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Find Your Purpose Through Politics

Find Your Purpose Through Politics
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With a smile, you pass through the long security line at the United States Capitol building in Washington, DC. While the line of tourists streams forward into the Exhibition Hall, you turn right and head to the Senate appointment desk. There, you sign in, get an ID badge, and are guided by a security officer to a large meeting room. You mingle with political staffers, reporters, and various notables. Soon, your state’s Senator walks in. You introduce yourself, talk to the Senator one-on-one for several minutes, describe what you care about, and how he or she can help to improve US policy. The Senator hears you out, responds to your concerns, and connects with you on a human level.

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6-1-2 Rationality in Politics (Facebook)

    This story may sound unreal, but it does happen. I’m living proof, as that is my story.

    I, along with Agnes Vishnevkin, my wife and fellow Intentional Insights co-founder, met with Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown at the constituent coffee hour that he holds regularly. We talked with him about the issues we cared about, such as using reason and science to inform education and family planning. We also shared with him about Intentional Insights and its mission of translating complex academic research into practical strategies and tools that help people achieve their goals in daily life. He heard us out and expressed support for our issues and perspectives, and endorsed the mission of Intentional Insights. I was especially surprised when, after I told him I research meaning and purpose and decision-making practices in the Soviet Union, he started speaking to me in Russian. Apparently, he studied Russian as his undergraduate major, and still remembered it, which impressed me quite a bit.

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      So, what does this political advocacy have to do with meaning and purpose? Well, a strong sense of meaning and purpose clearly correlates with serving others. Likewise, developing and cultivating social and community bonds generally leads to a powerful feeling of a meaningful and purposeful life. Our meeting with Senator Brown at constituent coffee hour included both.

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      We met Senator Brown as part of the 2014 Lobby Day and Policy Conference hosted by the Secular Coalition for America. We received training in how to lobby politicians, panel presentations on how to advocate for reason-based political decision-making, and supporting materials on the benefits of using science and data to inform policy. Such political advocacy offers an indirect but powerful means of serving others through influencing the government to adopt the most rational approaches in serving the public good. Moreover, the event offered the opportunity to develop and cultivate social and community bonds with fellow Americans who cared about reason-oriented political decision-making. I was excited and enthused to meet so many others across the country who wanted the government to make decisions based on rational evidence, not on traditional cached thinking patterns, gut reactions, genetic differences, or anti-science dogmatic claims.

      How you can get involved

      You don’t have to go to Washington to lobby your politicians. I carried my enthusiasm back home to Ohio, and indeed Ohio holds an annual Ohio Secular Summit, where you can lobby your state representatives in the same way that Agnes and I lobbied Senator Brown. And you can do so with other members of your community.

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      For example, Agnes and I are part of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio, which organized a speaker to present about the Ohio Secular Summit before it occurred, and then Agnes compiled a blog post based on the experiences of those who participated. Ohio also has a highly active forum for political activities of interest to reason-minded individuals, where you can find out about relevant issues. Besides lobbying your representatives in person, you can call them, send them letters, e-mail them, sign petitions, and so on, and know you are participating in a broader action with others who care about the government making rationally-informed policies. To locate your own state forum, check out the Secular Coalition for America’s state chapters. Also, consider getting engaged in local politics, by learning about how local politics works, by voting in all elections and especially local ones, by being a poll watcher and vote counter, by running for local office, and in many other ways.

      Finding purpose through political advocacy

      The Ohio Secular Summit blog post describes how those who participated found it an empowering and meaningful experience. This demonstrates on a concrete level the research-based evidence of how we can gain a sense of purpose and meaning from serving others through political advocacy, especially when united together with members of our community in a way that helps cultivate social bonds. Calling, sending letters, e-mailing, and signing petitions is harder to translate into a visceral sense of meaning and purpose. I would suggest stopping and thinking intentionally about how you serve others through your political advocacy to advance the public good. Through such actions, you can become a true agent of change in your society, and find meaning and purpose through helping create a world where the government relies on research-based strategies to evaluate reality clearly and make effective decisions, enabling all of us to live happy, healthy, fulfilling, and flourishing lives.

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      Here are some questions you might consider posing to yourself:

      • Have you engaged in any political advocacy, by yourself or with others, in your social circle?
      • If so, what benefits do you think you gained?
      • If not, how could you gain benefits from doing so? How could your local community and our society as a whole benefit from such activities on your part?
      • If you think these activities would be beneficial for you, what are some practical steps you can take to help yourself and others in your social circle engage in political advocacy?

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      Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

      Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

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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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