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10 Important Things People Wish They Understood In Their Youth

10 Important Things People Wish They Understood In Their Youth
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Hindsight is a funny thing—it can teach you valuable life lessons or fill you with regret. The question is what are you going to do with the benefit of hindsight? If you draw lessons from experiences that have happened and take notes to self, hindsight can empower you to face the future.

Here are ten things many people wish they understood when they were younger.

1. You need to live your life for yourself (not others)

Many young people live their lives to please others. They pursue careers, start businesses and even pick marriage partners to please their parents, friends, spouses and even kids only to realize later on in life that was a big mistake. Back out of people’s plans for you and run away from dreams that aren’t your own. You only have one life to live. Live it in the most meaningful way for you.

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2. Your work can make you truly satisfied or truly miserable

Steve Jobs explained it best when he said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” The sooner you understand this fact the better. It becomes increasingly harder and complicated to switch careers as you grow older.

3. Your education is always a good choice—whatever form it takes

Although formal education is often looked down upon by young people, many people who have lived through their youth wish they would have either gone to or stuck to college. One such woman laments, “Why, oh why did I not finish college and have a real career? I am 55 and qualified to do absolutely nothing. Just always thought something will come along. Now I will struggle to pay bills the rest of my life and will never retire. I caution my girls, 17 and 16 to work hard and value their education.

Whether it’s to land you the career of your dreams or to meet people from different walks of life or to learn to see things a little differently, take learning seriously and never stop educating yourself.

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4. You really need to marry well, or not at all

There is nothing worse than a bad marriage. It is almost impossible to do well with your life if your marriage isn’t working. That’s what many people say they wish they understood before getting into marriage. They would have done things differently if they knew this earlier—taken time choosing a life partner and not rushed into marriage. Marry well or not at all and it will spare you a lot of agony in the future. Any kids you may have will also be spared a lot of pain in a dysfunctional family.

5. You need to start saving sooner rather than later

Old age catches up on all of us faster than we imagine. Your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s creep on you and before you know it you are in your sunset years. And nothing is as heartbreaking as staring at the bleak reality of your 401K in retirement. You might find yourself counting every nickel and dime you wasted on frivolous expenses in your youth, and it sucks. Start saving now for retirement. No matter how little your income, try to save a small portion of it. Remember, as cheesy as it sounds, a penny saved is a penny earned.

6. You need to cut back on your debt from the start

Many people are burdened by debt and lament that they are forced to take any job they find because they are tied to monthly payments. Their advice is: TRY and incur as LITTLE loan debt as possible. No matter what they tell you, think long and hard before getting a credit card—it’s not free money. And no matter how high the credit limit, you shouldn’t go blow it all on designer duds and a fancy vacation. Developing large debt early limits your options and narrows your choices in life. Debt is slavery.

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7. You need to speak your mind and stand up for yourself

Believe it or not, many of the biggest regrets people have in life have to do with not standing up for themselves. People never seem to forget or forgive themselves for being too scared to speak up against bullies. And many of these bullies are in our work places. Maybe it’s a boss that you wish you had told off even if it cost you your job. Speak your mind boldly and confidently in front of others and never be afraid to stand up for yourself. You are your one and only true advocate. Besides, regret is terrible.

8. You shouldn’t worry unnecessarily about what others think about you

Many people, particularly when they are young, place way too much importance on what others think about them, which is unfortunate. They are constantly wondering: What will they think of me? Will they like me? However, people well past their youth offer this advice that they wish they had known in their youth: Take all those worries, tie them all to a balloon and cut it loose because in the end none of that matters. You might think other people’s opinions are crucial to your future success and happiness but that simply isn’t true. Other people’s opinions only affect you when you yourself allow them to.

9. Your travels will provide some of your best memories

Most people stay close to home. They don’t travel all that much. And yet, trips with family, friends or just by yourself to Disney World, to Africa, or even to the lake give you the sweetest moments of life. Traveling offers an opportunity to see the world, experience new cultures and have fun, even when it rains. You really remember trips so travel more often when you are young, advice people who have traveled a little more and lived a little longer. It’s the stuff that memories are made of later in life.

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10. Your health is a priority

Many people tend to take their health for granted when everything is okay and only acknowledge it when things go wrong. Sadly, this is one of the main reasons many people find themselves incapacitated because of their health—a problem that could have been avoided had they taken their health seriously. Adopt healthy habits now that lead to a long life where you’re healthy enough to do everything you want to do, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Also, break bad habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Bad lifestyle habits have ruined more lives than most other causes.

What other things can you add that you wish you understood when you were younger?

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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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:

Warming up

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:

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Stay hydrated

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.

Meditate

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.

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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.[1]

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.

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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.[2]

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.

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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:

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  • 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:

Reference

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