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10 Warning Signs that You are Going to Give Up

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10 Warning Signs that You are Going to Give Up

It’s been a year of highs and lows. I decided to move to a new country for my research, I attempted to write a master’s thesis, I tried to find an awesome internship, and I tried to maintain a relationship.

One of these four failed, because I was giving up.

Looking back, I can see how that happened but in the moment I hadn’t noticed the decision to throw the towel in creeping up on me. I failed to adequately write my master’s thesis, and even though all I had to do was pay a relatively small amount of money to extend for another few months, my pride almost let me drop out. My friends and family pulled me back from the brink, and now I am solidly on track to getting my paper done and the future looks bright again.

It’s seems out of character for me to give up, but I almost did. What were the warning signs?

  1. Spending less and less time thinking about my project.
  2. Finding a bunch of unnecessary tasks to replace working on it.
  3. Seeing it as a burden rather than an investment in my future.
  4. Beginning to list justifications for not doing it.
  5. Rationalising that in fact I had achieved all the things I wanted to get with it (the job, the city, the apartment) without even graduating, therefore I didn’t need to accomplish it.
  6. Telling myself how thousands of others also decide to drop out, so it wasn’t a big deal
  7. Calculating that it was a risky financial decision.
  8. Convincing myself that I had been overambitious in thinking I could get this qualification, and that I should accept my academic abilities for being lesser than I thought.
  9. Not caring about the quality of my work.
  10. Brushing it off in conversation as unimportant, rather than speaking about it enthusiastically and with pride.

Let’s discuss these points a little more.

1. “Spending less and less time thinking about it.”

During the first few months, I was excited. This was something new, something challenging. However, when the scope of the project started to become apparent and I had underestimated the preparation necessary, it became a monolithic task, a mountain I could not climb. So, to prevent panic, I stopped thinking about it and distracted myself by working more, watching more TV and even listening to music at night so my brain would be forced not to mull over the roadblocks I had encountered.

SOLVED!

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To remind myself constantly that it wasn’t over yet, I placed books and notepads around the room, and notifications on my computer so that I forced myself to think about it.

2. “Finding a bunch of unnecessary tasks to replace working on it.”

Essentially, this is procrastination. I went so far as to take some floorboards out from under the kitchen work area to clean under them! I was too “busy” to spend time researching and writing. I was caught up with trying to do interviews for jobs, even though in reality I had plenty of spare hours to get some school work done. Ironically, these were jobs requiring a masters degree. There was never “enough” time when I could find ten other things that “needed” doing.

SOLVED!

To stop this silliness, I made a strict list of tasks that truly needed doing ordered by priority. Everything else got ignored.

3. “Seeing it as a burden rather than an investment in my future.”

The project became the enemy, the barrier to my happiness, that which sapped my free time and finances. Imagining the future benefits of putting in the hard work now became foggy and I began to wonder why I had bothered to put myself under so much pressure. Wan’t it more important to have my health and happiness, rather than trying to chip away at this endless task? I had forgotten why I had spent three years considering a masters, choosing a masters, the tense application process, the joy of admission, the things I had learnt in the classes leading up to the writing of the dissertation. I had forgotten how I had been spurred to do this by wanting to challenge myself to my limits, to open my mind up, to acquire deeper thinking, to be better placed in the competitive job market.

SOLVED!

I remembered that I would end up exactly where I had started a year ago, and that jolted me out of this apathy.

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4. “Beginning to list justifications for not doing it.”

It’s giving me sleepless nights. It’s depressing me. It’s too hard. I don’t need it. I want my weekends for myself, not for writing and reading and compiling data. I am not able to do it. I suck.

SOLVED!

Arrange a time management plan to balance study, work and free time. Ask for advice from everyone possible, don’t do it alone. As for thinking that you suck? Come on – you would not have gotten into the program in the first place if that were true.

5. “Rationalising that in fact I had achieved all the things I wanted to get with it (the internship, the city, the apartment) without even graduating, therefore I didn’t need to accomplish it.”

There were many reasons carefully thought-out over the years as to why doing a masters was the right choice. I needed a career change, and without relevant work experience or qualifications in another industry I was unlikely to move out of teaching. I tried for full-time and part-time jobs in marketing and PR, to no avail. I wanted a higher salary, and a job that used more of my creativity. Mostly, I wanted to work with adults. This meant that study was the only path left open to me, as continuing as a teacher was, to me, worse than the all seven levels of Dante’s hell. Due to a series of fortunate events during my thesis research period, I ended up with the dream job and a great apartment in an awesome city. So why bother completing the course?

SOLVED!

Reputation is important. If you don’t want accusations of not finishing your work. Also, it seemed such a waste to throw away a year’s work without the piece of paper to hang on the wall at the end…

6. “Telling myself how thousands of others also decide to drop out, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

Tons of people do it! They just walk out without a care in the world and take on the challenge of life. Many role-models of mine who went from a small innovative idea to massive success tell the tale of not completing school. Education is just one pathway to learning.

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SOLVED!

Don’t do something just because “everyone else” appears to be doing it. That’s just dumb. Think about what you really lose/gain from making this decision. I just needed three more months and I’d have a masters forever. I have no idea what the future holds and maybe that title will make a difference. If not? Hey, it was only one year and I’m proud of the personal achievement.

7. “Calculating that it was a risky financial decision.”

This was the hardest one to argue against. The grand plan had been to end the internship coinciding with the submission of my dissertation, and moving to working full-time with the company. My savings were gone but I had prepared for that and expected to earn a living again within one month of finishing. This all went up in the air when I had to add three months to the study period. How was I going to ask my family for more support? How was I going to pay the extra fees? How would I pay everyone back?

SOLVED!

My situation does not apply to everyone, but I solved it mainly by swallowing my pride and asking for help. I also had developed a good rapport with my internship colleagues, who were thoroughly understanding when I told them I would need more time to finish. Although it means a little more debt, in the long run, it is a drop in the ocean.

8. “Convincing myself that I had been overambitious in thinking I could get this qualification, and that I should accept my academic abilities for being lesser than I thought.”

I have always believed in pushing myself to bolder and higher challenges, rarely saying no to a task and usually succeeding. I enjoyed the feeling of success and the knowledge gained from each encounter. I also learned to accept some levels of failure. But this failure hit me really hard, for whatever reason. Perhaps the exhaustion of combining a 40-hour a week internship, managing marketing for a film festival and general housework was too much when you had a research paper to do on top of it all. In my mind, not being able to manage all of these tasks successfully meant that I was a failure, stupid and had finally encountered my glass ceiling.

SOLVED!

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It overlaps a little with earlier issues. Essentially, managing your time and delegating tasks when you can is important. It WILL get done. Remember you can’t be optimally productive when you are stretched too thin.

9. “Not caring about the quality of my work.”

This is where I really noticed myself starting to slide. I stopped carefully editing and re-editing. I didn’t care to check my references strictly, thinking, “Oh, who’s going to notice?” They did notice: a disjointed story, a fragmented structure, a poor argument. It was impossible to ignore but in my head it somehow seemed enough to “get by.” Since when had that ever been a motto of mine?

SOLVED!

Make sure to have trusted people around you be completely honest when they see your work suffer. Listen to their advice, which could be “take a break”, “do something else for a few days”, or “let’s sit back and discuss what your original project was and how it has deviated”. Becoming over-involved in just one project can blind you to staggeringly obvious flaws. Step away, and get a second opinion.

10. “Brushing it off in conversation as unimportant, rather than speaking about it enthusiastically and with pride.”

When I started my research I absolutely loved telling people about it, describing what I hoped to find out, and where I was going to do it. After the first three months as the brick wall was built higher and higher I began to see only the barriers and not the breakthroughs. I got embarrassed at my lack of amazing original research and how I seemed unable to make sense of the mountain of data I had diligently collected and processed. In order to feel less devastated by this situation, I stopped talking about it in a positive way, and then stopped talking about it at all. The less I cared the less it hurt.

SOLVED!

When I started being open about the state of affairs, it was a relief to hear how many people went through the same experience and had lots of helpful advice to offer. There is no shame in experiencing some difficulty along the path – nobody is going to look down on you for needing more time and a little help in order to achieve your goals. Better to open up and find an answer than to shut down and let the problem become stagnant.

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Andrea Francis

Andrea loves being productive and getting things done. She shares practical tips to help people achieve what they want in life.

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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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