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10 Things About Swimming That You Can Apply to Your Life

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10 Things About Swimming That You Can Apply to Your Life

Swimming. From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. It took me 27 years of my life to decide to learn to swim. A blatant candid confession, it’s more than the fear of the water (yes it still persists), I couldn’t help ogling at those darned women and men with their perfectly sculpted bodies in beach wear, sand in the hair and long ,unending legs that lead to eternity. And as if all these were not enough to haunt me, there was more. Life brought me to Sweden where kids learn to swim before they actually talk, I mean fluently. All of a sudden, my education, city life began to seem small as I had not yet learned one of the basic lessons of life. So, I packed my newly acquired black swim suit and made a dash to learn one of the important lessons of my life, intensively for 10 lessons. I emerged from the waters, a tad wiser and a swimmer.

Swimming taught me:

1. To be at ease.

Clean blue water lures you, invites you and engulfs you. When I started taking lessons, I would step into the pool, trembling, shaking a bit wondering when will the ordeal end. Damn you, Michael Phelps of the world!  But then, I had two smiling angels, the trainers who were beside me, announce, “we will just feel it, feel the water through our head and body.” Quite a relief. We were asked to dip our heads in water for two seconds and speak out our names. Leg movements were shown and then we were done for the day.

Simple, Just the way life is. Anything initially seems gawky and odd, a job, a relationship or running but then after few weeks, you don’t remember why were you  awkward in the first place.

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2. To let it hurt.

I was having the time of my life. I was in the water, flapping my fins, spluttering like a fish, blue skies everywhere and blue water. Hastily I was woken up by the scorching sun on my face.Oh well; it was a “wet” dream!. Instead I woke up to a sore body, pain in the thighs and heaviness in the head. Later, when I entered the water, all my pains were washed away instantly. Then I learned, my muscles had never been stretched that way before

It’s the same about being acclimatized to things like in life. A heartbreak, passing of loved one, losing a job initially seems like the end of the world, but it’s going to be OK with time.

3. To hang on and float.

Don’t Swim. Just float. Lie down on the water. It is just water. Similarly, life is about keeping yourself afloat. Use your support systems. You won’t drown. Trust yourself and let it flow.

4. To take baby steps.

There is nobody as brave as a baby taking her first non-stop five steps alone from its parent’s hands. We all have been there, haven’t we? Practice till you get better and better but slowly. Of course, jitters happen, but you can’t learn or do everything in one go.

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It has been said a habit takes about three weeks to develop. So it is.The way you go slow in life takes you places.

5. To give yourself some air.

Always concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go. I was doing just OK, but I was not happy with how far I had come from the day I entered the pool. In this skewed perception of my accomplishments, I discounted my efforts and belittled myself! “Give yourself some credit,” my trainer exclaimed. Finally, I realized I had focused on what I had not done, instead of what I had achieved.

In life,  we often shave away our self-confidence by ruminating on our shortcomings, unable to trust in our own abilities. Similarly, recognizing what we’re doing right doesn’t mean we become complacent and stop striving for improvement.

6.To trust yourself but not to push it.

After the initial slips, scares, water in your nose, swallowing it up accidentally, floating and pushing the water with your legs, you can get exasperated. You get frustrated seeing others perform, over-perform and try to excel. Even after a fit of rage you still are who you are. Did the thoughts help? No, it made you feel worse.

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Remember those times that your friends got themselves new bike or a dress and you waited for your job. Sometimes you are going to do or get things at a different speed than other people. You can’t always be the first person to do or get something. Sometimes, somethings will take you longer. And that’s OK.

7.To swim like nobody is watching and to live life the same way.

Sometimes I felt the trainers eyes ogling me or other group members watching when I was not able to stretch my legs? Or I thought about drowning or my simple swimwear. After a while, I realized that I wasted 10 minutes out of the hour in the pool with useless thoughts.

Close your eyes take a deep breath, smile and swim, with all your flaws, awkwardness and beauty. What others think of you should not govern you or the way you lead your life, let alone swimming.

8. To learn it when you are on your own.

There’s an old adage: “The sensation of drowning reminds you of everything you ever knew about swimming.” The real test is the first time on your own. No support system, no trainer to watch you like a hawk – you are on your own.You may cough, take in too much water, freak out, panic, or even curse like a maniac initially.Then after your panic has died down, you just dive in and take the plunge .

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In life, you learn most things while you are struggling with day to day things outside of the comfort of your own home. Remember the time, you were finding a place and asked a passerby for directions and it didn’t help you much. Then, finally you opened up your own mind (or Google maps) and you found your way!

9. To let it go.

“I demolish my bridges behind me…then there is no choice but to move forward.” – Fridtjof Nansen

With each step that you stretch ahead in the water, leave one thing that you hate behind. Don’t drown yourself but drown your inner demons, pasts and the old monkey in your closet. Just let it go and move forward. There is so much more to be accomplished and to be seen.

10.To stretch beyond your limits.

Kick some ass! Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius. With each lesson that ends, you learn something new and the next day you are hungry for more.You will never know how much you can stretch if you just don’t try. So shed your inhibitions, swim, and fly beyond your horizons.

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This life is like a swimming pool. You dive into the water, but you can’t see how deep it is. It is remarkable how much analogy in life is related to swimming. The calm before the storm. Swim against the tide. Swimming upstream. Up a creek without a paddle. In and out of the swim of things. Sink or swim. Be in the swim of things.

Featured photo credit: Synchronized swimming via bhmpics.com

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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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