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10 Questions That Will Unlock Your Potential

10 Questions That Will Unlock Your Potential
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Do you ever feel like you have the potential to do great things with your life, but just aren’t sure how to start? I know that feeling very well, as it’s taken me years of reflection to figure out what activities make me feel happy and fulfilled. I hope this article will give you a gentle shove in the right direction. Simply answer these ten questions to unlock your potential.

1. If I could write a letter to the 2004 version of myself, what would it say?

Let’s pretend that you are living in the future and have been handed the opportunity to write a letter to the 2004 version of yourself. I’m not going to offer you any further direction as I feel this exercise will be more powerful if I don’t lead you one way or another, but just in case you’re curious, here’s what I would say to the 2004 (17 year-old) version of myself:

Dear Teenage Dan,

You’re feeling a bit nervous right now, but take a deep breath and do the scary thing, because it’ll be worth it. I know the idea of getting on a stage and performing a play in front of everybody in high school makes you feel like fainting, but you’re going to walk away more confident and comfortable in who you are.

Also, congrats on that 30 pounds you lost playing DDR (Dance, Dance, Revolution), but a word of warning: you’re going to go to college, where there is a buffet available 24/7, eat away your feelings, and gain every bit of that back. To save yourself a lot of trouble, I would recommend writing about what you’re dealing with so you can cope with things in a positive way. But hey, even if you don’t, it’s okay, because later you’re going to discover that lifting weights is awesome, and get super strong/built, so no big deal.

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Never stop dreaming big, no matter what other people say and think. Yes, listen to feedback from others, but don’t get caught up in any negative opinions that aren’t accompanied with positive input; because without that, it’s a waste of your time.

Oh, I almost forgot… In a couple years, someone is going to offer you your first shot of tequila at a college party. Just because you feel “okay” after that first shot does not mean you should immediately drink four more. I know you’re still young-and-innocent, but just trust me on this one, it’s a very bad idea.

<3

-Dan from the Future

If you’re feeling brave, tell us what your letter would say in the comments! 

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2. If I could only accomplish one thing before I die, what would that be?

Not two, three, or four things: what one thing do you want to achieve, accomplish, or experience more than anything else? Once you figure that out, pursue it with every ounce of hustle you’ve got, because life is too precious for regret.

3. What are the top three things that make me feel happy and fulfilled?

This could be training, coaching or teaching other people; writing books, blogs or articles; spending time with your children, partner or loved ones; enjoying nature activities like hiking, camping or rafting; or maybe you’re a wandering soul who wants to travel to all of the places. Figure out your top three things, and build your schedule around them for a happier existence.

4. What are the top three things that distract me from enjoying my life?

Being interrupted by buzzing, chirping and ringing every time you get a text or call? Turn your phone off unless your children are at school, or you’re expecting a very important call (otherwise it can wait, I promise, voicemail exists for a reason).

So stressed out by your job that you can’t find the energy to think about anything else? Find another one (or even better, start your own biz).

Constantly subjected to a chorus of negative thoughts that make you feel like a failure or loser? See below.

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5. Am I in control of my thoughts, or am I at the mercy of them?

If your thoughts are negative and nasty, then you can’t expect your life to be positive and pleasant. Reality is a funny thing, as there isn’t exactly a single one of them, but rather we all live in our own realities that are influenced by our beliefs, thoughts, and ideas. You can’t expect success in life if you keep telling yourself you will never amount to anything, aren’t “good enough”, or don’t deserve to be happy. If you’d like to defeat the Mental Monsters that limit you, this might help.

6. Am I in control of my eating decisions, or am I at the mercy of them?

Just like your thoughts influence your perception of reality, your eating decisions influence your mood and energy levels. Happy, healthy people consciously choose to eat foods that make them feel alert, focus, and energetic. Unhappy, unhealthy people unconsciously allow their mood and social surroundings to dictate their eating decisions. I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “good” or “bad” food, because every person has their own individual needs… but if it makes you feel bad, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. If you’d like to improve your relationship with food, this might be useful

7. What strengths did I use to achieve three major goals in my life?

Think about three of the biggest achievements of your life. That could be graduating college, getting a raise or promotion, landing your first “real job,” getting published for the first time, or (insert your thing here). Now, think about what personal strengths you used to achieve those things. See any trends? If so, the road that leads to success is right in front of you.

8. How can I use those strengths more often?

While it is sometimes important to correct a weakness if it causes a significantly negative effect to your performance, it is often much easier and less time-consuming to simply play to your strengths in a way that make your weaknesses completely irrelevant. Write down the strengths you came up with in the question above, put them somewhere you will see them daily, and keep asking yourself, “How can I use those strengths today?”

9. Why should I care what other people think about me?

If you spend all of your days consumed in concerns about what other people think about you, then you’re going to be too stressed out and depressed to take the action necessary for improving your life. It is better to have a small number of true friends you trust, than a large number of phony friends who don’t love and accept you as you are.

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10. Why do I exist?

I know that question is a lot to wrap your head around (that just so happens to be why I saved it for the end), but nonetheless, it is something you need to think about. Look at it this way: if a person was giving a speech about you at your funeral, what would you want them to say? Or, if someone was to write a biography about you after your death, what would you hope it would say?

I hope answering these questions helps you unlock your potential for more success in life. I’d love to know how this exercise worked for you, so please tell us in the comments.

 

Featured photo credit: Meditation/M. Dolly via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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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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