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The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps

The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps

We’re all in a hurry, it seems. The pace of life has increased and rushing through our days—through our lives—has now become the norm. We want everything now; happiness now, success now, health now, love now. Not surprisingly, this is the way we approach our goals and life changes as well. Patience is hard to come by: we expect results now, and if we haven’t reached our goal yet, it must be because we’re not working hard enough or fast enough or we’re lazy and undisciplined.

life is a marathon

    Hard work and discipline are certainly valuable traits when trying to make changes in our lives or attain important goals, however, even diligence and persistence are often not enough to get the results we’re looking for. The lack of an effective strategy is often our greatest obstacle. In our impatience for results, we try to change too much at once, and expect too much of ourselves, and this impatience usually leads to frustration and failure. This is why most people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

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    Sometimes we don’t even take the first step because our dreams, goals, and desires seem so overwhelming, so intimidating, and so unachievable that we give up before we even start. Maybe we just need to try a different strategy. I’m reminded of the popular saying, “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” That same philosophy can be applied when we’re attempting to make changes in our lives: it’s true of career advancement or building a business, educational goals, weight loss or fitness, organization, habits, and certainly when trying to build or change relationships.

    Learn to take baby steps

    This may be the simplest, yet the most effective strategy we can use, as consistency, and learning to build on small victories are the keys to success.The happiest and most successful people will tell you that they have achieved their level of life and work success by taking small steps, and making one positive choice after another.

    Look for the mini victories

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    What is a mini victory? A mini victory is a realistic, quickly-achievable, smaller portion of a larger objective. This bite-size goal will vary depending upon our specific intention, time frame, and motivation.The reason this strategy works is because we are able to see tangible progress, rather quickly, so we feel a sense of accomplishment and are encouraged to move on to our next mini goal, using the small successes as stepping-stones to larger change.

    A few examples:

    Consider health goals. When we are attempting to lose weight, be more fit, or achieve better health, it’s much more effective to set intermediate targets than to fixate on what might be a massive change.

    • Set a mini-goal of losing 5 pounds each month, rather than a goal of 60 pounds in a year.
    • Swap out one unhealthy snack for piece of fruit, or eat one vegetarian meal a week, and replace one soda or cappuccino with a glass of water. When we try to eliminate all sugar, or soda, or junk food from our diets, we usually fall off the bandwagon within the first week or two. That’s not a very good success rate.
    • Train to run a 5K, then a 10K, then a half marathon rather than training for full marathon all at once. This advice holds true even when tackling the full marathon as well: many successful long-distance runners say that they don’t run 26 miles, they run 1 mile 26 times.

    Most of us want career success, but it usually comes one rung up the ladder at a time.

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    • Take one course at a time.
    • Achieve one certification.
    • Improve one skill.
    • Make a few new contacts at each event, conference, or gathering and slowly build your list of business contacts.

    It’s better to cultivate good relationships with a small network of contacts, and then gradually expand that network.

    We all want to be more organized, but when we attempt to organize or de-clutter our entire home or office all at once, we usually get overwhelmed and don’t finish the project. Instead, when we try to organize one area at a time, change one messy habit, or develop one productive routine, we have better success. Tackle one project, and then add in another change when the first one is well established.

    • Make a master list of everything you need to do.
    • Eliminate one or two piles.
    • Clear off your desk or the kitchen counter.
    • Sort through old mail.
    • Clear out your email inbox.
    • Start cleaning off your desk at the end of the day.
    • Study or read for one hour a day.
    • Gather the empty cups, bags, and papers each time you get out of the car.

    This strategy is useful in almost every area of life, and when trying to achieve nearly any goal. Just work towards one mini-victory at time and make sure you celebrate each achievement in some small way—a little success goes a long way in propelling us to the finish line.

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    Royale Scuderi

    A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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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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