Improving skills is one thing, but when you talk about deep down personality changes like becoming a more outgoing and confident person or molding yourself into a leader, these aren’t things you can do by just learning alone.
I’ve always wondered how people seem to make such massive changes in themselves in such short amounts of time.
Over the past few weeks since reading Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, the book that pioneered a massive chunk of the self-improvement industry, I’ve been experimenting with habit change of my own with some pretty good success.
One of the things I’ve been working on is becoming a more confident speaker. I’ve done a fair amount of speaking in my life in classroom settings, and some in training sessions for my consulting business, but not too many in large professional settings, such as speaking at conferences.
When I found myself struggling with this sort of speaking environment I knew I needed to improve as this was going to be a large part of my future. But I wasn’t really sure why I was struggling. I had done fine in other areas of speaking. Why not this one?
Psycho Cybernetics helped me realize that even though I did fine in other speaking environments, I didn’t truly believe in my abilities in this kind of high pressure setting. I had never experienced it before, so I would build it up and get really nervous. I didn’t truly believe that I could excel.
The self-examination, awareness, and recognition of the fact that I didn’t 100% believe in myself was huge in the actions that I was able to take to improve in this area on my life. This is a huge key to any kind of self improvement. If you’re struggling with anything, first dig deep down and figure out why.
Do you truly believe in yourself? If not, why?
Is it because of past experiences? Is it because you’ve never had an encounter in this area before? Is it because someone else has influenced your opinions?
Once you figure that out, you’ll have identified your true beliefs, and you’ll be much closer to figuring out your course of action to improving in this area.
That was huge for me. It made me come to a realization.
Napolean Hill once said
“Anything the mind of a person can conceive and believe, the mind of that person can achieve.”
In all of the things I’ve been successful with in my life, such as getting a graduate degree, winning golf tournaments, nailing high dollar contracts for my business, and even delivering great speeches the few times I have done that, the one commonality in my success with all of those things is this.
I never had a doubt in my mind that I could do them. I believed in myself 100%. I was confident I could succeed, and I didn’t let anything stop me from doing so.
At the time I didn’t even realize it. But looking back on those situations, I realized that this was absolutely true.
And that was really powerful. Recognizing this helped me realize that success with any area of life starts well before execution. It starts with owning a 100% belief in yourself that you can do something. It starts with eliminating any doubt whatsoever from your mind.
If you can do this, you truly can do anything.
This unfortunately wasn’t the case for me with professional speaking. I had reservations and doubts in my abilities, and it came through in my performance in these settings.
So I tried out a couple of techniques designed to help change habits – visualization and positive self-talk, and I’ve had some pretty good success so far.
It takes around three weeks of perpetual action for a new habit to really set in and start becoming part of your subconscious.
At first when I heard this I thought, “that sounds like a lot of work”. But then I thought to myself, what do I have to lose, right? A little bit of time just before bed? A few minutes each morning?”
That’s nothing on the grand scheme of a lifetime of successful speaking. The positives far outweigh the negatives. Don’t let excuses get in your way like I almost did.
So for three weeks, I spent about 15 minutes per day visualizing myself performing well in professional speaking situations. Each night before I went to sleep, I played a detailed loop in my mind of exactly the things I would do from start to finish. I would visualize a variety of different speaking situations I might end up in, and I would carefully place every detail I could in these visualizations, down to the color of the paint on the walls.
These were very detailed visualizations that put me directly in the environments I would most likely be in.
And after about three weeks, actually a little less, I started feeling much more confident in myself and my abilities. I started speaking better without even thinking about it. This ability became a part of me, not something I had to force myself to do. It was… just natural.
Believe me I was pretty skeptical when I started. I thought this was a bit silly, but it really did work.
You see the mind can’t tell the difference between what goes on in your imagination and what goes on in real life. When you visualize and rehearse, you are actually practicing and honing your skills just as you would in the real world, which allows you to ingrain subconscious habits. This way when the real situation does occur, you’ll have already done it 100 times in your mind, and you’ll be ready for it.
It’s important to note that I still continue this technique to this day. I feel like this is a very powerful practice that I’ll always use. I’m actually starting to work in other things as well, such as working on my professional presence, and my ability to work networking events.
Throughout this same time period, I also used what is known as positive self-talk. It might sound a little nutty, but it works. I would stand in front of the mirror in the mornings and talk to myself.
And other positive affirmations about my abilities when speaking.
Notice that all of those phrases identify me as a great speaker. I’m not saying “I have good speaking abilities.” I am actually identifying myself as an effective speaker. “I AM a confident and effective speaker.”
The difference here is huge. If you use this technique, you must do the same. You must identify yourself as whatever you want to be by using phrases like:
This is very important in transforming not just your skills, but your self-image – the actual picture of yourself that you hold in your mind that determines what you will ultimately be.
I’m not gonna lie. It felt really weird at first to talk to myself in the mirror, and I had to really force myself to do it, but after about a week I went from this feeling awkward to this feeling very positive. I actually looked forward to it as a part of my morning routine and could feel my confidence improving each and every day.
I’ve been doing this for about a month now, and not only have my nerves begun to calm in speaking situations, but I’ve also noticed that I’m more confident in other areas of my life as well.
Where I used to be timid to talk with those in more authoritative positions, I’m now confident in my abilities to approach them and have meaningful conversations. Where I used to be reluctant to put myself out and in front of the world, I am now much more confident to do so (this post exemplifies that).
The benefit has been great so far, and I will continue my work in this area of my development.
The greatest thing I learned with this experiment is that I now have the power to change any ingrained habit just by using these two simple techniques.
And you can do exactly the same… for absolutely anything in your life you wish to change.
(Photo credit: Child in Superhero Costume via Shutterstock)
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