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5 Amazing Things You Gain By Doing The Unthinkable

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5 Amazing Things You Gain By Doing The Unthinkable

Last year, my family learned how to scuba dive. Along with my husband and our three grown sons, we wanted to learn a new skill — something we could take with us for years to come and enjoy together on future vacations as well.

When catching up with friends and I would tell them what I was learning, every single one immediately told me, “I could never do that.”

All of them had already given themselves permission to not even try.

They wrote off not just my scuba diving experience off, but every other challenge they could have imagined or dreamed.

To them, the idea of doing something hard on purpose seemed unthinkable.

On occasion, I would get asked, “Why are you doing that?” And after listening to my answer, some people were left in bewilderment while others didn’t quite see the attraction to forcing myself to learn a new skill. After all, no one was making me do this.

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I will admit that learning to scuba dive was not easy. I have bouts of claustrophobia and have a fear of drowning. Who wouldn’t, right?

When I am nervous or afraid, I become somewhat sarcastic — what some people interpret as “wit.” I’m just keeping it real. That way, no one sees just how scared I really am.

With scuba diving, one of the skills you must be tested on and pass is filling your mask with water while you are underwater and then getting rid of the water in your mask — while you are still underwater. It sounds impossible. I didn’t believe it could be done either. If you are a nose-breather like me, the last thing you want to do is suck all of the water in your mask in through your nose. Although you have your regulator still in your mouth so you can breath, mastering this skill pushed me hard. I even practiced at home so as not to panic in class.

Eventually, the day came when we actually went out onto a small boat into the Gulf of Mexico where I needed to put everything I had learned to the true test. When it was all said and done, we had all completed six dives to depths of 80 feet below the surface, seen numerous sea species, and I for one learned more about myself than I can remember. In addition, I gained a few things as well.

There are five things we gain by doing things that challenge us and might even be considered “unthinkable.” Here they are.

1. Positive attitude

When we challenge ourselves, we struggle with our fears. We are trying something new and the uncertainty that lies on the other side of any feat could be enough to sway us to never try anything new again. However, once we accomplish what we set out to accomplish, our attitude shifts. Everything that once held us back has no hold over us — and we know it.

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The way we think about everything going forward changes. The mental game we play can ruin even the smallest of things we hope to accomplish. Doing something most would consider “unthinkable” changes all of that. Our perspectives are no longer jaded with the opinions of others and instead are filled with the positive mindset one only gets by achieving success. Immediately, we begin to believe where doubt once lived and our mindset is completely different — to the point of never being able to return to the way it once was ever again.

2. Confidence

Growing more sure of oneself is not something that comes when the task at hand is easy or predictable. In fact, quite the opposite is true. When we take on a task that seems too daunting for most, our belief in ourselves most likely will be questioned. However, when one replaces that seed of doubt with something much more firm and strong, then the doubt no longer can be planted again. We begin to trust our abilities and push ourselves to be even more than we were before.

As we grow more confident, our sense of adventure heightens and some of our acts become even more daring and brash. We become someone who will not give up and allow any momentary setbacks to propel us forward. Any doubt we once had can’t even find a place to hide anymore.

3. Excitement

When we accomplish something scary or hard, we get super excited in ways we don’t while doing just normal everyday things. That excitement just grows as it releases endorphins into our body and we need to “feed that high” the only way we know how — to do more exciting things.

Doing what was once deemed as “unthinkable” creates a frenzy that stirs emotions of thrill and enthusiasm. Without realizing it, that feeling is something we become addicted to as we begin to make different choices that perpetuate that sense of “feeling alive.” It begins to stimulate more ideas, allowing creativity to creep in everywhere we look. At times, our excitement can be lead by impulses otherwise never imagined.

4. Courage

It’s hard to be strong when you aren’t sure you can do something, but after you do it, you become less fearful of anything else. Whether you go looking for a challenge or one just shows up on your doorstep one day, you remember what it took to do something hard and you remind yourself of not only what you’ve done, but who you are.

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When you do something “unthinkable,” fear no longer comes along for the ride, hoping you will turn back or chicken out. It knows better. Staying calm and level-headed in times of crisis or chaos will allow you to dig deep and find what your spunk looks like, baring your gnarly teeth of the guts it took all the way. You just wait patiently for the next dare and greet it with open arms, almost as if to say, “Let’s see who gives up first. It won’t be me.” You become braver in every aspect of your life.

5. Motivation

We are inspired by the acts and words of others. Especially when they do something we consider to be “impossible.” What was once something we deemed as impossible now has a different look. Without knowing so at the time, our mere witness to such experiences change us in ways we never imagined they would and we begin to want to accept challenges as well. New ideas are born. Our perspective changes and our inquisitive nature becomes more daring and bold, even if others don’t see it right away. We notice the boring and routine in our lives and we begin to ache for the actions we long to take.

Motivation is found in the smallest of acts we take — we begin to exercise to lose weight, beginning with running a simple mile. We begin to learn more from other likeminded individuals and, like sponges, soak up everything we can. Every ounce of knowledge becomes another stepping stone in our quest to move forward and achieve what no one else has believed to be possible. Once that motivation has begun to take shape and move, it becomes something that cannot be stopped or derailed by anyone.

Conclusion

At one time, all things were unthinkable — whether it be fire or a round wheel. Invention and the willingness to try new things often led to failure. However, in learning, we give ourselves chances to do better and often exceed our own expectations.

Once we start to feel the above, our mindset completely changes. The world becomes our playground and amazing things begin to unfold. Most likely, the things we never could have imagined become our foundation for the way we choose to live going forward.

We have heard what others said couldn’t be done. We believe their words to be true.

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However, when push came to shove, we proved them wrong. There is a bit of irony thrown in that in order for one to do the unthinkable, once must, in fact, do the unthinkable.

In doing so, the most amazing things change our way of thinking and our outlook in the future, ultimately changing us in the process.

At one time, learning to scuba dive seemed unthinkable to me. Not even a blip on my radar.

Do something hard once in a while. Challenge yourself in ways everyday life doesn’t.

You may think “it can’t be done” or find another reason why you shouldn’t even try. However, giving yourself a chance to find out and gain these five attributes that you will carry with you for the rest of your life will only make you better. Then, the only question will be, “What do I do next?”

Featured photo credit: Dino Reichmuth via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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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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