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For Those Who Still Don’t Know What They’re Doing With Their Lives, Read This

For Those Who Still Don’t Know What They’re Doing With Their Lives, Read This
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“Life was a bloody battlefield until I conquered the enemy and won the war. Now, life is a journey, and I am a warrior. Prepared for anything and weakened by nothing. There are hills and dales, mountains and plateaus, blind spots and brilliant vistas, but none of that matters. All that matters is my second chance, and the only thing capable of disrupting my path, is myself.”
B.G. Bowers,Death and Life

Firstly, thank you for being here and I hope by reading this article you may gain some insight and some strategies to help you solve the dilemma of feeling “lost and frustrated” with your life currently.I can’t promise you that I can give you the solution to the dilemma you face. However, by telling my story and sharing my experiences of feeling lost and frustrated and what I did about it, may help you to make a decision about how you can start to figure out what it is you want to do with your life.

Before I start telling you my story, I would like you, to give yourself a break and acknowledge to yourself that it is OK to feel lost, frustrated and confused about what you want to do with your life. Today, right now, reading this article is the start of your journey to figuring out what the heck it is that you want to do. I also want to say ( yes I am getting to my story very soon…) that it doesn’t matter what age you are 15, 25, 40 , 50, 60, 70, this feeling of being lost and not fulfilled in your life applies to all ages.

“You necessarily have to be lost, before you’re found.”
T. Scott McLeod,All That Is Unspoken

My Story

The first time I remember asking myself the question “what do I want to do with my life?” was when I was heading off to university, and the last time I asked myself that same question was December 1st 2013. I had just been made redundant for the third time in 18 months. Each of these redundancies felt horrible and I don’t care what anyone says it feels like you have been fired, rejected and you feel you are a failure. There was nothing I could do about it, I was not needed and that was it. I had financial commitments such as a mortgage, kids at university to pay for, credit card debt, very little savings, unfinished house that badly needs a new roof and the list goes on.

The Opportunity Created from Three Redundancies

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These three redundancies were the catalyst for me to start making some decisions about my life and what I wanted to do. I also had enough of handing over toother people the power to choose how I lived my life.I knew I had to make some changes because if I kept doing the same things i.e find another job, I would be again vulnerable to experiencing the same results. I had no more energy to get back on the band wagon and start applying for jobs. I am in my early 50’s and getting a job that I liked (not loved) was a bit like winning the Lottery.

Commitment and the Fear of Failure

I decided to make a commitment to take action because I had always known what I wanted to do but I had managed to findexcuses and reasons as to why I could not follow my dream.I then did something I had never done before, I sat down and considered the very high risk of failure if I was to follow my dream to be a writer, speaker and coach.I then rationalized with myself what failure would look like for me by writing a For and Against List for Failure.Once I considered the list I realized that actually it would be okay if I failed as I have the control and I would be accountable for my own failure. Nobody else had control to decide what I could or could not do. Once I overcame my fear of failure I felt relieved and energized.

Managing the Risk of Failure

The other thing I did was look at all the things that I needed to put in place that would manage the financial disruption in my family’s life. What this meant was, I knew my husband would have to work longer and harder to make up the financial shortfall and for him to do this willingly I had to have a plan with a realistic time limit. This exercise provided me with the motivation to seek the help of 2 friends Matty & Menilik to create a12 month project plan to Reinvent Myself. We called this project plan “Kathryn’s 2014 Timeline for Success”.This plan is my journey of discovery toward living my dream to be a writer, speaker and coach. The 12 month plan has a short termvision, tasks and activities which I constantly refer to on the journey. Once I reach the end of my 12 month journey I will then consider what has worked, what hasn’t gone so well, what adjustments I need to make that will keep taking me toward my dream to be a writer, speaker and coach.

While I write this I am thinking this looks so simple and may be you are thinking the same thing too? It is simple but yet it is challenging and so hard to do!! Note to self…… “I have to keep reminding myself to hold back from over analyzing everything as it only complicates the process and makes the journey so much harder”

The Importance of a Plan

“If you don’t know where you are going,you’ll end up someplace else.”
Yogi Berra

Over the past 30 years plus I have had a number of some successful and some not successful attempts to define “what it was I really wanted to do with my life” but all these attempts really didn’t go anywhere – they were more like short bursts of activity where I got to do things I really enjoyed but then the opportunities to sustain the activity dried up. There are a number of reasons why this happened. Looking back on my life to when I first asked myself the question “what do I want to do with my life” I think that if I had learnt how to write my life vision even if it was for only three years (at 18 years old, three years was about as far in the future I could see then) I would have had some guidelines in place that MAY have helped me make more informed choices about the direction of my life. I am convinced that when you create a Life Vision Plan you set up the foundations for you to live a life where you have clarity and purpose about what you want to do. You can be at any age to write your Life Vision Plan and you can determine the activities and actions that you think will get you to your destination.

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Having being on this journey for six months now, I have three key learnings that I would like to share with you. These three key learnings have certainly helped me to get clarity and focus on what it is that I want to do in my life. By sharing these key learnings it may help you to address that “sense of loss and frustration” you have as a result of not knowing what it is you want to do in your life.

Three Key Learnings

1. Get very clear about your life purpose and then get a life vision plan.

“Having no plan “is like leaping off a precipice and trying to knit yourself a parachute on the way down.”

―Kelli Jae BaeliArmchair Detective

Get to know who you are, your strengths, your passions, what is important to you, your personality and what makes you happy because these are your guiding Life Principles – all the actions, tasks, activities that you set to achieve your life vision may change over time and may need adjustment however your Life Purpose doesn’t change because it describes who you are and your uniqueness in the world. If you are at university, or if you are in your midlife go find a way to determine what your Life Purpose is, because once you have done that then you can create your Life Vision Plan.

There is a technique to writing a Life Vision Plan called Visualization – which means you visualize the future of what you want and you write that vision as if you have achieved it. I used Ann Webb fromIdeal Life Visionto help me write my Life Vision and she was great. This solution may not be for you however go do your research and find a solution that you think will help you define your Life Purpose and your Life Vision Plan

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2. Embrace the challenge of personal change and the possibility of failurebecause if you do, your Resilience Flourishes

“Your gain strength,courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.You must do the thing you think you cannot do” – Eleanor Roosevelt

My 12 month Reinvention Plan for me is my map that guides me on my journey – without it I would be still wandering around in a dilemma wondering what I should do and making some not so great choices about what I want to do with my life. My plan even though it is an essential part of this journey I still had to take a look at myself to recognise what changes I had to make in order for me to Commit to going on this journey. As I said earlier, when I personally acknowledged that there was possibility of failure and that failure was actually okayI then was in control of my actions and the fear of failure disappeared. I still get anxious and fearful but it doesn’t last for long and I keep going.

Then next thing I had to do was deal with my self limiting beliefs because they are dangerous and could distract me or excuse me from having to deal with difficult situations or challenges. I am a Deflection Queen and so I am very susceptible to listening to what my limiting self beliefs tell me – ‘this is too hard for you, you really don’t deserve to be successful, go get a job and be safe knowing you have money coming in to pay the bills, all your friends are successful and have made good career decisions – why haven’t you?, what do you really have to offer to the world?, how can you make a difference? – this list goes on and in fact while I am writing this I am starting to get very annoyed with this list! About two months into my journey I decided to deal with my Limiting Self Beliefs by naming them “Dirty Harry” and then I named my Empowered Self Beliefs “Angel” who I now have got to know really well and without her I wouldn’t be here today writing this article.

As a result of changing the way I think about myself and my fears around failure my resilience to dealing with the many challenges this journey entails is much stronger. To discover what you want to do with your life for some people it happens very quickly and for others like me it does takes awhile for what ever reason however personal change and failure are part of the package and so get on with it, embrace change, deal with fear of failure, get your resilience to a flourishing level and I guarantee you will know what you want to do with your life and what you need to do to get there.

3. Get your Support Groups in place and Celebrate your Success with them as this gives you the energy, the desire and motivation to keep going.

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“The problem is that most people focus on their failures rather than their successes.But the truth is that most people have many more successes than failures.”Jack Canfield

I love celebrations and my personality type loves being in the limelight. The key to celebrating your successes is having people to share your celebrations with. This is where having your support groups such as friends, family, colleagues, the barista at your local cafe, your kids, around you to join in your celebrations is essential. Your support groups provide the energy for you to keep going, they encourage you and are committed to your success – what ever it is that you decide to do. Your commitment to them is, that you need to share your life purpose and your life vision with them – let them know what it is you want to do with your life;

  • Why you want to do……. (Your Life Purpose)
  • What your plan is to get there ( Your Life Vision)
  • How you are going to implement (Your Action Plan)

Once your supporters are clear about what it is you want to do with your life and what you are doing about it, then they will promote you, celebrate with you and keep encouraging you to achieve your vision of what it is that you want to do with your life.

I don’t know exactly where I will be at on December 31, 2014 in regard to living my dream life however one thing I know, is that I gave it a go and in the words of Andrew Carnegie I have set my goal, I am going for it and that has certainly made me happy.

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes”

Andrew Carnegie

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More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

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

How to Stop Being Sad and Start Feeling Happy How to Persevere (and Get Ahead) When the Going Gets Tough How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You 7 Things To Remember When You Feel Broken Inside 10 Things You Can Do Now to Change Your Life Forever

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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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