

    More by this author

    Brendan Baker

    Brendan helps people who feel stuck doing work they don't like start to make a difference and an income doing what they love.

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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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