Style is powerful…
but it can only take you so far.
If you have one of these problems, someone is likely to notice when it matters – and all the sharp dressing in the world won't save you.
Substance Over Style #1. Your Facial Expression
There's nothing wrong with being a little stoic, but if you don't at least smile when you greet people there's a chance you're coming off as grumpy or unfriendly.
Making a conscious effort to smile more has unexpected benefits too.
Smiling actually makes you, the person smiling, happier – regardless of the situation.
It causes your brain to release endorphins, lowering stress and improving your overall mood. If it feels like there's nothing to smile about, try cracking a grin anyway – it might just make things feel more manageable.
A genuine smile is universally attractive, and when you're in a group, smiling tends to be contagious. Want to get a group of people energized and ready to accomplish things, or even just lift the awkwardness? A smile and a little conversation works like a charm.
Substance Over Style #2. Your Attitude
If you believe you're a victim, chances are you will be. Make a conscious effort to approach your life with gratitude and challenge yourself daily. Human beings are built to thrive on a balance of struggle and appreciation of the abundance around us. Even if all you have is a new day to wake up to, say thank you for it.
Ultimately your attitude defines your outcomes. A negative attitude makes success pointless; a positive attitude makes success easy.
Another important attitude adjustment to make, if you haven't already, is to get better at being rejected. Learn to laugh at yourself, use setbacks to improve your skills, and take action without pinning all your hopes on results. If you never fail, you're living too timidly.
Substance Over Style #3. The Effect You Have On Others
No matter your intentions, your effect on others determines the mark your life leaves on the world. That's why it pays off to pay attention to others' happiness – and to your own.
It's hard to be a breath of fresh air for other people if you're gasping for breath. In other words, if you want to try to make others happy, then you'll need to start with yourself. What makes you happy? What brings you joy?
Make a list of the times you've been happiest in your life. Now make it a priority to set time aside to do these things. Get your life in order – once you manage to figure things out, you'll be in an excellent position to help others who are in positions like your own.
Try to make a point of doing one kind thing per day that you'll see no personal reward for besides the good feelings it brings.
This is what people mean by “random acts of kindness.”
When you make cheering up random strangers a practice, you'll stop seeing the world through a fearful or judging lens and start seeing people for their needs, passions, and favorite things. In other words, you'll trade cynicism for humanity.
Compassion and kindness reduce stress, boost our immune systems, and help reduce the impact of negative mental states such as anger, anxiety, and depression. But more importantly, they make the world a little better.
Substance Over Style #4. Your Personal Organization
Instead of letting life happen to you, take time to plan, organize and evaluate. Create daily routines that’ll keep you on task. Practice sticking to a to-do list.
Prioritize – if you struggle with this, try defining just ONE main goal every day and focusing only on that until it's done.
Declutter your home, your computer, and your mind. Stop holding onto things that are bringing you down – like useless clutter, unaddressed emails, or bad habits like watching too much T.V. Take a hard look at your life and really say to yourself: what here can go?
Substance Over Style #5. Your Bad Breath
On the more down-to-earth side of things: bad breath is an incredibly common yet incredibly nasty issue, and if you've got it, you need to take action.
Drink plenty of water and swish cool water around in your mouth. This is especially helpful to freshen “morning breath.” Actually brush after every meal and floss, preferably twice a day. Replace your toothbrush every two to three months and arrange regular dental checkups and cleanings.
If you've done all that there's still a problem, try scraping your tongue each morning with a tongue scraper or spoon to decrease the bacteria, fungi, and dead cells that can cause odor. Hold the tip of the tongue with gauze to pull it forward in order to clean the back of the tongue.
You can also try a 30-second mouthwash rinse that is alcohol-free (unlike many off-the-shelf products). Or mix a cup of water with a teaspoon of baking soda (which changes the pH level and fights odor in the mouth) and a few drops of antimicrobial peppermint essential oil. This recipe gives you enough for several rinses – do it once or twice a week. Don’t swallow it!
Substance Over Style #6. Your Body Odor
If you struggle to eliminate body odor, start by taking a warm bath or shower every day to kill the bacteria on your skin. If it's very hot or you're being very active, you may need to shower more than once in a day. Wash your armpits thoroughly using an antibacterial soap, and regularly trim your armpit hair – this allows sweat to evaporate quicker, giving bacteria less time to break it down.
You probably know to always wear deodorant (if you didn't, consider this your cue), but wearing natural fibers – such as wool, silk or cotton – will also cut down on sweat and odor throughout the day. They allow your skin to breathe, which means your sweat will evaporate faster.
Finally, watch your diet. Too much spicy food can lead to sweat buildup, and some studies show that a diet high in red meat can make body odor worse.
Substance Over Style #7. Your Bald Spot
By the age of thirty-five two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss. Being bald is fine, having a bald spot is not.
Go for a hair loss treatment if you really don’t like the idea of being bald – but don't forget that you can simply shave your head.
A shaved head indicates dominance, authority and… being in control. Whatever you do, just don’t go for a comb-over.
Substance Over Style #8. Your Integrity
The majority of us are trying to be good people, but trying isn't enough. Having integrity means consciously knowing what you stand for.
Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” The root enemy of integrity is selfishness.
All other positive qualities – bravery, compassion, responsibility – are rooted in the fact that you have to live in the world with other people, and doing so successfully absolutely depends on treating others the way you want to be treated.
Try writing down your values to help you start thinking about what facets of integrity you most want to exemplify. It also pays to reflect on actions you regret and determine what to keep in mind to prevent making the same type of mistake in the future. Just don't fall into dwelling on the past. Think about the man you want to be today and going forward.
Substance Over Style #9. Your Manners
Etiquette – the specific rules of polite behavior – vary from culture to culture. But the willingness to prioritize other people's comfort and happiness – what we call “manners” – is a universal tenet of mature adult behavior.
Learn basic dining etiquette – or if in doubt copy your hosts. Notice other people around you. Say excuse me and hold doors – not just for women but for anyone who's coming in behind you. Say please and thank you; do everything you can to be on time.
These are all things we learn as children, yet in our fast-paced culture, it's common to let them fall by the wayside.
Don't be that guy. Be the guy who makes people's day a little easier. Be the guy who makes his grandma and/or kindergarten teacher proud. Manners really do matter.
Substance Over Style #10. Your Relationship
A good romantic relationship can upgrade your whole life and make you feel like you always have a safe place to land. A negative relationship will stress you out, bring you down, and breed years of resentment.
What makes the difference? Sure, obvious things like compatibility, but even if you're with your soul mate, building a healthy and happy life together takes work, humility, and empathy.
Seek to understand before trying to be understood.
Listen and validate – don’t just give advice. Put yourself in your partner's shoes to foster a closer connection. Recognize your emotional triggers, and learn to self-soothe instead of taking your feelings out on the person closest to you.
Think of yourselves as a team – never let a major problem be just one of yours to tackle alone. At the same time, try to maintain a strong support network of friends and family who you're emotionally open with, instead of relying on your partner to handle 100% of your baggage.
And find new fun things to do together. Part of the reason couples have a “honeymoon phase” when they first fall in love is because they're actively going on dates, trying to get to know each other more deeply and searching for memorable, romantic adventures. Of course you'll settle into a routine when you've been together a long time – but keep that fun new-relationship mindset when it comes to your free time together, and it won't be hard to keep the spark alive.
Bonus Tip: Substance Over Style #13. Your Intelligence
First off: “intelligence” is just a name we assign to a collection of skills society deems valuable. You shouldn't doubt how much you have to contribute if you've never been described as intelligent – and you shouldn't doubt your human fallibility if you've been described as intelligent all your life.
Style won't make you smarter, but by the same token, being able to remember facts and solve logic puzzles won't replace hard work, emotional maturity, or a willingness to keep coming back to something even if it's difficult.
All that aside, your current level of “intelligence” isn't your final destiny.
You can get smarter – your brain can grow new cells and form new connections (this is a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity).
Get variety and rest every day so your brain can bounce back from the day's stresses. You'll be amazed at how much it helps you take in new information and build new skills.
Reading every day is another proven way to boost intelligence. If you're trying to build your knowledge on a topic, remember that memory functions through repetition, preferably repetition that's spaced out over time (not infrequent enough that you forget, but infrequent enough that you're always challenged to retrieve the information).