Gracefulness

This characteristic can be seen perhaps as one of the more superficial of the aesthetic virtues. Gracefulness is the ability to be comfortable in one skin and be in charge of his or her own nervous energy. This is something that has obvious social and, well, aesthetic benefits, although there is a lot of personal benefit and growth to be achieved from improving one’s own gracefulness—although much of that might come from curing the ills that are causing your "clumsiness" in the first place. However you look at it, having a calm, collected control over your own body will give you a boost of confidence and greater peace in your life, and little bad could ever be said of having more peace and less anxiety.

One likely step on the road to gracefulness might be working on your serenity, although you could argue that one could exist without the other. I think that they can work together in a way that mastering one makes gaining with the other that much easier. If you feel like you have a lot of stress or too much out-of-control nervous energy, you might want to work on your serenity first. On the other hand, practice with being graceful may make you become a more serene person over time! Where you start depends in part with your personality and needs.

Other than that, the road to gracefulness is going to lie mostly within practice and an improvement of self-awareness. As with most anything in life, improving your gracefulness usually requires repeated practice, especially since this virtue has more to do with the skill with how you move and interact with the world than by any measure of how "good" you are inside. The best activities for improving your abilities in this area are those that help you become aware of your own body and how you already go about your daily activities (you’re going to have to manually turn off your auto-pilot for a while). Otherwise, you will simply have to practice on doing your daily business with your new goals in mind.

Precisely what your new goals will be will depend on both what your needs are and also what your desired outcome is. While I’m sure that in strong examples most people can agree that certain members of society have a lot of grace or an obvious lack of it, but a lot of this virtue is up to personal opinion. And, as with most of the more superficial areas in life you do have some control over, how you want to look like and appear to the outside world will drive what you do in order to make your actions match more closely with your ideal.

Once you have determined exactly what that ideal is and what you (and perhaps a few others) think will determine your success in grace, you need to map out what attributes and skills you need to develop and improve on in order to reach your destination. At this point the real work begins as you plan and enact the various steps that will meet your goals. Hopefully after some time at this, many of the skills will become an automatic part of your daily life—some of them might require a little conscious attention for the rest of your life, however!

As you begin thinking about your grace and making plans to improve yourself, remember that the most important goal is to become more comfortable in your own skin and essentially more comfortable with showing the most open, outgoing side of your personality. Eventually you should be shooting for a place where your experiences of social awkwardness are rarely caused by you feeling awkward about yourself or how you approach others. This might be hard work, and will probably be something that is never mastered to full perfection.

Activities

  • Define the Ideal: Do you ever think about what makes you think a person is graceful or exudes self-confidence? It’s often something you see in one moment as they walk into the room! Think about how these ideal people might walk into every room like they belong there, to get you started. Also think about how they act when they are introduced to new people, how they walk around their home, their office, or at a shopping mall. Try to imagine these people in all sorts of different situations. It may help if you jot some of these ideas down.
  • Define Your Ideal: Like above, but remember that the goal isn’t to be someone else, but to see who you think you want to bring out a better self using some of the characteristics up above to guide your thinking of how you might achieve that. If you want to be better at first impressions, for instance, you might want to change how you make an entrance or start a conversation. Above all, however, don’t feel like you have to be something you actively dislike.
  • Self-Reflection… and Self-Observation: As always, self-improvement is brought upon in part by self-reflection. In this case, earnest self-observation is also vital, or at least it’s important to accentuate the need to observe yourself in action. Just thinking about how you do things will lead you to only thinking of how you see yourself. Taking the time to become more aware of how you move and act is real time is very important. This means everything from how you initiate a conversation, sit in a chair, talk to someone down a hall, begin a phone conversation, perform an apology, walk to the water-cooler, etc. You need to start becoming aware of what your body is doing—discovering why your doing it is also very helpful (especially if you notice something you think is unusual). If someone gets a wrong impression from you, make sure you take special notice (for example, if they think you are angry with them when you are not).
  • Map the Difference from Your Reality to Your Ideal: Take the ideas of who you want to be and your observations about yourself and think about where you tend to deviate most from your imagined goal. Next, you need to determine what you would exactly need to change in order to match your real behavior with your ideal and begin thinking about what you would need to do to make that change. You might have to do more outside research if you can’t figure out what you are doing wrong or how you will ever begin changing some behaviors. This research might be light or very extensive depending on your situation and how much time you’re willing to spend on this virtue. This is where writing down your ideas starts becoming more important.
  • Make Concrete Goals and Plans: Now you are ready to begin planning how you will improve upon your gracefulness, what sub-goals you will make to help your larger goal, and how you will evaluate your progress. Some times being clear and concrete will be easier than others, but make sure you try to be as specific as possible and chose measurable goals as often as possible. Make sure you write down your final plan on paper and refer to it regularly. When you have a plan and series of steps in place, make sure you follow through and evaluate your progress.
  • Get Outside Ideas: People can be cruel, but if you trust some people more than others, you might want to pick someone’s brain as to what habits or traits they believe are the least graceful about yourself. This might not be a conversation you want to have a serious, sit-down about, but you could bring it up or pay attention to how those around you perceive your daily behavior.
  • Work on Serenity: I mentioned this above, but if you are not making the progress you want, you should reassess if anxiety or stress is making gracefulness more difficult for you than it needs to be.

Your Record

Whenever you act like you don’t belong in a place or a conversation you certainly do belong in (like your office, home, or when talking with a spouse), then mark yourself at fault. Other than that, this is something you will have to evaluate and judge for yourself. Even if you don’t feel the need to work on this virtue full-time yet, you might want to perform the early activities at least so you can get a better idea of how you will be judging yourself in general. Once you are focusing on this virtue, chose some activities up above (they are particularly organized in a step-by-step fashion) or come up with your own based on research and go through with them. Make goals and follow up on them and make sure you make yourself accountable for them.

Opinions

To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are.

Anonymous

Gracefulness has been defined to be the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.

William Hazlitt, British Writer

Gracefulness is to the body what understanding is to the mind.

Francois de la Rochefoucald, French Author

Insist on yourself; never imitate.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Poet, Essayist, and Lecturer

Whatever you say, say it with conviction.

Mark Twain, American Author, Humorist, and Essayist

Golden Mean

Clumsiness, inelegance
Gracefulness
Pretentiousness, mannerism

Recommended Reading

Natural Body, Natural Shape: Develop a Strong Self-Image, Good Health, & Ageless Grace & Beauty Through Yoga — by Barbara B. Moroney

This book focuses on the physical health and personal image side of gracefulness. Her philosophy that you don’t need an ideal body, but the ideal version of your body, along with the advice on how to achieve that body, will improve your outer and inner grace.

The Power of Charm: How to Win Anyone Over in Any Situation — by Brian Tracy, Ron Arden

This book is more of a guide to improving social charm and grace, and the author provides some good tips and ideas that can help you out.

Better than Beauty: A Guide to Charm — by Helen Valentine, Alice Thompson

This is a guidebook to how to be graceful and witty in difficult social situations. First published in 1938.

Irresistible Attraction: Secrets of Personal Magnetism — by Kevin Hogan, Mary Lee Labay

This book is another book on how to charm people over, with perhaps more of a focus on seeking romance than some of the other books. It also focuses on appearing graceful when you are nervous and not feeling full of grace at the moment.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.



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Gracefulness has been defined to be the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul. William Hazlitt
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