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15 Shocking Stories of Hope to Supercharge Your Life

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15 Shocking Stories of Hope to Supercharge Your Life

Ever feel like the weight of the world is crushing your soul? You’re not alone. Life throws unexpected hurdles at the worst times, but don’t let things beyond your control hold you down. Follow the lead of these fifteen shocking stories of hope. Discover just how possible it is to overcome any hardship and forge your own destiny.

1. Chart your own course

Millions of children have parents infected with HIV. I should know; I was one of them. My father lost his battle. Many people may assume this tragedy would ruin a child, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Take the story of Liz Murray, whose parents were addicts and whose HIV-infected mother sold their church-donated thanksgiving turkey to score a hit of coke.

Liz was bullied for being homeless, smelly, and lice-ridden. Humiliated, she dropped out of school. At age seventeen she returned more determined than ever. She set out to become a straight-A student, but she did more than that. She went from being homeless to being a Harvard graduate and bestselling author. Just imagine what you could do without those hardships.

2. Break free

Some stories are too horrific to detail. That summarizes Dave Pelzer, who suffered one of the worst documented cases of abuse in California history at the hands of his own mother. In spite of being locked up in his basement and forced to endure unspeakable crimes, Dave did more than just survive. He rose above the circumstances.

Dave told his story and became an advocate for the voiceless. He also shared the numerous accounts he received in letters each week from people who had similar experiences. That courage earned him the honor of the National Jefferson Award and designation of Outstanding Young Persons of the World. Learn from Dave. No matter what your struggle, no matter how bad your experience, there is still hope. You are not alone.

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3. Remember the forgotten

One untold story is the millions of newly-widowed men and women every year around the world. Their shared struggle goes ignored by the masses because it is so common. But that commonality is no less painful. That struggle is no less real. While some succumb to the terrible loss of a life partner who defined much of who they were, the vast majority overcome their grief. They honor the memory of those lost with a commitment to make the most of their lives. It’s a courage that should inspire you to remember the brave men and women who live next door. Who should you remember?

4. Define your day

You could be like most people–stuck in the middle–like Hal Elrod used to be. He wasn’t significant in his own mind, just an ordinary person with a normal life and decent job. One day, he chose to set a lofty goal. He achieved that goal and was on cloud nine until a drunk driver hit him head on, broke eleven bones, and left him in a coma for six days. He awoke with permanent brain damage. The doctors told him he would never walk again.

Hal made the decision to be grateful for what he had and to be purposeful in his actions. He didn’t let the doctors define his life. Instead, he defined his own day, every day. Not only did he walk again, he ran. Hal completed a 52 mile ultra-marathon and went on to pen the blockbuster book The Miracle Morning, which awoke the lives of millions. How will you define your day?

5. Set the world on fire

What would you do if burns covered 100% of your body and forced you to stay in the hospital for five months while you watched doctors amputate your fingers one by one?

John O’leary had the horrible misfortune of torching himself at the age of nine, leaving him near death and permanently scarred. Somehow, he survived. It’s not just his miraculous survival that inspires, but how his family and community came together to convince him why life was still worth living. The people he touched and what he did with his life after he left the hospital should convince anyone of the true value of a single life.

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6. Climb your mountain

Jill Kinmont Boothe thought she had everything. She taught herself to ski and became a national champion Olympic prospect. Those hopes were dashed with a near fatal accident that left her permanently paralyzed.

In spite of her rejection by UCLA’s school of education due to her paralysis, her determination led her to become a successful teacher, painter, and role-model to millions, a story that later aired in the movie The Other Side of the Mountain. She never gave up hope. Neither should you.

7. Harness the wind

Imagine living in the small town of Kasungu with no money and limited resources. That’s the story of William Kamkwamba, who at age fourteen read a library book that inspired him to build a windmill with spare parts and power his tiny African village. Stories of his initiative spread across globe, which enabled him to do even more for his community. What problems can you solve with even more resources?

8. Make good art

The advice from British native and writing phenom Neil Gaiman is good enough, but now try it as a quadriplegic. Henry Fraser did just that after losing the use of his limbs from a diving accident that dislocated his neck. Six years later, he returned to art after his injuries forced him to live with his mother and rethink his life. His mouth became his instrument, and he took those paintings and drawings to social media where they garnered the interest of J.K. Rowling and others. His story continues to inspire. Yours can too.

9. Take flight

If an artistic quadriplegic doesn’t motivate you, how about an armless pilot? Jessica Cox was born without arms, but she didn’t let that slow her down. She drives, scuba dives, types on the keyboard, puts on her contacts, and does a lot more—all with her feet. That determination led her to become both the first armless pilot and American Taekwondo black belt without arms. She’s just getting started. How about you?

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10. Live without limits

The world is challenging enough, but what if you were forced to navigate that world without your limbs? Nick Vujicic, who suffers from the rare disorder of phocomelia, did just that and turned his obstacle into a limitless opportunity for outreach and exploration. He lives by the motto, “attitude determines your ability to succeed.” What’s your motto?

11. Realize your dream

Ever had a childhood dream you wish never died? After injuries sidelined his minor-league baseball career a decade earlier, high school science teacher and coach, Jim Morris, received encouragement from his students to pursue his dream and try out for the majors. That effort paid off, and he became the oldest rookie to ever pitch in the major leagues. Think twice before you kill your dream. Most are still within your reach.

12. Never give up

Children can be powerful motivators. San Francisco native Chris Gardner went beyond motivation and took action. He didn’t make excuses. He didn’t let his his mother’s imprisonment when he was a child or his failed sales career hold him back.

Persistence propelled him from being homeless to a millionaire stockbroker and amazing provider for his son. Persistence can do the same for you.

13. Shout your message

Imagine being born with a life-threatening illness, one that stigmatizes you in the eyes of everyone. Now add on fetal alcohol syndrome, cerebral palsy, and learning impairments. Would you have the courage to overcome those challenges and become a heroic communicator and advocate? Ashley Rose did all that and more. She climbed her personal mountain to become a Tedx speaker, shared her message around the globe, and taught youth about HIV in the hopes of one day achieving a world where no child is born with AIDS. What’s your message?

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14. Revolutionize your world

Stephen Hawking isn’t the only sufferer of a motor neuron disease to shape his field. Jon Morrow of Copyblogger and Smartblogger took the blogging world by storm a few short years ago. Most people never dream of soaring to such heights, but what makes Jon so special is that he was supposed to die of pneumonia before the age of two because of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Jon owes much of his miracle to his mother, who fought for him every step of the way and didn’t accept an early death as Jon’s only fate. It wasn’t easy. It was shockingly hard, but after languishing near destitution from medical bills, Jon’s commitment to his ideas led him to become the highest draw in his field, with millions of views. What ideas have you let fall by the wayside?

15. Create your legacy

Most people live life oblivious to their potential unless something disturbing jolts them from their uninspiring routine. That characterized Anthony Burgess right up until the doctors told him he would die of cancer in less than a year.

Anthony accepted his fate, but he didn’t do it gracefully. He wanted to leave a legacy, and so he chose to write a book. In that year he wrote five, including A Clock-work Orange. His cancer went into remission, and his year transformed into decades with over two dozen stories to his name. What would you do with your year?

It’s hard not to be motivated by people like these, but humongous things and heroic stories aren’t necessary to have a big impact. You don’t even need motivation or willpower. Big challenges are overcome and big dreams are realized by taking small but consistent actions, like the ones mentioned by Stephen Guise in his book Mini Habits. Over time, those small actions add up and come to define who you are. The only questions you need ask yourself are, “what do you want to accomplish, and what’s your first step?”

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Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

More by this author

Roy Huff

Author, Scientist, Teacher

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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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