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10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Turning 40

10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Turning 40

Worried about turning 40? If so, you’re probably in the majority. But before you decide to buy that new Harley, take a look at a few things I wish I would have known before turning 40.

1: I Wish I Had Kept Track of Old Friends

My life got busy after finishing college. I ending up loosing track of many of the friends I met in classes and residence hall. I have some great friends that I’ve met in the years that have passed, but I wish I would have taken more time to care for relationships with the college roommates who helped me cram for big exams, took care of me when I was under the weather, or talked me through a difficult break-up. I had no idea at the time just how much of an impact those friendships really had on me.

2: I Wish I Had Saved More Money When I Was Younger

Back in high school, my economics teacher explained how if each of us saved a few hundred dollars each month, the magic of compound interest would see that we were millionaires by our 50s. I was way too young then to heed such sage financial advice, so of course I spent much of the next decade spending money on movie nights with friends, expensive restaurants, and the latest and greatest clothing. Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite memories are from going out with friends, but as my 50s get closer and closer, I know that saving that money sooner would have made a huge difference. It could be the difference between retiring at 55 and retiring at 70.

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3: I Wish I Had Not Burned Bridges in the Past

In my teens and twenties, I burned a lot of bridges. At times, it was through stupid things like getting offended at a job and quitting rashly. In other cases it came down to cutting off contact with a good friend or ex-girlfriend over petty disagreements. What I didn’t know then was that every positive relationship can be built on in the future. You’d be surprised how many co-workers you run into who have connections with a company you were at previously, or how many people you meet who knew an ex or an old friend of your’s.

4: I Wish I Had Traveled More as a Young Adult

In some countries, young adults take a year off to travel extensively, while staying in hostels and backpacking. There are huge benefits to traveling while you’re young. However, instead of taking the time to see the world or volunteer abroad, I was anxious to get to work. With financial commitments that have increased as the years have passed, I seldom have the money to travel abroad. Unfortunately, I may have to wait until retirement to enjoy some of those experiences.

5: I Wish I Had Taken Better Care of My Body

While being over 40 doesn’t mean that I am ancient by any means, I can definitely see differences in my body. I wish I would have begun to focus earlier on caring for my joints while maintaining my weight. Instead I’ve spent far too much time focusing on heavy weight lifting without giving much regard to proper pain management. I also envy people who embraced healthy eating when they were young, maintaining a healthy weight and building good habits over the years.

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6: I Wish I Had Been Kinder to Others

Now that I am older, I realize how important small acts of kindness are. We are all connected in some way. There is no reason to become hostile with waitresses or customer service reps over petty things. Taking time for little things, like letting someone with two items pass me at the grocery store when I have an overflowing cart would have been, in retrospect, well worth the sacrifice.

7: I Wish I Had Learned to Not Worry Constantly

I don’t know if worrying is really the cause of some of these wrinkles and gray hairs, but I do know that constant worrying can affect the chemicals in the brain. Most things tend to work themselves out in the end. I’ve found that shifting my focus to the things I can control, helps keep the stress away and keeps me more in tune with my family and the things that matter most.

8: I Wish I Hadn’t Collected So Much “Stuff”

Over the years, I have filled my home with a lot of stuff that I didn’t really need. Many of these “useless” items were expensive. All of these things represent wasted money and require space, leading to the necessity for a bigger house just to store all of the stuff. In recent years I’ve tried to adopt a much more minimalist lifestyle, funneling more money into paying down debts and investing in things I really want/need. My “stuff” collection has dwindled, leaving my home and my mind more clear and free.

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9: I Wish I Had Known How Important Hobbies Are

When I was younger, I spent plenty of time on hobbies to keep me occupied in my spare time. Playing sports with buddies, hitting the golf range, or reading books were welcome breaks from responsibilities at school and work. As I’ve gotten older and the focus has shifted more directly to family and work, many of these hobbies have fallen by the wayside. Having a hobby is a great way to keep yourself active and keep your mind sharp.

10: I Wish I Would have Realized That the Mind Stays Young

Although I may look 40, my mind thinks I am a teenager in many ways. I still want to do many of the things I neglected to do at a younger age. This is actually one of the more pleasant aspects of aging because it means that I can still have fun and learn new things. I can choose to make new friends, change my diet, and go back to the golf course. Turning 40 has given me a new perspective on life, on my priorities, and what I want the future to look like.

Don’t slow down. 40 can be the start of your next great adventure, a time to invest in what matters the most, and a chance to start fresh! What are you going to accomplish in your next 40 years?

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Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/aigle_dore/ via flickr.com

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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)

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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