“Do not past and present confront us with similar phenomena and with the same problems: to be a man, to have been born without knowing it or wanting it, to be thrown into the ocean of existence, to be obliged to swim, to exist; to have an identity; to resist the pressure and shocks from the outside and the unforeseen and unforeseeable acts — one’s own and those of others — which so often exceed one’s capacities? And what is more, to endure one’s own thoughts about all this: in a word, to be human.” – Ivo Andric
I’ve always felt that this segment from the speech Andric gave after receiving his Noble Price in Literature brilliantly illustrates the struggles of a creature aware of its own mortality, torn between its animalistic roots and a higher form of consciousness. We humans can create great works of art, harness the power of the universe, and change the world around us, yet this immense potential is all too often squandered.
We often mourn the loss of our promising youth in the twilight of our lives, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It is never too late to start making positive changes, but it is best to learn how to be honest with yourself and to understand what it takes for you to be happy and fulfilled while you are still young, so that you can avoid these terribly common regrets when you’ve come to the end of the line.Advertising
1. I was afraid to be myself, always fearful of what others might say
When we’re kids we constantly try to blend in and elevate our social status within our group, but as we grow we realize that everyone has their own unique little quirks, preferences, and tastes. It is important for us to find out what it is that we like, what makes us happy and what helps us to stay cheerful and motivated. Try sitting down and being honest about what you look for in life, in a partner, in an outfit, in a great Saturday afternoon, in a career. Only then can you forget about what others think, and express your true self.
2. I mistreated my body and spent half my life feeling sick and rundown
Laziness, hedonism, lack of adequate motivation, thinking that you are indestructible when you are younger, and a lack of awareness about physical and mental health can all contribute to us having worn out, sickly, and tired-looking bodies before we even hit 40. It’s easy to get “set in your ways,” so make sure that you start developing good habits early on. Work on losing that extra weight, eat healthier foods, train your muscles, and stretch to boost your metabolism and immune system, as well as strengthen the body, and do some meditation or have some relaxing alone time to allow your mind to recover.
3. I kept hanging out with people who were never true friends to me
A lot of the entries on most people’s “friend lists” are actually acquaintances who are looking for some kind of quid pro quo arrangement, or even worse, emotional leeches and toxic people who are only looking out for themselves. Avoid the unnecessary drama at work and at home. Be realistic about this and hang out with those that actually listen to you, encourage you, try to help out without standing to gain anything, and just generally make you feel good. Cut all ties with anyone that’s dragging you back or causing you pain and worries all the time.Advertising
4. I missed out on great opportunities because I was too scared to put myself out there
The things we most regret in life are the things we didn’t do, like not working up the courage to walk up to that cute guy or girl, not asking your boss for a promotion, not taking a risk and investing in that interesting business venture, and so on. Sometimes, you’ve just got to learn from your mistakes, and learn that making a mistake or looking a bit foolish is not the end of the world, but the rewards you get for giving things a shot are quite incredible.
5. I never devoted myself to mastering any fun or useful skills
People often lament the fact that they never really picked up a guitar and played for just 30 minutes a day, or took up martial arts, or learned their way around the kitchen. It doesn’t take much to learn new things if you set your mind to it and stay consistent, and there are tons of great jobs that you can teach yourself how to do, so just jump into it and start learning something new right now.
6. I drifted apart from my friends and family and made strangers out of them
Spending time with family can sometimes be tiring, and if you’ve already got work, a partner, kids, and tons of little chores to think about, fitting friends into your schedule can be a nightmare. However, don’t allow yourself to become one of those people who realizes that they’ve alienated their friends over the years only after breaking up with a long-term partner, or one of the sad and lonely old folks who lives alone in a big house. Make room for friends and family at least once a week and keep those bonds strong.Advertising
7. I never admitted I was wrong and listened to honest advice
Pride can sometimes get the best of you, but if you aren’t willing to admit your mistakes, say a few sorry’s now and then, and be open to criticism and helpful advice, you will live to regret it. It’s all too often that we look back on a situation and realize that our friends were right, or that we could have really used someone’s help. Be open to suggestions and try to consult with several different people when you are not sure how to proceed.
8. I spent a great deal of time hating the world for dealing me a bad hand of cards
The easiest thing to do when faced with adversity is to ask “why me?” and start shaking your fist at the world, cursing all those who have wronged you. Of course, no matter how much someone contributed to your current predicament, it’s important to admit that you’ve also played a role in it – even sitting there and doing nothing or rolling over and letting someone kick you while you’re down is a conscious choice. Take responsibility for your life, clench your teeth and take charge – no one is going to be able to solve all your problems for you, so you need give it everything you’ve got and face your problems with a cocky grin on your face.
9. I never saw the world and experienced different cultures
One of the things that people find most excuses for is not traveling more. Of course, financial issues, hectic schedules, and various obligations may not allow you to spend ten years traveling the world, but anyone can go camping, drive to another town, or find fairly cheap ways of traveling abroad. It’s all about being motivated to save up and make the time, and committing to leaving your home country at least once a year. You have to make travel one of your priorities instead of viewing it as a luxury.Advertising
10. I didn’t leave behind a legacy
This one kind of covers several of the other points on this list. In order to truly say that you’ve lived a rich and full life, and have managed to leave a legacy, you must constantly work on improving yourself, be it becoming a better partner and parent, mastering a skill, achieving academic or athletic success, teaching and helping others reach their goals, or anything else you find a worthy goal. Look deep within yourself and think about all your talents, passions, and skills, then try to work out what you could do to be remembered and respected by those that come after us.
There is no definitive answer to the questions that we ask ourselves late at night when we are alone and fragile, and there is certainly no easy way of avoiding huge regrets at the end of our lives. However, these points, difficult as they may be to put into action, will help you live a better life. It doesn’t matter if someone else finds it boring, vain, or needlessly adventurous, it’s your life and you want to make sure that you’ve lived the way you wanted to live.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.comAdvertising
Last Updated on July 20, 2021
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:
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:
- How to Give a Presentation Like a Pro
- 10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations
- Tricks to Deliver an Impressive Presentation Every Time
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