For anyone who is seeking to improve themselves, achieve better results in life or engage in meaningful personal development, there is one fundamental question to ask yourself: what is my life purpose? The answer is, in fact, of incredible importance, as it becomes the foundation for all other activities you will undertake in your life. The answer will become your compass. It will guide your activities, provide meaning to your life and cure boredom and dissatisfaction.
Successful business leaders know that to achieve incredible results in that business, they had better understand the purpose of that business. If you’re looking to realize incredible results from your life, shouldn’t you have a purpose, too?
Where does my life purpose come from?
No one is waiting to hand you your life purpose. You choose it. This is hugely empowering and an awesome revelation. Your life purpose will serve as the basis for how you lead your life. Your goals and actions will all be aligned with your life purpose. Your behaviors, values, choices and joy will all also work in concert with your life purpose. So choose wisely.
Despite the incredible impact of having a tremendous life purpose, there is not a sure-fire way to develop the best possible life purpose statement for everyone. As well, life purposes can and should change over time. Therefore, this is an individual exercise, allowing you to be creative and choose one that works for you. The method that works for you now may not be best for your friends. It may also not be best for a future version of you. For this reason, this article offers 7 ways to create your life purpose.
Get ready to make some lists. Target each list to have somewhere between 50 and 101 entries.
1. Make a list of activities that make you happy
“True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller
The more you live your life working toward larger meaning and purpose, the happier you will be. Accordingly, what makes you happy is therefore a clue to what your particular purpose in life is. Write out a list of what makes you truly happy and blissful. By partaking in this exercise and regularly reviewing the list, your life purpose may jump out at you.
Success follows happiness.
“Thanks to this cutting-edge science, we now know that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result.” – Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
2. Make a list of what has made you feel excited to get out of bed
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Here’s another list to make. Think back through your life, back to when you were a child. Find those times in your life when you stayed up late passionately involved with something, only to wake up bright-eyed and excited to start again. Write down as long of a list as possible and review it regularly. As with number 1, expect to find commonality and get closer to your life’s purpose.
3. Ask why you’re unique
If your life purpose is chosen by you, specifically for you, and can and should be different than everyone else’s, you had better play to your strengths. What are you very good at relative to other people? Don’t worry if they’re silly items or less valuable in the eyes of others. This is you.
4. Define your perfect existence
Assuming no limitations, what would your perfect life look like? Write out your dream story. If everything was perfect, what would your life look like in 10 years? Who is in your life? Where are you living? How do you contribute to society?
5. Plug into the rest of the world
True happiness does not come from being self-centered. Your life purpose needs to include meaningful contribution to those around you. Who do you want to help? How do you want to help them? Teaching? Charity of time? Charity of money? How can your unique strengths benefit others?
“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” – Stephen R. Covey
6. Watch Yale Alumn and Entertainment Media Partners CEO Adam Leipzig tell you how to bring this all together and determine your life purpose in 5 minutes
7. Narrow down the lists
”Success demands singleness of purpose.” – Vince Lombardi
If you’ve followed these steps, you’ve built an impressive list of clues that will help you find your life purpose. Now, assign a task to your subconscious. Ask it to sift through all of this date and pull out the common thread. Don’t rush this. Allow your brain to do its work and return a tremendous answer to you.
This article has provided you with a set of tools to help you as you embark on the journey of learning your life’s purpose. With your life purpose in hand, you’ll re-invigorate your life. You’ll have focus, excitement, and happiness. I believe you can expect physical benefits as well.
“The physical gains of reaching this deeper self are real. They are lower blood pressure, a decrease in heart rate, a lower rate of respiration, reduced levels of cortisol and a boost to the immune system.” – Robert Lomas, PhD
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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: