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7 Ways To Push Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zones

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7 Ways To Push Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zones

I’ll be the first to admit that stepping out of the comfort zone is incredibly difficult. Perhaps the reason for this is because a person’s comfort zone is expandable, and simply continues to grow. Thinking about it, the edge of a person’s comfort zone is sort of like a carrot on a stick. Once you push the limit of your own zone, the limit expands once more. In essence, this is the reason we should always work toward expanding our comfort zones. As we get more comfortable pushing our own boundaries, we will constantly expose ourselves to new and exciting experiences. You can do this by following these tips.

1. Not calling it a “comfort zone”

A “comfort zone” is really a euphemism for a “rut.” Two years ago, I moved 200 miles away from my friends and family with my girlfriend (who is now my wife!). Literally every step I took for the first few months was a step outside of my comfort zone. Finding a new a job, exploring a new city, paying my own bills. The first year of living on my own was an exercise in experiencing discomfort. However, two years later and all of this is simply status quo for my new life. The experiences that were “new” to me two years ago are now so commonplace that they don’t even excite me anymore. Now I must find different ways to expand my comfort zone (one of them being writing for websites where thousands of people are privy to my inner thoughts). Comfort can be good, but too much of it leads to complacency.

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2. Embrace discomfort

Embracing discomfort may sound absolutely ridiculous, but it can lead to exponential growth of your comfort zone. For example, applying and interviewing for your first job is absolutely nerve-wracking. However, avoiding doing so can only result in failure, whereas putting in any sort of effort at least gives you a chance of succeeding. Plus, the more you put yourself out there, the easier it will become. Soon, applying for jobs and being interviewed by potential employers will be less and less intimidating, and you’ll be more confident in your communication skills and your abilities. Being okay with being uncomfortable is the first step toward expanding your comfort zone.

3. Surround yourself with a variety of people

We all have our group of friends we feel most comfortable around. However, as is the theme with this article, what’s comfortable isn’t always what’s best. Hanging out with the same group of people all the time can get pretty stagnant. Meeting new people is the best way to expose yourself to new ideas and new ways of life. This expansion may lead to connections and relationships that will last a lifetime. Of course, you won’t always like the new people you meet, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Finding the good in everyone around you is important, as it guarantees you’ll stay open to new experiences and new perspectives.

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4. Be a lifelong learner

It is absolutely shocking how many people stop learning after they graduate from high school or college. So many of us think that because we have a degree, there’s no point in educating ourselves any further. This couldn’t be more untrue. Those that haven’t learned anything new since they were 21 are doomed to the “rut,” in which they go to work, come home, eat, sleep, and repeat for the next 30 years. Learning a new skill is definitely tough, especially when life and the real world get in the way, but it’s important to continue growing in some way or another. Even if the skill you learn won’t benefit your career, it will definitely improve your overall life. Keep trying new things throughout your life; you might even find your true calling.

5. Always stay “on”

Like I said, it’s easy to come home after a rough day at work, turn the TV on, and veg out for the night. It’s easy, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Every waking moment is another chance to excel that you’ll never be able to get back. Don’t wait for new experiences to come to you. Go out and find them! If you have twenty minutes in between work and picking up your children, take the time to read a new recipe, or listen to a podcast on current events, pr study a new language — whatever it is: Do something! Again, the more active you are, the more comfortable you’ll become with being active. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where doing nothing is actually stressful and boring rather than relaxing.

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6. Be kind to yourself

A lot of the time (and I’m guilty of this myself), people stay in their comfort zones because they are afraid of a negative reaction to taking a risk. Simply put: They wouldn’t be called “risks” if there wasn’t the chance of failure. However, failure is not a one-and-done occurrence. One failure is simply a bump in the road to success. Be confident in your ability to push past short-comings and continue striving toward your goals. Another thing to think about is the fact that without failure, success wouldn’t feel so amazing. When you succeed at something that you had a chance of failing at, you can be sure that you have truly accomplished a goal.

7. Have faith

Along with having self-confidence, you should also have faith in yourself and the world around you. Trust that if you work hard to push yourself to the extreme, your work will pay off in some way or another. Even if you fall short of a goal, have faith that the experience has taught you something. Perhaps you didn’t get the job you interviewed for, but as long as you didn’t completely bomb out during the interview process, the prospective employer may keep you on their radar for something else in the near future, or may recommend you to another agency or organization. As long as you continue to press forward, have faith that your efforts will only be meaningless if you fail to recognize the meaning in them. As long as you’ve given yourself a purpose, every action you take will bring you one step closer to true success.

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Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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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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