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7 Harsh Truths of Living Your Dream

7 Harsh Truths of Living Your Dream
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I pretty much live my dream – I really do. Despite how much I bitch and complain, I get to live in the most fashionable neighborhood of the most fashionable city on earth and make my living in the music industry. What more could a long-haired kid obsessed with Black Sabbath want? That being said – there is a reason I sometimes feel like I have to complain, and it’s not just because I’m a depressed maniac – there is a lot more to living your dream than just the thin veneer of late nights at extravagant parties and working from home.If you’re building towards living a dream you have to be able to accept certain grim realities that are a key part of what makes this such a challenge.

1.  It’s not always fun

One thing that really gets my goat is people who say “Wow – you must be living the perfect life!”  And I mean yeah… to some degree I see where they are coming from – from the outside looking in a lot of peoples lives seem ideal. Part of our daily struggle is keeping up a brave face. To live your dream you have to face a lot of day to day challenges that make this life worth living. The fact that it isn’t fun is part of the point of life – if things came east what would be the point?

Life is hard – and it’s not meant to be fun all the time. The idea that it should be is both a crazy pipe dream and a weird millennial lie. While we definitely are right in working for a better tomorrow (and I never will stop doing just that) I don’t necessarily believe that we are doomed to misery – I also think we need to accept that living your dream can involve some meaningless tasks. For every company you run, there will always be tons of background work that needs to be handled.

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2. You Have To Keep Pushing

There is a saying “When one door closes another opens” and in many ways this has become one of those weird rallying cries of my life. Eventually you learn it’s hard to screw up so hard that you end up having no recourse. If you have what it takes to live your dream, then you have to have what it takes to push forth no matter the consequences, and be bold in your trials and tribulations.

Part of what makes people want to hire you and work with you, especially in what one might think of as ‘dream jobs’ is when you prove your dedication. If you can show that time and time again you kept on doing what you loved in order to help build towards the future you want then people will respect you. When they see your dedication they will immediately become more open to working with you. In this way – the challenge of living your dream is part of what makes living your dream possible. It shows you have what it takes and keeps you driving forward.

3. There will always be struggles

The basic truth is that in this life there will always be ups and downs – that’s just how it goes. Having that hunger is a part of what makes us successful in the first place. But you need to remember that there will always be setbacks. Regular readers know that I dropped out of college to pursue this, and while I’m pretty happy with the decision, let me assure you, nothing is more depressing than receiving a harsh financial blow and then getting an email with the subject line “It’s never too late to go back to college!”

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But this isn’t about my distinctly sad life. It’s about something greater – that is to say, the knowledge that we live in a world where we are going to face challenges in the day-to-day. Living your dream usually implies quite a bit of risk, and most us embrace that. But of course, because there is risk, sometimes important or cool opportunities will fall through and we are left wondering if we really made the right choice. And that’s fine!

4. Sometimes You Have To Settle

Part of the struggle is knowing when you have to compromise. Knowing when to settle and be willing to accept that as part of living your dream is hard, but it’s part of what it takes if you really want to go forward. No one wants to have to give up on any one aspect of their goals – but unfortunately not everything comes free or easy in this world. Maybe you can afford to launch your startup but you can’t hire all your friends right away? That’s fine – You still have a start-up!

Here’s the thing – settling becomes a lot easier to come to terms with when you count your blessings and realize exactly what you have done thus far. It gives you a chance to go “Wow – I actually have come pretty far!” And from that you are a lot more able to realize that a sacrifice or two here and there isn’t really that big a deal? Why? Because you’re building towards something greater – and if the greater reality you’re building towards remains more or less complete albeit with a few compromises then you’re still doing a great job!

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5. It Can Take Over Your Life Without You Realizing It

This is one that I certainly have struggled with and one that I’ve had to come to terms with in recent weeks. Sometimes – you have to distance yourself a little bit from your dream. People like me have a tendency to get obsessive, at this point I would say 12-13 of my 16 or so waking hours are spent working on music related things. I think it’s pretty obvious to see that this doesn’t allow for a lot of ‘free time’ where I can do things that aren’t music. You have to have hobbies outside of your dream in order to make it feasible. For me these things have been reading, running and cooking, they give me a much needed break from the day-to-day insanity.

You need to be careful when you start going all out for your dream – it’s a scary thing to do and messing up could be risky if not for your life then for your soul. Remaining interested in things outside of your passion is crucial if you want to continue to be able to grow as an individual.

6. You Start To Wonder If This Is What You Wanted The Whole Time

There is no shortage of people who decided to give up and turn their back on he dream because they realized it wasn’t really what they wanted. I’ve always wondered if I was doomed to be one of those people. After all – I’m fighting with all my strength for a very hard to achieve goal that seems doomed to leave me wanting more. Am I really able to keep driving this forward?

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Then you remember – there is a reason you wanted this. You wanted this because it provided a way out from a world you don’t think you want to be a part of. While yes, there are comfortable lives to be had – you have to think, how do you want to be remembered? In my mind at least, it is far better to be dashed upon the rocks than to sit on the shore staring at the surf. If you poured a lot of time and energy into this, then it suggests that there was something you wanted from it, something worth building towards, and thus something you would have really wanted. If you change your opinion that’s okay, but remember, in the end it pays off.

7. Once You Reach The Top Of The Mountain – Keep Climbing

There is no upper limit to what you are capable of – I sincerely believe that. While it’s nice to rest on your laurels, that’s exactly what breeds complacence and makes it harder to drive forth for a better tomorrow. Climbing the mountain is what we all have to do if we want to live our dream – and it’s never going to be easy. As you get higher there is rarefied air and more dangers at every turn, but that just makes being at the top even better.

But never be satisfied – I sincerely hope that the curse of those who truly live their dreams has. No matter what, it is never enough. There is always a new level – a new goal, a new achievement. This life is not meant for those who want to be happy with little. No matter what – the minute you decide you are satisfied is the minute your dreams start to slow down. Look for new dreams and realize that though this is hard – it is always worth it.

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Featured photo credit: Nicolas Raymond 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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