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Five Baby Steps to Escape Your Comfort Zone

Five Baby Steps to Escape Your Comfort Zone
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Turn on the news any night of the week and you will see a million reasons to be afraid. Your food is poisoned. There are chemicals in the tap water. Sunshine causes cancer. The terrorists are waiting at your front door. You will be molested at the airport if you dare to travel far. It has become common knowledge that everything down to the air you breathe is potentially harmful.

What they won’t tell you on TV is that your comfort zone is killing you faster than all of these things combined. Plenty of people are out there living life to its fullest, but you can’t see them from your living room. It’s never too late to get off the couch and start making up for lost time. Be careful, because the difference between life inside your personal bubble and out in the real world is going to be huge. It is best to start with baby steps if you want to make it all the way through without turning back. Here are a few little things you can do to get started on the most important journey of your life.

Take Inventory of Your Boundaries

Doing things differently often starts with thinking differently. Try to think about everything you have always wanted to do. Then, think about what is really stopping you. How many of your boundaries are serving you effectively? Are there things you won’t do? Think about why. Be totally honest when you are examining these things, and don’t be afraid to admit it when you find something completely irrational at the core of a dearly held belief.

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Irrational beliefs don’t make you wrong; they make you human. However, nothing is going to change if you cannot recognize your own inconsistencies. You must be willing to re-examine the boundaries you have drawn based on faulty beliefs if you want to move past irrationality. Upon digging deep enough, you will probably find that YOU are the biggest thing stopping you from having the life that you want. It is time to get out of your way, and you cannot do that if you continue to obey self-imposed boundaries that are based on unfounded or irrational beliefs.

Identify and Face Your Fears

Make a list of all your fears and phobias. Much like you did with your boundaries, think about where each is rooted. Some fears are based on trauma or experience, and some are based on lack of information. You may notice that some fears exist without any reason to speak of. If you have never thought about things this way before, you will probably find yourself with many fears that are quite irrational. Try to differentiate your well-founded fears from those which are based on feeble premises, like hearsay or lack of proper understanding. Then think about all the perfectly harmless things you have been avoiding because of these fears. Once you have done this, start facing them one by one. Start with the weakest justifications and move backwards from there. By the time you reach your biggest, realest fears you should have a few victories under your belt.

Let’s take spiders, for instance. When you ask the average arachnophobe why he is afraid of spiders, he will usually say something along the lines of “they are just creepy!” or “one crawled on my face when I was a child!” Very rarely do you find someone who is afraid of spiders and has been seriously harmed by one.

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Unless you live near a tropical rainforest or in Australia or something, there is literally no good reason to be afraid of spiders. Those who are should try doing a little research. You might learn that spiders feed on many other insects you don’t want in your home. You might also learn that there are only two or three fatally venomous species of spiders in the United States, and most others are no more harmful to humans than mosquitoes.Did you know that even tarantulas are about as venomous as wasps? You can learn all this and more without even having to touch a real spider. Upon reading about the most harmful species in your area, you will then be able to identify the completely harmless ones instead of living in fear of all spiders that might be poisonous. Best of all, this approach can be applied to any irrational fear. The more you know, the less you have to be afraid of.

Turn off the television and read

Even without the loads of broadcasted content that seems designed to inspire fear and insecurity, the very act of watching television is passive and voyeuristic. All your senses are being appealed to at once and very little is left to the imagination. When your life and habits revolve around this kind of stimuli, it is going to be harder for you to accept the little pains associated with growth. To stop growing is to start dying.

Try keeping your mind alive and thriving with literature. Instead of just watching short talk show interviews with people who have written books, try actually reading the memoirs and nonfiction they are out to promote. Read newspapers and websites instead of watching the news. Even podcasts and local radio can turn out to be better sources of news than American television. If reading is totally out of character for you, try spending a day at the library. Just go through the aisles and read random things until something feels right. The knowledge you gain from reading will inspire you towards doing greater things with your life.

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Seek New Information

Let’s go back to that list of things you have always wanted to do. How many of them haven’t happened because you lack the skills or knowledge? Believe it or not, the information you seek is there for the taking, and nobody is going to come drop it in your lap. You have to go out and find it. The motivation to constantly learn new things is very important to an ever-growing mind.

You don’t have to go all the way back to college in order to grease up the gears. Is it your dream to sail around the world? Take a sailing class. Do you want to start eating a healthier diet? Take organic cooking classes. Do you want to get active? Start with yoga or some sort of aerobics class. Even if your dream is to ride around the forest with a crossbow and hunt your own food, you will first need to learn to ride a horse, and then learn to use a crossbow. There are classes for all these things, and it is never too late to take them! If you can’t afford to pay a teacher, there are always books and internet tutorial videos.

Surround Yourself with Positive Examples

Very few things have more influential power over us than the people we interact with most. Make sure this fact is working in your favor instead of against you. When you surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do, you can let their progress inspire your own. You get to see all the little things that go into their accomplishments. You can study their habits and question your own in turn. This doesn’t work as well if you are not able to look critically at yourself. In fact, if you are used to being around people who are stagnant and petty, your first reaction to a real achiever might be intimidation, jealousy, or insecurity. If you can push past these things and admit everything you have to learn, a world of possibilities opens up before you.

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Start by choosing a mentor. This is can be any person with whom you enter into a relationship under the stated pretenses of learning about what they do. A good mentor will be patient and understanding of your learning process in a way that other random acquaintances are not. A good mentor will also question you, call you out, and point you in the right direction. It is up to you to respond accordingly to such criticism. This can turn out to be the first step towards many changes in what you look for in all future relationships.

Our culture is so focused on attachment to comfort and convenience that it might seem completely silly to suggest leaving these things behind.  The journey is not for everyone, but those who see it through to the end almost always have fewer regrets than those who stay inside. Stepping outside your comfort zone is an important decision not to be taken lightly. If you want to live your life to the fullest, you must let go of fear and be willing to change your beliefs. The sooner you start to change your habits the farther you will go.

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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)
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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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