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10 Life Lessons You Should Never Believe In

10 Life Lessons You Should Never Believe In
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As you go through life you probably encounter many different life lessons.  Some are very good pieces of advice and you should follow them.  But, some life lessons turn out to be false and you should be aware of the folly of following these life lessons.  Here are 10 examples of life lessons you should never believe.

1.  You should always follow your passion.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams calls passion “bull.”  The writer Dan Pink says the he “detests” the question “What is your passion?”  Following your passion is a common piece of career advice but not especially helpful when trying to figure out what you should pursue as a business or a career.  Instead, Dan Pink suggests focusing on what you actually do.  When you’re not at work, what do you do just for fun?  What are you good at?  What are you willing to put your effort into?  As Scott Adams points out, rather that passion causing success, “success causes passion.”

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2.  You need to do well in school to insure success.

Yes, school is important but what you soon discover after you graduate and begin looking for a job is that no one cares very much about what courses you took or what grades you received.  What counts is the skills you actually have and that you can show evidence for these skills.  Getting an “A” in a management course means less than demonstrating your management skills.  Having done well in school what you will discover is that it will often take more than that to succeed.

3.  You can’t teach an “Old Dog” new tricks.

Most people have heard that as you grow older it becomes more and more difficult to learn new things.  If you want to learn a foreign language you should start when you are young.  If you want to learn how to use new technology it helps to be young.  But, research on the brain and learning indicate that this is simply untrue.  The brain has a phenomenal ability to adapt and learn even as you grown older and the more you learn the better the brain can continue to learn and adapt.

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4.  You have to believe in yourself.

In order to achieve your goals and your dreams you have probably been told that you have to believe in yourself.  The essence of much self-help advice is that there is a power in positive thinking.  Affirmations are also based on this idea that you must visualize in a positive way the goals you wish to achieve.  But, as the author Dan Pink has pointed out, research seems to show that there is actually greater value in cultivating some self-doubt.  So, instead of confidently stating “I can” begin by asking yourself “Can I?”  This will put you in a better overall mindset for success.

5.  Life “back then” was better than it is today.

Ahh, the “good old days.”  Life was better back then.  But, nostalgia often blinds us to just what the reality was in those days gone by.  However far back you go in the past you can find indicators that things were not, in fact, as good as today.  Life expectancy is a good example.  The incidence of deaths from infections, childbirth, even the flu were much higher.  People had to spend more time acquiring food, clothing, and shelter and the rate of poverty was much higher than today.  As we look back to the past we often forget these realities which makes it seem as if life were better “back then.”

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6.  Getting ________ will make you happy.

Many people base their happiness on acquiring things.  The new house or the new car will make you happier than the one you have now.  But, once the novelty of having that new thing wears off, your happiness will return to its former level.  Or worse, you will discover that there is a newer thing to acquire and now you need to base your happiness on acquiring that thing.  In that case you have gotten on the “hedonic treadmill.”  You work harder and acquire more things but are still not any happier.

7.  You need another person to “complete” you.

We all have the image of love as somehow finding someone to complete us.  But, this presupposes that you cannot be a complete person without that other and that is not true.  It can also lead us to commit some to someone who may end up being wrong for us just to avoid being “incomplete.”  But, each one of us is a unique, complete human being on our own.  Being in love and sharing your life with someone special are wonderful gifts, but you should not view yourself or your life as incomplete if you are single.

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8.  Practice makes perfect.

For most skills improvement requires practice.  By some estimates it can take up to 10,000 hours to really master a skill such as playing a musical instrument or being a competitive athlete.  What can make this work seem so frustrating is that the “perfection” which is promised never arrives.  In fact, practice does not and cannot make you perfect at anything because perfection is an impossible to reach standard.  As the saying goes, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”  We often use our failure to achieve perfection as a reason to stop trying at all.  Practice does lead to improvement and should be valued for that reason alone.  Set aside perfection and work on being good.

9.  Once I finish _________, I’ll have more time.

Everyone has probably said this at one time or another whether it is about something at school or work.  But, what you soon learn is that the free time you see in the future is always receding because once you finish your current project you’ll end up with another and then another.  As long as you focus on finishing things you will never end up with the free time you plan on having.  The key to breaking this cycle lies with not starting things.

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10.  You can be anything you want if you work hard enough.

We are often taught some variation of this idea from an early age.  But, it ignores an important part of life: limits.  These limits are not necessarily a bad thing.  Creativity arises out of limitations as artists struggle against the constraints of their medium and skill.  Hard work can take you far but it cannot guarantee your success in everything you try.  Because of my physical limitations I will never play football in the NFL.  Because of my artistic limitations I will never play in Carnegie Hall.  Recognizing one’s limits actually liberates you from the burden of being able to do everything and focus on what you can do.  Ultimately, the fact that our life is limited is what allows us to give it meaning.  If you lived forever what would it matter what you did or when?  Likewise, if you really could be anything, what you chose to do would have less meaning.

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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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