Everyone needs at least one great life mentor in their lifetime. They’ll give you advice and inspiration that will completely change your future. They’ll give you easy shortcuts that will help you get on the right path again quickly. They’ll even be a role model and guide whom you can follow.
Life mentors are not only the professional ones we usually think of, like teachers and coaches, but also every day people in our lives. For example, some of your current mentors include your friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues.
Life mentors can positively influence us and even change our long-term future. That one tip from an older cousin, or that one moment of inspiration from your friend can totally change your life’s direction by influencing your attitude, thoughts, beliefs, and behavior.
Your life mentors are everywhere, if you’re only willing to see them. They are your siblings, significant others, grandparents, and acquaintances — to name a few. Keep your eyes open, otherwise you just might miss out on one of your greatest life mentors.
1. They Will Support You After a Setback
Have you ever felt really down after a defeat, rejection, or failure? Your life mentor supports you when you’re feeling down. They listen to you, and remind you of the big successes you’ve already had in the past. They remind you that while you feel a little down right now, you’ve got to keep your head up, because you still have a bright future ahead of you.
2. They Believe in You More Than You Do
I’ll never forget that moment when one of my own life mentors looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Believe in yourself.” He said it in a way that really hit me to the core. And at that moment, I realized that he believed in me more than I did! Your mentor knows what’s possible for you, because they can see your true potential. They believe in your because they know you’re capable of reaching your goals. Their belief will fuel your own inner self-belief.
3. They Can Give You Honest Feedback
It’s easy to delude and deceive ourselves, and it’s tremendously beneficial to have someone else to be a real mirror in your life. Your life mentors show you who you really are, so that you can see your weaknesses and work on them. They’ll show you where you need to improve, especially when you’re not fully aware of it yet. They won’t sugar-coat it for you, but they also won’t hurt you in the process either.
4. They Help Clarify Your Situation
When you’re feeling lost or confused, it’s sometimes really hard to define your situation when you’re thinking about it on your own. Getting out outside of your head, and seeing your situation through your mentor’s eyes will help you to get clear on where you are now, how you got here, and where you want to go. When you feel lost, you only need to get clear on where you are now and where you want to go.
5. They Motivate and Inspire You to Take Action
When you’re making excuses or afraid to move forward, your life mentor realizes this and alerts you. They don’t buy into your unsubstantiated excuses the same way that you do. And they have faced the fear that you’re struggling with right now, so they can help you get past it and move forward. After all, they’ve done this before and they’ve “got your back”. Let their past successes motivate you to move forward.
6. They Give You the Map and Guide You
When you’re feeling lost and you don’t know where you’re going, it’s really refreshing when someone else can help navigate you. When your mentor shows you the path that you need to go down, it makes continuing your journey so much easier. They know where you want to go and how to help direct you there. You just need to trust that they can offer some advice to help guide you.
7. They Teach You From Their Experience
You can leverage and draw upon your guide’s experience and wisdom from their own journeys, which are much like your own. Why limit yourself to your narrow experience when you can learn from your mentor’s wealth of knowledge? Learn from your mentor about when they were in your shoes and what they did to move themselves forward.
8. They Will Ask You Powerful Questions
Allow your mentor to coach you by asking you the biggest questions you really need to sit with. Sometimes when they ask you that question — that only you can figure out for yourself — that’s when you’ll make the biggest leap. Your mentor’s curiosity has the same power as a life coach — to let you listen to your heart. What does your intuition say? Your life mentor will help you to hear it.
9. They Are Your Role Model
Your mentor shows you that it was really possible for them and that they achieved it. And that means that you can achieve the same thing too. Arnold Schwarzenegger followed Reg Park, Martin Luther King, Jr. followed Ghandi. Your mentor is someone that you can model and copy. They are a living, breathing blueprint for you to imitate for your own needs. Thankfully, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, but you can follow in their footsteps.
10. They Give you the Tools You Need to Reach Your Goals
Your mentor has the technical know-how and experience that you can draw upon. Especially if you’re working within a very niched field, some of your co-workers, your bosses, and others in your industry can help you to learn the technical knowledge that you need to reach your goals. Tap into their technical knowledge by asking them direct questions. Learn from what they already know so you can apply it in your endeavors.
You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.
Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically
According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:
If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.
If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.
Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:
Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.
Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.
To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.
Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.
Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.
Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.
Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.
Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:
2. Focus on your goal
One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.
Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’
Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.
Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.
If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.
3. Convert negativity to positivity
There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?
‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’
It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.
Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”
Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.
Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:
4. Understand your content
Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.
However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.
“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor
Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.
Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.
One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.
5. Practice makes perfect
Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.
In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.
Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!
6. Be authentic
There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.
Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.
Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.
To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.
With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.
Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:
7. Post speech evaluation
Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.
Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation
We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.
You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.
Improve your next speech
As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:
How did I do?
Are there any areas for improvement?
Did I sound or look stressed?
Did I stumble on my words? Why?
Was I saying “um” too often?
How was the flow of the speech?
Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.
If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too: