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15 Things Everyone Should Stop Doing For A Better Life

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15 Things Everyone Should Stop Doing For A Better Life

“The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed – it is a process of elimination.”
-Elbert Hubbard

My desire to have a better life has been with me for as long as I can remember.  What I believed a “better life” would be for me in my twenties was very different than what I believe a better life is for me now thirty years later. In my twenties, a ‘better life” was focused more on the material things (car, house, clothes), which I believed would make me happy. In reality, looking back at me at 26 years old, those material things probably would have made me happy.

Now a ‘better life” for me is more about living my dream with lots of passion, lots of laughter and love, which of course brings happiness to me. Not a material thing in sight! Even though our definition of what a better life is can change over the years, the steps we take to how we can attain that “better life” doesn’t really change. As Elbert Hubbard said, a sculptor creates the beautiful statue through a process of chipping away the parts of the marble that are not needed. This process of elimination is what we need to take on board as we try to eliminate those things  that we do which prevent us from attaining a “better life for ourselves”.

The list of 15 things to stop doing has no order of priority – only you can decide which of the 15 things are the most important for you to stop doing.  Also, if you do want to create change in your life, get clear on the definition of what a better life is for YOU. This will help you identify the key things that you need to STOP DOING so that you can have a better life.

1. Stop overcomplicating your life. 

Complexity creates confusion and hides solutions in a haze of fog. It is very hard to be creative and innovative when you are bogged down with complexity and detail. Complexity will also prevent you from being open to finding the solutions that are often right in front of you.

 “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”
-Confucius

2. Stop adding BAD stress to your life.

Being too busy, working too hard on things you really don’t like doing, striving for perfection, taking on more responsibilities because you think it makes you feel valued and ending up having too many things to do takes away time for you to JUST BE YOU. Bad stress is harmful to your health and I don’t need to quote all the scientific research that supports how harmful bad stress can be. To be blunt, BAD STRESS over a continuous period of time will KILL YOU – so if you are prone to creating BAD STRESS in your life PLEASE STOP. Figure out WHY you are doing this to yourself and change.

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Stress is not what happens to us. 
It’s our response TO what happens. 
And RESPONSE is something we can choose
-Maureen Killoran

3. Stop regretting your actions from your past, what you haven’t achieved and what you have lost.

The past is over and what is more important is where you are now and where you want to be in the future. All your past experiences, mistakes and failures in your life have prepared you for living your life in the present and in the future. Acknowledge your past and what you have learnt, then let the past go and move forward to the future

“Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it’s only good for wallowing in”
Katherine Mansfield

4. Stop saying you have NO TIME.

Whether it’s to be with a friend, to visit your elderly aunt, to watch the sunset or sunrise, to have a holiday, to read a book, to sleep peacefully, or to go to a funeral, our time is so precious and you will never know when you run out of time. With no time, you can miss the most precious and beautiful moments in your life. With no time, you will put off all the important things you know you should do however choose not to do because you say you have no time.

“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
Lao Tzu

5. Stop choosing to be fearful about the future, about making mistakes, about following your dream, about change.

Fear is paralyzing and it will stop you from making any changes in your life. Your limiting self beliefs will control your thoughts and actions and will fuel your fear. You must deal with these limiting beliefs and know why it is that you are so FEARFUL. Acknowledge your fear and act anyway and I guarantee you will feel liberated and free!

” Fear is a powerful force that somehow does not allow many people to get what they want in Life”
-David Schwartz

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6. Stop procrastinating about all those things you say you want to do but never get around to doing.

Whether it’s taking up a cooking class, learning another language, going back to university, following your dream, writing a book, taking drama or painting classes, go do it. Take a trip to Europe, go to the gym, get fit and lose weight. Figure out what is important to you and what makes you happy and then go do it. I especially love what James Surowiecki says about procrastination!!

“Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle.”
James Surowiecki

7. Stop looking to others for your happiness because your happiness can only come from within you.

When you look to others to make you happy, it is a sign that you are not being true to yourself. It is a dangerous thing to do because we can convince ourselves that being with the people we love does make us happy, however that is only part of the equation to you being happy. The message is pretty clear “only you can make yourself happy” and its important to figure what it is that you need to do to be fulfilled and happy.

“The greatest gift we give to someone who loves us is simply to be happy”
-Robert Brault

8. Stop comparing your life to others because they will have a better life than you and you will always feel miserable.

If you are doing this, then please stop and focus on doing things that build your self confidence and self belief in you.

“Comparison is the death of joy.”
Mark Twain

9. Stop waiting for the right time.

Don’t wait for the “right time” for you to take action, to make the change, to leave your job, to follow your dream, to do what ever it is that you need to do to be happy and have a better life. There never is a right time to be courageous, to initiate change and chase your dreams. If you choose to keep waiting for the right time, accept that your life will pass by and you will never attain that life you desire. Choose not to wait and you will have that life you so desire. Very simple!

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“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have……. And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin”
Shauna Niequist

10. Stop running from your problems and taking the path of least resistance.

This is so easy to do. I use to be the Queen of Running away and looking for the easiest way out of a problem. However, I learnt over the years that the problem will come after you and will be waiting for you at the finish line. Running away from a problem or choosing the easy option does not give you a sense of achievement or make you feel courageous. Life is not perfect and its full of challenges, hard times and bad times. The challenges and problems we have in our lives have to be dealt with, and sometimes we have to be courageous and make difficult decisions.

You get hit the hardest when trying to run or hide from a problem. Like the defence on a football field, putting all focus on evading only one defender is asking to be blindsided.”
Criss Jami

11. Stop spending time with the wrong people as this will sap you of your energy, create friction in your life and get you nowhere.

This is a tough one to manage because there are times in our lives particularly in our work lives where we do come in contact with people who are not good for us. To stop spending time with the wrong people you may need to be quite strategic in how you manage the interaction with them. The goal here is to minimize the impact they have on your life. However, if you choose to spend time with people who are sucking happiness from you, then you need to remove yourself from these relationships. The relationship you have with these people is toxic and will only bring unhappiness to your life.

The worst regret we can have in life is not for the wrong things we did,but for the thousands of right things we did for the wrong people”
-Unknown

12. Stop focusing on what you DONT want to happen – focus on what you DO want to happen.

When you are focusing on what you don’t want to happen, it is a sign that you don’t know what you want in life and you are not committed to making the changes you need to make in order for you to create a better life. There is no desire, no motivation and no vision of your future. If you don’t have these things then all you will do is focus on what can go wrong and how bad it will be for you. Flip the coin – get your life vision sorted, get motivated and commit to making the changes you need to make to have a great life. Once again, its simple, but it requires work and perseverance from you.

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens.”
-Carl Jung 

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13. Stop trying to be someone you are not because you will end up confused about who you are.

You will end up doing things that will be in conflict with your value system. For a period of time you will be able to convince yourself that you have done the right things and you will have all the excuses lined up in your head as to why your actions or behaviour was justified. After a while the feeling of discontentment and unhappiness will rise to the surface and you will have a choice – either ignore it and continue with the feeling of discontent OR stop being that person that you don’t like being. If you stop being that yucky person your life will get better.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

14. Stop putting other people’s needs before yours – spend time getting to know you and look after yourself.

If you are doing this then you are not taking care of your needs and you are being a martyr –  which may not serve you well. Being a martyr to me is about personal sacrifice for the benefit of others and that role is really only for people who have been ordained Saints! Not everybody is a Saint and it doesn’t mean that if you are not a Saint, you are a bad person. Ask yourself “why is it that I sacrifice my needs over those of others?”.The answer may be that, you believe that by putting others needs before yours makes you feel loved?? I read this wonderful book called the FIVE LANGUAGES OF LOVE  and it helped me get perspective on what I need to show and feel love. Here is the website – 5 Love Languages –  go have a look and figure out what it is you need to do to express love and to be loved,

“It is under the greatest adversity that there exists the greatest potential for doing good, both for oneself and others.”
Dalai Lama XIV

15. Stop beating yourself up.

No matter what it is, stop beating yourself up about not being great, not being perfect, being too fat, not being good enough, not being intelligent enough – just stop beating yourself up.

“Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing the answers. You don’t always have to know who you are. You don’t have to have the big picture, or know where you’re heading. Sometimes, it’s enough just to know what you’re going to do next.”
Sophie KinsellaThe Undomestic Goddess

Featured photo credit: Anita Peppers via morguefile.com

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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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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