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5 Things Commander Shepard Taught Me About Perseverance

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5 Things Commander Shepard Taught Me About Perseverance

Ah, Commander Shepard. What made him such an inspiring game character? I think it was the fact that he never gave up. Whether it was against Saren, Sovereign, Harbinger, or the Illusive Man, he always brought his best. For fans of the games, this is true whether you went down the paragon or renegade road. One (usually the latter) just got it done with a bit more, ahem, death and destruction. So, what did Shepard and his story teach me about maintaining the kind of perseverance that leads to success? I’ll let you know below

1. You Don’t Have To Be Anybody Special.

I mean sure, Shepard was a member of the elite N7 special forces and he later became a Spectre, but in relation to the people who either followed him or wanted him dead, he might as well have been just another guy off the street. To me, Commander Shepard was the archetypal “leader.” He had the ability to make key decisions and deal with the consequences. He wasn’t the best shot on his team; that title goes to Garrus. He wasn’t the best assassin; that would probably go to Thane. Nor was he the strongest (Wrex), or the smartest (Liara or Mordin), or even the best soldier (Zaeed or maybe Grunt). His companions, taken individually, were each better at their specialty than Shepard was. What made Shepard special, besides his leadership ability, was his tendency to put his own drama aside to deal with his friends. So, while each member of his squad may have been better than him on a singular basis, it was Shepard himself who ensured that all of the pieces fit. It was he who allowed Wrex and Garrus and Tali and Legion to work together. I think that’s a pretty good lesson to take with you into real life. While you may not be the best at anything, you can still go incredibly far by being a good person, someone who brings folks together rather than pushes them apart. Couple that with decent leadership skills, and you might just make a future for yourself.

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2. You Should Rely On Your Friends.

As much as I pumped up Shepard’s ability to be the shoulder to cry on for all of those around him, it was often a two way street. Without his friends, there’s no way he could have accomplished anything, probably best revealed by the end of Mass Effect 2, where you literally fail the mission if you didn’t put enough time into growing and cultivating your squad. Often, the best way to persevere through life’s most turbulent curve balls is not to try and take it on all by yourself, but to mitigate the blow by spreading it amongst you and your loved ones. I don’t mean to say that you should try and transfer all of your pain and suffering onto someone else and make it their burden too, but that you should always seek out advice and support from those you trust. As Shepard taught us, you aren’t the best at everything, or perhaps even at anything, and thus it behooves you to grow friendships in order to make up for your deficiencies. While something may seem catastrophic to you, your friend might have just the right tools to help you get your life back in gear. Just make sure they’re not too busy working on some calibrations to help you out.

3. Don’t Let Your Doubts Keep You From Your Goals.

While the Shepard in Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 was relatively confident (for the most part), the third game revealed more of his doubts to us, which makes sense seeing as it was by far the most apocalyptic in the trilogy. Even still, when everything was crashing down around him (literally most of the time), he managed to stay focused on immediate goals. When Earth fell, he went straight to looking for a super weapon that might destroy the Reapers. When the Illusive Man turned against him, Shepard immediately began planning how to bring about his demise. Nightmares plagued Shepard throughout the third game, but he didn’t let them distract him from the endgame. In life, we often let our intangible doubts keep us from accomplishing real things. Shepard had the enviable trait of being able to acknowledge those doubts and carry on anyways, come what may. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I strive to keep a similar mindset everyday and so should you.

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4. You Can Recover From Crushing Defeats.

In case you forgot, Commander Shepard died at the beginning of Mass Effect 2. Luckily for all of us, he was brought back to life thanks to the magic of science fiction medicine and lots of money. Not only did he die, but as a consequence he lost his ship and most of his crew from Mass Effect 1. Most people would take such a crushing blow as a sign to slow their roll a bit, but the revived Shepard forged on ahead anyways. I’m not sure if I’ve experienced anything I would call a crushing blow yet, but I have had my share of losses. It can be incredibly tough to see past your failures and move on towards the future, but those who can are better able to make up for past mishaps. In Shepard’s case, he used his defeats as a form of motivation. When he lost his ship, he didn’t call it quits. He got a new ship and a new crew, and took the fight directly to the party responsible for his initial defeat, destroying their ship and their base in the process. I’m not saying that you should go out of your way to crush everything responsible for your defeats. While that might be appropriate in some cases, in others it will suffice to just keep trying to accomplish what you failed to do in the first place. Though if you do happen to get the opportunity to tell off a few of the folks who have prevented your ascension to the top, be my guest and have at it!

5. Never Let “The Powers That Be” Dictate Your Journey.

We as a species are incredibly and hypocritically complex. On the one hand, we want our freedom and individuality. On the other, we often like being told what to do or being given direction of some sort. Otherwise, why would we have politicians, managers, bosses, etc. While they certainly have their uses, it’s also important to maintain your own identity, to not let those above you completely control your destiny. Shepard expertly straddled the line between willful disobedience and loyal employee. He didn’t take any crap from his superiors, and when they ordered him to do something ridiculous or illogical, he’d tell them off and get the job done his way. The right way. On the other hand, he never truly disobeyed his superiors, always completing the tasks they truly wanted him to accomplish. Shepard’s recalcitrant attitude towards those with dictatorial personalities certainly served him well. Had he blindly listened to all of the blustering words that spewed out of the mouths of the Council, Sovereign, the Illusive Man, Harbinger, and the Catalyst, there’s no doubt he would have failed in his mission.

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While there were multiple possible endings to Mass Effect 3, I like to believe that the “destroy” ending is the canonical one, because it shows Shepard going against the will of a supposedly superior being one last time, defeating the reapers once and for all, and miraculously surviving the experience. Shepard knew when to follow orders, and he knew when he was getting his chain yanked by untrustworthy entities concerned only for their own gain. That is something you must be on the lookout for in your life as well. Be a good soldier when necessary, but don’t be taken advantage of. While you might not save the galaxy like Shepard did, you’ll certainly be more successful as a result of your ability to persevere in pursuing the things that you know are right for you.

And with that, as Commander Shepard would say, “I should go.”

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Featured photo credit: Mass Effect 3/ dennisvillanueva84 via flickr.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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