Ten Psychological Life Hacks For Increased Self-Confidence and Insight

“In a few seconds, we judge another person and think we know them. When, the person we’ve lived with the longest, we still don’t know very well—ourselves.” ~ Charles F. Glassman

Wouldn’t it be great if life were like video games where you could simply put in a code to make things easier for you? Unfortunately, there’s no debug menu for the real world, and there certainly isn’t an infinite money cheat. However, there are many ways to “hack” our lives, as well as the people around us, that, when used properly, can give us an advantage in life. While not as simple as memorizing a combinations of buttons on a controller, learning how to use some of the following life hacks will ultimately improve your life and overall well being. These are 10 of the best.

1) Your feet give away your thoughts

Do you ever get the feeling that the person you’re talking to wants out of the conversation immediately? You might have realized it on a subconscious level but were unable to put your finger on it. Next time you get that feeling, look down. If the person’s feet are facing toward you, you have nothing to worry about; they’re grounded and engaged in your conversation. If they’re shuffling their feet, or are pointing them sideways or away from you, they’re trying to tell you they have somewhere to be, and likely aren’t listening to a word you’re saying.

2) Don’t fall for gradual commitment

“Hey, can you hand me that pen? While you’re up, think you can toss me that notebook over there? Man, I have a lot to do, could you help me with this project that’s due tomorrow?”

Notice how the speaker in this example started with a pretty simple request, then gradually built up to asking for a much bigger favor? This is what psychologists call gradual commitment. Essentially, it means you’re more likely to do a large favor for someone after having completed a few smaller favors for them directly, before being asked (or tasked) with the larger one. Watch out for it. (Or use it on others. But you didn’t hear that from me.)

3) The unreasonable first request

On the other hand, people are often likely to complete a task or favor if they are first asked to do a much more difficult task. Your boss asks if you could come in Saturday to get some extra work done, which, of course, you don’t want to do. He sees the hesitation in your eyes, so he asks if you could at least stay an hour later today. Obviously, you’re much more likely to do that than give up your Saturday. Little did you know he never wanted you to come in on Saturday anyway, and was just making it easier to ask if you could stay late today. And you played right into his hands!

4) Get more information from a single question

This works best on your children, but it really works with anyone. In fact, police officers and investigators use this trick all the time when questioning suspects. Whenever you ask someone a question, keep quiet and maintain eye contact after they give their answer. Chances are, they’ll take this as a cue that you’re waiting to hear more and will volunteer more information on their own volition, thinking that you won’t stop looking at them until you hear more. Like I said, you’ll get your kids to admit to a lot more with this trick!


5) Chew gum to keep calm

Various studies have shown that chewing gum reduces physical and mental stress, which in turn affects a person’s overall well being. I know when I picture someone chewing gum, especially in what should be a stressful situation, I picture them with a devil-may-care attitude. But I always imagined the gum to be part of the attitude, not the potential cause of it. One possible theory as to why chewing gum calms the nerves is that it simulates eating, and your body knows if you’re eating you must be in a safe situation; if you were in danger, eating wouldn’t be a top priority.

6) Use positive body language

I suppose we all know that using positive body language has a positive effect on how others view us. But when we get comfortable with people, we tend to slack off in the body language department, so to speak. Though first impressions are incredibly important, consistency is key to keeping colleagues and supervisors on your good side. In fact, your positive body language can be contagious; others may mimic your behavior whenever they see you, so if you exhibit a positive mood, people will “catch” it, and enjoy being around you much more.

7) Reframe stress as courage

Though it sounds counterintuitive, stress and courage have very similar physical effects on the body. When you’re stressed, or you’re feeling courageous, your heart rate increases, as does your breathing rate. In both cases, you’re preparing for something big to happen, but you’re thinking about it in two different ways. When you’re stressed, you want to flee from the situation that’s causing the physical changes in your body. When you’re courageous, you’re ready to face the situation head on. Over time, you can convince yourself that, when you start to feel these feelings, it’s because you’re feeling courageous. You’ll be much more likely to dive right into the problem you’re facing and work through it the best you can.

8) Give choices when you want someone to do something

This is another one that works best with kids, but it also works with employees as well. Instead of giving demands straight out, give them as thinly-veiled choices. Instead of asking your son to eat his peas, ask him if he wants peas or broccoli. Give your employees a choice of which project they want to work on first (even though they have to do both) — you’ll experience much less blowback from them. Giving someone the illusion of choice makes them feel as if they have power in the situation. Ha! You sure fooled them…

9) Teach something to better understand it

When learning something new, learn with the mindset that you’re going to have to teach what you learn to someone else. Rather than regurgitating facts or simply repeating answers you know are correct, you’ll have to understand the underlying concepts and ideas behind these facts if you want to be able to teach them well. Whenever you learn something, picture an imaginary student of yours asking “but why?” after every little piece of information you learn. If you can’t truly explain it, you’ll know you haven’t truly learned it well enough.

10) Smile more

I had to end on a feel-good note! Sure, we smile because we’re happy. But did you know that we can also make ourselves happy by smiling? Try it right now. No one’s looking, right? Better yet, go smile at yourself in the mirror. It’ll likely boost your confidence, make you feel silly, and put you in a better mood all at the same time. No matter what’s going on in your life, the fact that you can still physically smile may be all the reassurance you need to know that things will be okay.