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Live Life to the Fullest

Live Life to the Fullest
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Life isn’t easy. Sometimes scars run deep. People we love die. Family, friends and coworkers say and do cruel things. Not everything we want to happen in life, does and often things we don’t want to happen, do. We all have our share of heartache; things that make us question who we are and what we want from life. Things that leave us stuck.

Yet some individuals muster the strength to push through. They’re able to rise above life’s challenges rather than sink. How?

The answer is RESILIENCE. These individuals have the ability to bounce back from setbacks to live happier, purpose filled lives. It’s something we all aspire to and often all we need is the right mindset. So here are ten ways to build resilience and live happier, fuller lives.

1. Develop a more positive attitude

This doesn’t mean ignoring the pain or denying the problem, it means choosing to be optimistic, choosing to look for the good in each and every situation. This is hard in the moment. We all need a good cry and plenty of time to grieve life’s disappointments, but don’t dwell there forever. Choose to see setbacks as isolated incidents. Choose to not beat yourself up—the world is not out to get us even though it often feels that way.

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Instead, think three positives for every negative. Choose to be with positive people who encourage and inspire you, who appreciate and understand the depths of your soul.

2. Embrace change

Don’t be afraid to mix things up: get a new haircut, redecorate a room in the house, try a new hobby, travel, learn a new language, visit a different museum or restaurant, switch out the same ‘ole Starbucks drink for a new one. The point is, live. Try new things. Allow yourself to be open and willing to new people, new ideas, and new adventures. The less resistant we are to change, the easier it becomes when something unexpected shatters our lives—and it will. Life is full of change. Expect it. Welcome it. Don’t let a fear of change numb all the good life has to offer.

3. Face problems head on

Denial leads to hopelessness whereas problem solving leads to solutions and helps us feel a sense of control. Take time to reflect and then brainstorm a list of solutions. Be creative. Find more than one. Ask others for help, preferably people who have been in the same situation or who know you well. Allow yourself to be practical and impractical before narrowing solutions down. Then Act.

Remember: it’s your choice to stay in a miserable situation. Don’t just pretend the problem isn’t there. Do something.

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And for problems that don’t seem to have a solution. Reflect. Pray. Meditate. There are some problems we cannot fix. Some things we cannot change. Some wounds that will not heal. Sometimes, all we need is time. And an ability to press on in spite of it all.

4. Forgive yourself

Shame kills joy. We all make mistakes. Rather than destroying your future with your past, give yourself grace. Who you were. What you’ve done. It’s history. Don’t let it rob you of your life. Don’t give it power. Ask for forgiveness and let it go. You deserve grace and compassion. Believe that. Believe you are worthy. Beating yourself up year after year doesn’t change the past nor does it heal you. Learn from your mistakes. Encourage others. Only then can you truly be free.

5. Pursue your dreams

Learn what excites you, what motivates you, and go after it. Set short and long term goals. Make a plan. Put it on the calendar. Stay focused. Following our dreams builds confidence and provides a sense of purpose. If you’re unsure what enlivens you, see a career counselor. Determine your interests and skills. What makes you smile? What makes you feel alive? Don’t sit around waiting for your dreams to find you. Work toward them. Take action. A step forward is always closer to your dreams than no step. And when roadblocks slow you down, which they will—fight. Work hard and don’t give up. Nothing worth having ever comes easy.

6. Seek support from someone you trust

Sometimes life is just too hard, far too messy to take on alone. We all need an extra shoulder to cry on, someone we can rely on, who will help us see through our fog.  We all need someone who understands us, who won’t judge us, who will help us succeed at life. Whether it’s a friend, family member, pastor, or therapist, find a person who’s been there, who can help you feel less alone. They’ll equip you with tools to achieve your goals and face adversity.

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7. Make yourself a priority

Exercise. Eat healthy. Dance. Take nature walks. Paint. Whatever lifts you out of the fog, do it. All these activities will help boost energy and self-esteem. Get a good night’s sleep. Enjoy a bubble bath. Get a massage. Read a favorite book. Whatever it may be, make it a priority.  If we expect to take on life’s challenges, we’ve got to build ourselves up, spoil ourselves, show ourselves some compassion. Taking care of oneself, nurturing one’s soul, will boost confidence and ready us for whatever challenges life brings.

8. Laugh often

Laughter really is the best medicine. When times get tough—laugh! It helps us gain perspective. Breaks us free from our prison of despair. Watch a funny show. Read a comic. Hang out with friends who make you laugh, who’ll help you not take yourself so seriously.

9. Show yourself love

Our perception of ourselves, positive or negative, determines our behavior. If we believe we are unworthy, we act that way. But who we are is not determined by others. It is determined by us, by our own inner thoughts. We alone destroy ourselves— from within. With lies we tell ourselves. With past pain and words that echo through our mind.

So be compassionate. Each morning, look in the mirror and give praise. Say three positive truths. Force yourself to do it even if it seems cheesy. The world is not always kind; if we depend on others for approval, we’ll be waiting a long time.

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10. Don’t compete with others

We run our own race. It’s that simple.

Look for self-improvements. Set new goals. Dwell on your accomplishments. If we’re always striving to beat So and So, we risk losing ourselves. Comparing our life to others never brings happiness or contentment. We’ll only feel more out of control. There will always be someone richer, prettier, smarter, more athletic, healthier, etc. so the only person we should compete with is our past self.

Life isn’t always going to go our way and that’s okay, it’s what makes life exciting. But If we love and take care of ourselves, if we pursue our dreams, if we laugh, and focus on the positives, and if we seek solutions–we will be resilient. Life can throw anything at us and we’ll be ready. We’ll rise, even if it’s an inch by inch crawl out of our pain to be happier, more complete, people than we ever were before.

Featured photo credit: Happiness is excitement/Nancy Kellan 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)
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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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