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How to Make the Right Decision Every Single Time

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How to Make the Right Decision Every Single Time

When’s the last time you had an important decision to make? How’d it go? If you’re like most people, you probably relied heavily on logic and reasoning. Maybe you wrote a pro’s-and-con’s list or consulted with your friends. I know that’s what I did.

So much advice is based on reasoning and why not? Most of us still think that intellect trumps all when it comes to decision making, and while this rational approach isn’t bad, it’s just not the most reliable method. And who would have thought that the one thing we can trust is the same thing we often dismiss and suppress?

Are Emotions Trustworthy?

And this one thing is nothing more and nothing less than our emotions. We should pay closer attention to them, because as leading neurologist and author, Antonio Damasio states, “feelings are not just the shady side of reason… they help us to reach decisions as well.”

That’s right, feelings play an integral role in every decision we make, according to growing research in neuroscience. Damasio’s discovered that if damage occurred in the area of the brain where emotions are produced, not only did people lose their ability to feel emotions, but they also lost their ability to make decisions; even something as simple as choosing between restaurants. Logically, they could distinguish the pro’s and con’s between different diners, but they couldn’t nail down a decision without the support of emotions.

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That’s because there’s a “sort of lift that comes from emotions…which allow you to mark things as good, bad or different,” Damasio found. These people couldn’t “conjure up an emotional state” for the choices in front of them and so they got stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Don’t Leave Home Without Them

This information relates to you and me, too. Just as these people were handicapped because they were unable to feel emotions, you handicap yourself whenever you ignore and suppress emotions and make decisions without consulting them. Decisions and emotions go together like bread and butter.

Here’s a real life example: Recently, I had to decide whether I would actually take a trip I had booked months before. My gut was telling me “No”, but instead of listening to it, I came up with lots of “good” reasons for why I should stick with the original plan. Even with a list of good reasons, I still felt stressed and agitated. This is what happens when we try to align ourselves with a decision that our body rejects (via emotions and feelings).

When I finally realized that my decision wasn’t actually a decision, but rather unfinished business between my body and mind, I stopped. I listened to my emotions and finally canceled my trip. What came then was an immediate feeling of peace and rightness. If I had continued to ignore my agitation and restlessness, I’d have ended up on what would’ve been a miserable get-away, thanks to all of those “good reasons”.

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Why weren’t my good reasons good enough? It’s because they were just one aspect of my intelligence and what’s more, they were ignoring my body’s response to them. Author Mary Lamia PhD explains that emotions “attempt to tell you if a situation is optimal, or not aligned with your goal.”  The key word here, is “attempt” and that’s exactly what my emotions were trying to do.

They’re like blunt messages (not very subtle!) but they inform us in ways that data and facts never could. Eckhart Tolle teaches that “the body has its own intelligence and this intelligence reacts to your thoughts and what your mind is saying. Emotion is the body’s reaction to your mind.” Feelings are your body’s voice and they say something meaningful and valuable. When I ignored my own feelings, they didn’t go away. Instead, they intensified, because they still had something to say.

The Problem with Emotion?

Emotions (especially negative emotions) speak up loud and clear, when the intellect is too busy thinking. Emotions, on the other hand, don’t think. They just show up.

And this is the problem with them, too. They don’t think; you have to do that for them. They don’t differentiate between real and imaginary threats. That’s your job.

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For example, your body might feel fear (shaking, nervousness, perspiration, etc.) when you think about getting on that stage and giving your first TED Talk. (Hey, we can dream, can’t we?) However, your body will also feel that emotion if a tiger’s chasing you. Obviously, one is real danger, the other is imaginary.

How to Make the Most of Your Emotions

So, if we need emotions to make decisions, how are we supposed to rely on them, if they’re really just blunt and nondiscriminating messengers? You could say, “Listen, I’m afraid of getting on that stage, just like I’m afraid of that tiger, so in both cases, my feelings must be trying to protect me from something legit, right?”

Wrong. And here’s the solution. It’s true that every emotion is equal and valuable, but according to Eckhart Tolle, “emotion is the body’s response to a thought” and thoughts are not always reliable.

If you’re scared of stepping onto that stage (or anxious, happy, sad or confused) it’s because both your intellect and emotions are saying something.  Obviously, you already know that the stage is tiger-free, but your emotions rage on. How do we know what they’re saying?

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The real way to think for your emotions is to stop thinking and pay them some much needed attention. Your fear isn’t really telling you that the stage is dangerous. It’s telling you that there’s something deeper you need to address (Maybe it’s something like fear of failure, judgement, disappointing, etc.)

The next time you’re feeling indecisive, go straight to your feelings and pay attention to them and ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. How am I feeling? (Remember, don’t judge your feelings. Just let them be.)
  2. Do I like feeling this way?
  3. What thought is this feeling responding to?
  4. Can I change my thoughts to change my emotions?

By adjusting your thoughts to create better emotions, you’ll be able to make decisions that align with your goals and serve your body and mind. Remember, your emotions are always telling you something, bluntly but truthfully.

Featured photo credit: Photo: Victor Bezrukov 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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