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Ask Yourself These 6 Questions To Help Clear Your Struggles.

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Ask Yourself These 6 Questions To Help Clear Your Struggles.

I don’t care who you are, there are moments in life where you just feel stuck; as though you were never moving in the first place. Those moments can seem to swallow your life and you often find yourself spinning the wheels in your mind trying to get out of that place, only to find yourself digging deeper into the mental mud of misery.

The best thing to do when you are feeling unhealthy, stuck and miserable is to take a moment to ask yourself some honest questions that will help you move forward and get you out of your rut. Here are 6 that should get you moving on the right path:

1.Are you making excuses?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself. Yeah. It is a hard question that can really sting, but if you are serious about getting unstuck in life you have to be brutally honest with yourself right now. You need to let go of the blame and the excuses and realize that your life is your life. You are in control of this and it is your responsibility. No one else is going to live it for you and if it is not what you want, no one else is going to improve it for you. I am not saying that you cannot or should not seek out help or lean on others when you get into a serious funk.

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What I am saying is that you can’t just wallow in your own misery, complaining about how you got a bad lot in life, and how everything is terrible but none of it is your fault. Sure, things outside of our control happen. Maybe it is even true that the reason you are stuck is not entirely your fault, but life’s crap storms happen to everyone. You need to learn how to accept that fact, realize that other people have it a million times worse, and that all change starts inside yourself with a healthy dose of personal responsibility. So drop the excuses, drop the “woe is me” mentality and accept that life is sometimes difficult and full of peaks and chasms, but there is no use feeling sorry for yourself because you hit a trench in your life.

2.How do you talk to yourself?

As you might be able to tell from, my inner voice is usually very demanding. He is like a drill sergeant that does not let me get away with anything, nor does he let me make excuses or feel sorry for myself. There is this notion in personal development that you should always be soft and kind and considerate with yourself. I don’t agree with this. I think that SOMETIMES you should be those things, because we all need a caring voice to comfort us when times are most difficult, but the people who accomplish the most, the people who are healthy, unstuck and moving forward in their lives, are typically motivated by an inner voice that throws some tough love at them most of the time.

You don’t want to go to the gym? Too bad! You are never going to drop those extra pounds by sitting there and binge watching Netflix! You don’t think you have time to make a healthy meal? That is a bunch of BS! Now get in that kitchen and throw together a salad and do it now! Sometimes you have to put yourself in your place and talking to yourself with a firm, disciplined determination is often how you can get unstuck. Just remember there is a fine line between being firm and being mean. Don’t beat yourself. Give yourself the internal motivation to do what you know you need to do to make things better. Accept no excuses and be relentless!

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3.What matters to you?

You need to seriously decide what is important to you in life and act in a way that shows that those things matter, because if those things are truly important, cherishing them and acting in a way that shows their meaning to you is going to make you feel amazing. We all say that friends and family and health and money and whatever are important, but do we always act in a way that highlights their importance? You say you value health, but do you eat healthy? Do you exercise? You say you value family, but do you tell them how much you appreciate them? Do you go out of your way to help them? You can say how much you value things, but if you act in a way contrary to that your mind, and the world, is not going to buy it.

You can say you want to be healthy and that you value your body, but if you are out there eating fast food and not exercising, then I am sorry, you don’t value your health and the guilt and shame you feel because you are acting contrary to what matters to you is going to make you miserable. So decide what matters to you and act in a way that shows that it matters.

4.Who do you want to be right now?

The question about who you are right now doesn’t matter. What matters is asking yourself who you want to be right now. Right now you are unhealthy, stuck and miserable, but who cares? That is obviously not who you want to be, so quit asking yourself who you are right now and starting asking yourself who you want to be right now. The truth is, we create ourselves in every moment. We choose activities that support or erode our self worth and confidence every moment. What you need to do is find someone or something that actively embodies the things that matter to you and choose to be that way until you don’t have a choice.

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You eventually just do it naturally and then that becomes who you are. You want to be happy right now? Then act like you are happy. Watch happy videos. Recall happy moments. Copy happy people. It sounds like new age, personal development crap, but it works. Every time I do it, it never fails me. The brain is easily fooled and I can almost guarantee that you will be happy and your happiness will be as natural as if it were always a part of you.

5.What small things can you change?

Often, when we are feeling stuck and miserable, we think we have to make some epic shifts in our life. Sometimes that is true, and I will discuss that in the last question, but usually great change in life comes from minor, incremental shifts that snowball into enormous, monumental movements.

The key here is to identify the little things you can do to improve the quality of your life right now. Meditate for 5 minutes a day. Eat 100 less calories per day. Take the stairs, instead of the elevator. Write a thank you card to a friend or family member. You get the point. It’s up to you to identify these small changes, but if you make a few of them, and build off of them, you will notice an increase in the small moments of comfort in your life and you will want to add more and more until those small changes add up to big results.

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6.What big thing can you change right now?

While small changes are great and they will add up over time, if you want a quick fix to get unstuck and feeling less miserable immediately, make a big change. The key here is to not make a bunch of big changes as that is often a surefire recipe for failure. So just choose one, realistic, big change you can make and jump in head first. You have to commit to it and just go for it. It will be hard, but you will get an instant burst of confidence and satisfaction that you are doing something to change your life for the better.

I cannot say what a big change is for you, but I can say it should be something realistic, doable and something that truly aligns with the things above that you value from question 3. Take a sudden trip to see a distant relative that you haven’t seen in a long time. Enroll in a night class at a local university. Throw away every bit of junk food in your house. It should be big enough to where it scares you a little, but not so big that you can’t start it right away. The instant gratification of moving towards this big change will result in a sudden shift of your mental state and get you instantly unstuck.

What you need to remember is that these questions can be asked anytime you feel like you are in a rut in your life. Even if you are not stuck, you can use these questions to keep your life moving forward and avoid those seemingly inevitable moments of feeling lost, unmotivated, and miserable. But also remember this, you can ask these questions all you want, but if you don’t do anything with the answers, nothing is going to change. The key to getting unstuck is to be committed and active in pushing yourself out. These questions are fuel, but the heavy lifting is all on you!

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Featured photo credit: Victor Cristian Mitroi via Flickr 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)

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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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