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11 Small Things Anyone (Including You!) Can Do to Make the World Better

11 Small Things Anyone (Including You!) Can Do to Make the World Better

Do you believe you’re too small to change the world? You have much more potential than you realize! Take a look at these 11 little (but important!) things that you can do to make a difference today.

1. Smile. 

It’s amazing how much a smile can make a difference in any interactions — that’s why we are told to smile before we pick up the phone! When we dig way down, we find that everyone just wants to be happy, and a smile shows just that. Smiles are contagious. What better way to spread happiness to tons of people? It doesn’t cost any money, and it’s not touchy like a hug. So, flash those pearly whites to whoever crosses your path. And if you’re just not feeling it, you know what they say: “Fake it ’til you make it!” If you smile long enough, you’ll find you can’t help feeling great.  (And to take this even farther — laugh!)

2. Listen.

This is such a biggie in this fast-paced, I-don’t-have-time-for-that world. We lend people our “ear,” but are we really listening? To be a good listener, put all of your to-do’s and opinions on the back burner and still your mind. When the person is done, respond with some of what they said, so they know that you were giving your full attention. Not so easy! But it can make a huge difference. A lot of people just want to be heard — we all have a story to tell, and we all want to feel understood. This one may take a few minutes of your time, but if you can make the effort, you can make a world of difference to another individual.

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3. Pick up after yourself.

A clear space keeps a mind clear and just looks and feels better. Have a regular place for things and keep the table and counter surfaces clear. Keep it clean outside, too. Keep your litter in the garbage can, and pick up that water bottle or soda can that someone else left behind. Know that you’re beautifying the space for yourself and others, showing that you care about your environment. How about when you’re out to eat? My family likes to stack up the menus for the waiter so they don’t have to reach around everybody at the table. We’ll sometimes stack up and pass over our plates, too. It shows you care and leaves the wait staff more time to take good care of you and the other customers. And when you’re visiting? Clean up when you’re hanging out or at a party. Offer to help take things down or clean up, and maybe even do the dishes! Work gets done faster with many hands, and an easier cleanup might encourage a host to throw another party!

4. Open the door for someone.

I think it’s so sweet when there’s a double-door situation, and the person going out and the person going in are both holding the door for each other! This is a wonderful, easy way to make someone feel special. Take that extra minute and that little bit of humility and let the other person go through first. It doesn’t matter if the person is male or female, young or old, in a wheelchair or on crutches, or toting a few kids in a stroller — it’s a wonderful gesture for any person.

5. Pay for the person behind you.

This one does involve a little cash, but it’s a wonderful, appreciated surprise when you are able to do it. And it can be as small as a toll or cup of coffee. Think about all the times you’ve had to stand or sit in line. Now think about how much you’ve hated it! Imagine finally getting to the front and then finding out someone has taken care of you. This is a powerful way to start a chain of “paying it forward.”

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6. Say please and thank you (and mean it!).

I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but it can’t be over-applied. However, it’s sometimes overlooked in service situations and in giving commands. Even if someone is serving you as part of a job, say, “Thank you.” When you are directing someone, say, “Please.” I found as a teacher that I had much better rapport with my students when I said: “Johnny, please close the door,” rather than “Johnny, close the door.” Thank the waiter for pouring you more water and for clearing your plate. Thank the cashier for handing you your bags and receipt. Yes, they have to do it —  but it’s all the better when people appreciate it.

7. Learn names and use them.

“Say my name.” They say everyone’s favorite word is their own name. When you use a person’s name you show that 1) you listened, 2) you cared enough to remember, and 3) you recognize that person’s individuality. Of course, you wouldn’t use it in every sentence, but do use it in your greeting, and throw it in here and there — then, watch the other person light up like a firefly!

8. Give encouragement.

One of my favorite teacher gifts is a small plaque that has this quote: “The finest gift you can give anyone is encouragement. Almost no one gets the encouragement they need to grow to their full potential. If everyone received the encouragement they needed to grow, the genius in most everyone would blossom and the world would prosper beyond its wildest dreams.” How powerful encouragement is! Encouragement can be anything from a simple observational compliment, to a “You can do it!” to an “I believe in you,” and even an “I love you.” The best leaders use more encouragement than criticism. The best parents and educators teach through positive reinforcement, as well as negative. And the very best encouragement we can give is sharing our unconditional acceptance and love of an individual, through all time and all circumstances.

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9. Take time for yourself.

This may sound more greedy than giving, but it’s not. Think about those times when you’ve just needed to recharge, but instead you chose to push on. You spent that extra hour. You did that extra event. How did you feel afterward? Were you really giving your full attention to that activity, to those people? This is why good businesses give their employees extra breaks and extra vacation time. We are more productive when we have a chance to relax and just be for a bit. Give yourself your full attention for a while so that you can be fully present (or attentive) for others later. Read your favorite book, take a nice shower or bath, meditate, go for that walk, or take yourself out — whatever takes your fancy! Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you are also important. It’s not selfish — it’s actually selfish not to!

10. Be a giver and a receiver.

First — simply put — when you can give, give. The world has a circular ebb and flow, and generosity has a way of coming back to you. This doesn’t just mean money; all of the above suggestions are different ways of giving. Holding back stops the flow. Giving starts it up again.

Just as important — receive! If you don’t accept gifts from others, you are also cutting off the stream. Every giver needs a receiver, or they can’t be a giver. If someone smiles at you, take that in and smile back! Give someone a chance to listen to you, to serve you, to open the door for you, to pay for you, to thank you, and to encourage you. Let yourself feel great for the attention, and let that other person enjoy being able to do something for another.

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11. Be yourself.

The greatest gift you can give to the world is being your true self. We get so lost in who others and society want us to be that we forget who we really are. Your presence is a gift, and you are here on this earth for a reason. Invest in discovering who you really are — what do you think, what are your passions, what excites you? And then share with the world. Giving yourself permission to be yourself allows others to do the same. Imagine how much easier and more pleasant life would would be if people would spend less time forcing themselves to be what others wanted them to be and could spend more time being who they actually are, doing what they really want to do? It can start with you!

Are you ready to make a difference? Start today!

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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)

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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