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Got Decisions? 6 Tips to Harness Their Power

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Got Decisions? 6 Tips to Harness Their Power

If you want to direct your life, you have to take control of the consistent actions you take. It’s not what you do once in a while that shapes your life. It’s what you do consistently. So we need to find out what comes prior to our actions. What influences the actions we take, and therefore, the life we live?

What’s the answer?

The power of decision.

Everything that’s happened in your life, both the good and the bad, has started with a decision. These moments of decision shape your life. The decisions you’re making every day of your life will determine how you feel today and who you are tomorrow.

We all have decisions that we can look back on and either be thrilled that we made, or wonder “What was I thinking?” There are decisions you could have made differently that would have made your life completely different than it is today. You could have changed careers, or failed to change careers. You could have moved, gotten married, had kids, or purchased a home. Maybe you decided to start a business or start exercising. Maybe you decided to start or stop drinking or smoking. Think about how your decisions have impacted your life.

Success comes from long term focus. Picture the challenges in your personal life. Whether it’s overeating, drinking, smoking, drugs, or spending problems – they come from a short term focus. Success doesn’t just happen. The life experience we call success comes from the small, daily decisions in which you choose to hold yourself to a higher standard and take control instead of having the environment take control of you.

1. Realize how powerful decisions are

Decisions are a tool available to you that can change your entire life. Deciding and taking action creates the momentum necessary to produce drastic changes to your life in the shortest amount of time.

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Your life is merely the result of what you’ve done differently than other people that are in the same situation. Your actions have produced different results than your friends, neighbors, and loved ones, but why? Because the actions you take are the starting points needed to move you in a clear direction.

The minute you make a decision, you’ve set your life in a new direction. You literally have the power to change in an instant if you decide to. The next time you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed, decide to change it. Don’t just sit there and take it. For you to really make a decision, action must follow.

2. Commit to your decisions

What’s the difference in being curious about something and being committed to it? How many times do we hear people say “I’d like to have a new car,” or “I’d like to make more money,” or “I’d like follow my dreams?” Merely stating goals you’d like to do accomplish isn’t the same as committing to them. Just being interested in something while taking no action is not how progress happens. To achieve you must commit.

You may think “I think I could change, but I don’t know how.” That is fear talking. The fear that you don’t know exactly how to make it happen. The fear that you haven’t researched every possible outcome and planned for every possible scenario. If you listen to this fear you’ll never end up deciding on anything. You’ll never start. What most people don’t realize is that you don’t need to plan out every possible detail to change your life. The reality is that you will find a way.

Here’s a streamlined formula:

1. Decide what you want
2. Take action
3. Notice what’s working or not
4. Change your strategy until you achieve what you want

If you follow these steps you’ll create the momentum necessary to achieve what you want. As soon as you’re completely committed, you will find a way.

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Deciding is often much more difficult than committing. Get clear on what you want and decide. Don’t waste too much time analyzing and deliberating. If you’re clear on your values, you’ll be able to decide quickly and change your mind very rarely, if at all. Compare that to people that are usually unsuccessful; they take forever to make decisions and change their mind quickly. A decision is information acted upon.

You can change your life as soon as you’ve decided to fully commit to change; as soon as you stop taking no for answer; as soon as you stop accepting any other outcome.

Making a true decision is cutting off all other possibilities. Making a decision means a complete commitment to achieving a desired result, then burning the boat you sailed in on.

3. Make decisions often

Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situation. Successful people make decisions based on where they want to be.

Repetition is the mother of skill. So in order to make better decisions, we simply have to make more of them. Make decisions, learn from them, and keep what works. Learning to make better decisions is like any other skill you’ve learned; the more you do it, the better you get. When you get better at making decisions you’ll look forward to making them, embrace them, and will see them as a way to take your life to the next level.

The power of decisions can change your relationships, your career, your physical state, and your emotional state. It can determine whether you’re just reacting to your environment or taking control. It can determine whether you’re excited or miserable. It can determine whether you feel free or enslaved.

The more decisions you make, the better and more comfortable you get making them. Harness the power of decision by deciding on something you’ve been putting off. Often just deciding on something relieves a lot of stress. You’ll be surprised at how energized you feel.

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4. Learn from your decisions

To make progress you must decide not only what results you’re committed to achieving, but also who you’re committing to becoming. If you’re familiar with my content, you’ve heard me talk about raising your standards. Your personal standards determine what type of behavior you think is acceptable for both yourself and those around you. Establishing minimum standards for what you’ll accept in your life prevents you from falling back into your old limiting ways. You must raise your standards and stick to them. No matter what hardships and tragedies arise.

When the inevitable happens and you make the wrong decision, don’t beat yourself up. Just ask yourself “What’s positive about this? What can I learn from this? How can I turn this around?” The simple gift of feeling like you failed may be exactly what you need to make better decisions in the future. Don’t focus on the short term. Find the lessons to be learned.

5. Stay committed, but stay flexible

The moment you make a true decision to lose weight, that’s it. You will. Your perception of everything changes. Food becomes fuel and exercise becomes a must. When you get off the fence and commit to a decision, you’ll feel an enormous amount of relief.

This kind of clarity is essential. Clarity gives you the power to produce what you really want in life. Most of us are stretched so thin these days that we never really make committed decisions anymore. We’ve forgotten what it feels like to make a true decision.

Often when I talk to people about their weight loss progress, they’ll describe an extremely rigid plan in which they have to follow. But if you asked these same people to design a diet plan for their friend, they’d never recommend what they’re doing. If weight loss is your goal, then the end is what you’re after, not the means. Don’t lock yourself into an unbending routine in which you feel like you’re slacking if you don’t follow it completely. Chances are you designed this routine after a well-rested weekend anyway. You’re making things much harder on yourself if you close your mind off to alternate routes.

6. Have fun making decisions

Decisions can be a source of both relentless problems and incredible happiness. Decisions can be a source of both amazing opportunity and shocking disappointment.

The greatest thing about the power of decision is that you already have the ability to use it. The power of decision isn’t only for a select few. It’s available to you as soon as you summon the courage to use it. Will today be the day you decide your finished holding yourself back? Will today be the day you decide to put your life on a path consistent with your dreams? Ask yourself “Who am I?” “What do I want out of life?” “What am I going to do?” “What will I let stop me?”

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Look forward to making decisions because at any moment you can make one that’ll change your life forever. The next book you read, website you visit, movie you watch, song your listen to, or person you stand next to at the checkout line could be the event that causes something to click. If you really want to enjoy life, you have to expect things to come together for you.

Conclusion

You may be skeptical. You may be thinking “Of course I’d like to change, but I have real problems in my life.” Of course you do, but we all have to start somewhere. What matters is where you’re determined to finish. Ask yourself “What could I do with my life if I was certain I couldn’t fail?”

One of the most beautiful and liberating truths I’ve ever realized is that we all have the power to turn our lives into an inspiring example to others. If you make the right decisions – focusing on the long term and not the environment – you can direct not only who and what is in your life, but who you become.

My challenge to you

Decide to learn a new skill, treat people different, make the call you’ve been avoiding, pursue an education, or change careers. Instead of resisting or making excuses (which is in itself a decision), do you think you could decide to take your life to the next level? Do you think you’d be happier, have more fun, or find peace? Do you think you’d build your confidence and self-esteem? You didn’t have to read this to know the answer is yes!

Featured photo credit: Noelle Buske via flickr.com

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Bob Dempsey

Psychology Major

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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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