What you think, you become. Your thoughts create your reality. What you believe, you will achieve. We have all heard of these famous quotes at some point in our lives, and some of us may be aware of the “Law of Attraction.”
I for one am a firm believer. Even though we may be aware of these ideas, life can get tough and things can happen outside of our control. It can be hard to always stay positive, especially during the rough times.
Not long ago, something happened to me that was actually a blessing in disguise. It was the universe giving me a slap in the face, telling me to snap out of it and get my life together. As small as it may seem to some, this experience was actually quite significant to me, and I wanted to share the story.
It was 7 am, and I was walking back to my apartment after an intense gym session. I felt great after my workout, but I was dreading having to go to work. I really didn’t want to go. There were so many other things I would rather be doing. As I was walking, I started thinking up excuses for why I didn’t have to go. “Maybe I could call in sick? No, that’s going to be so obvious, seeing as we just had a break from work and the weekend has just ended. What else can I say?”
As I was pondering and contemplating what I could tell my boss, a thought came into my head. “What if I said my bank cards got compromised, and that now I have no way to get to work because I don’t have access to money?” I thought about it for a while, and then I started imagining all of the things I would be able to get done if I didn’t have to go to work. I imagined taking my time to shower, have breakfast and get ready, instead of rushing every morning after the gym to be on time as I usually do. I started visualizing how good it would feel to be able to do things at my own pace.
Then I started writing a checklist of all of the things I could accomplish in my day. “I could get the next couple of modules done with my online course. I could start developing my landing pages and click funnels for my online business. I could also work on my social media pages and my blog page.” The things I could accomplish in those 8 hours!
After a bit of daydreaming, I decided I just couldn’t call my boss and lie to him, so I started getting ready for work and went on with my day. I was doing my usual routine, eating breakfast while I checked my emails and notifications. I then saw an email from PayPal stating that a transaction had been approved. I looked back at the email and immediately knew that I had not made any recent purchases for that amount and then proceeded to the “dispute this payment” button.
Our Thoughts Become Our Reality
I won’t get into the finer details of this dilemma, but long story short, my accounts were actually compromised and I had to cancel all of my cards. I then had to let my boss know that I couldn’t come to work because I was dealing with my accounts being hacked. I spent all morning on the phone dealing with the changes of passwords, automatic payments that were due that week, and just the headache of making sure all loose ends were tied up.
It wasn’t until I could finally breathe and process what had just happened that I realised that I had manifested this. I thought this up, and the universe conspired to make it happen. I know this because the universe has also helped me in so many ways in the past by conspiring to make great things happen to me. My thoughts literally brought this to life.
I thought of what I wanted and I actually envisioned myself achieving what I wanted and how I would feel. “Ask and you shall receive.” In all fairness, I did get all of the things I had planned done and it did turn out to be quite a productive day. In a roundabout way, I really did get what I wanted and I didn’t have to lie because it was actually the truth!
This is when I realised that I was off balance. I knew the “Law of Attraction” worked and I simply just forgot to be aware of my thoughts. Instead of dreading going to work and thinking up silly things like getting my account compromised, I realized I should be looking at things from another perspective. I should start to imagine the things I do want and only focus on that.
The universe is a funny place, and our thoughts really do create our reality. So why was I thinking of the things I didn’t want and bringing things upon myself that are less than ideal? I took that minor setback as a blessing in disguise. The universe was gently reminding me that I needed to be conscious of my thoughts.
We need to nurture our minds. They are extremely powerful. We need to feed our minds good thoughts and push away the negative feelings of doubt and insecurity. We all have them, we just need to choose whether we want to entertain them. There is a reason why so many successful people talk about the law of attraction. It’s a universal law. We create our realities, so why not make yours a great one?
When you start to think about the things in your life, take a second and evaluate whether what you are thinking is really what you want. Is this thought productive? Is it hurting anyone? Do I really want this to happen? Is this thought necessary? The universe has mysterious ways of delivering. It can be a magical place if you let it. It can also go the other way if you allow it. At the end of the day, it is really up to us. We have a choice. Be careful what you wish for.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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: