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How to Know What We Really Want

How to Know What We Really Want
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Ever spend ages trying to make a choice, only to get even more confused the more you think about it? Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one. We all suffer from prolonged indecision from time to time. When the answer isn’t clear to a choice, we start off by analyzing the costs and benefits, only to end up more lost and undecided. Then, there may be other people in your life who make decisions almost instantaneously, appear sure of themselves and hardly ever regret their choice afterwards.

So what is it that helps be so sure of their decisions? The secret of this confidence and decisiveness comes from knowing what you truly want. Life blesses us with unique and individual talents, likes and dislikes. Our intuition, a.k.a. gut feeling, guides us by taking these internal factors as well as external circumstances into account when we have to make choices. The more we are in touch with our intuition, the more we understand about what we really want, and the more clear a decision will become. In order to seek answers that come from within and not from others, start off by considering the following:

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Is it purely fantasy?

Understanding the difference between what appears attractive to you and what really attracts you can be enlightening. If you asked me what kind of life I wanted, it would go something like this: To live in a spacious two bed apartment that overlooks Central Park in NYC, cab downtown in a Chanel suit whilst fielding calls from clients who pay me several million a year to deal with high profile litigation cases. And to hang out at the cafe just downstairs with a group of close friends who happen to live nearby after work.

Hold on. How much of that resembled a scene from the TV series Friends, or Suits? We have fantasies that can include being international pop stars, billionaire inventors or famous housewives of reality TV, but these can be due to the external influences such as social media, parents and friends rather than what we genuinely want. People often chase after things that appear attractive, but discover afterwards that they don’t want it at all.

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To figure this one out, see what you spend time doing on a daily basis, and how you feel about it. You can dream about being a killer attorney but if the thought of law school hasn’t crossed your mind, or you shudder at the thought of sitting in the library working through complicated legal jargon from morning to evening, then this may be fantasy rather than genuine desire.

What kind of fear am I feeling?

When you cannot decide on something because you feel scared, this can be very telling about what you really want. Human beings are born to be instinctive, and fear could be your intuition’s way of telling you that it is a bad idea to go ahead with a decision, especially if you don’t want it. However, there is another type of fear that can come out choosing, when we think something is too much for us to handle, despite wanting it. This usually represents a foreseeable challenge from the choice that we want, but we lack the confidence in ourselves to handle it.

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How do you tell if it is a good or bad fear, and thus figure out if you really want something or not? Look at the way your body reacts as you think and talk about it. When you find positive body cues such as being eager to talk about it with friends, looking up or leaning forwards, this could indicate that you really want something despite being apprehensive about the risks and challenges involved.

On the other hand, should you find yourself stressed out whenever you project yourself into the choice, such as shoulders constricting, frowning or feeling downcast when talking about it, this could be your intuition warning you against it. By understanding which type of fear you are feeling, this can help you decide if the choice is something you really want to go after.

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What are my friends like?

It is uncanny how quickly we can click with new friends in life, but still feel like strangers to other people that we’ve known for many years. Regardless of how long you’ve known someone, we are more drawn to some people than others. Revealing indicators of who these people are include the time you choose to spend with them, as well as those you genuinely respect. More often than not, they share common values with yourself, as this facilitates a mutual and deep understanding that helps you ‘click’ with each other. By observing the values and interests of those closest to you, this can shed light on your own character, likes and values as well.

Am I willing to accept the costs?

If you are unsure whether you truly want something or not, think about whether you would be willing to put up with the hardships that come along with the choice. Most people analyze choices in terms of the benefits, such as what they gain from choosing something over another. Whilst this method can work well in situations where one choice clearly offers much more objective benefits than others, such as choosing the job that pays the most money, it may not reflect what you truly and subjectively prefer.

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One way to decide is to look at the costs of each decision instead. For example, many people would love to lose weight, but not many want it enough to put up with the hardships of feeling hungry at night, going without dessert and going to the gym even when tired or unmotivated. When you truly want something, you will be much more willing to endure the side discomforts and challenges that arise from the journey to the goal. It also helps to remember that ultimately, there are no wrong choices in life. As the saying goes, “if you don’t make the right decision, you can make the decision right.”

Featured photo credit: Man Standing On Top Of Mountains After Adventure Hike by Ed Gregory via stokpic.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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