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Seeking Passion in Your Life? First Step: Simplify.

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Seeking Passion in Your Life? First Step: Simplify.

Passions can be elusive playmates. While some people seem to be born knowing what they want, some of us have to try everything out first to see if it fits. I know people who set their course for their dream job as soon as they could talk. And, then there are others who have no clue what they want to do when the grow up—even when they grow up. I fell into this late-bloomer category and followed a career for security reasons over life passion. I did this because I discovered I wasn’t living my passion after I was already in a cushy career. Breaking out of the rat race after getting comfortable there isn’t easy. But, staying in a job once I knew my true calling was worse. It led to burnout after ten years. Take it from me, you can earn a living following your heart. Don’t sacrifice your passions for a paycheck.

What about you? Are you following your fire within? If not, how do you find it? In my experience, you have to simply your life and let go!

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Let Go of the Stuff

The main reason I felt the need to continue in a career that I didn’t love is because I had a huge mortgage and a lot of stuff to manage; I knew I had to make X amount per year to feed our hungry budget. There wasn’t any way I could do that immediately by following my writing dream. So, my consumerism trapped me by plugging my ears to my inner heart cry.

When I sold the stuff, all of the pressure to make my current salary went with it. I was finally free of a cage that I didn’t realize I was contained in until it was gone. I realize this is a drastic move, and I’m not advocating you sell everything—unless it’s exactly what you need.

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Let Go of Your Need for Security

One reason I kept working for others doing something I didn’t enjoy was that I craved security. In my job, I always knew how much I would make. I had a company car and an amazing health care plan. Now, I no longer have those things. There are certainly sacrifices along the way, yet the peace found in pursuing my passion far outweighs my lack of company benefits and salary.

Is there a passion burning within, but you are afraid to follow it? I understand! It took me almost ten years to get up the courage, but every day you spend not doing what you love because of fear will cause you regret later. It’s just more of your life invested in surviving vs. living.

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Let Go of the Expectations

I always felt that to be successful, I needed to make an amazing salary. I thought that was the best way to measure success. I also stayed in a steady job because I felt that was what others expected from me. I was trying to fit into a mold, even though I wasn’t the author of it. I no longer feel that way. Chasing money over passion creates emptiness: If the money comes from pursing my passion, so much the better, but if it doesn’t, I am still doing what I love. An extra two thousand square feet in a house and a slightly nicer car aren’t worth the burn out.

Are you working in a role because you feel it meets others expectations for you? Maybe it’s time to have a talk about what you really want out of life. While I’m not advocating ignoring responsibilities or leaping off a ledge without a plan in place, it’s also ridiculous to ignore the proactive steps needed to break into your area of interest eventually. You may not have the luxury of leaving your job right away. But, even tiny daily steps such as researching opportunities, training options, and talking with others in your desired field will move you toward a happier future.

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Letting Go of the Job = Self Worth Mentality

You are so much more than your business card. In our culture, most people define their worth by a fancy job title. For years, I was trapped in this mindset: I wanted to see how much money I could make and how many promotions I could get, because somehow I felt this would mean I was worth more as a person. If others saw my value and paid me for it, then it was a justification of my merit. At the time, I placed success in my job on such a pedestal that I unknowingly was sacrificing my relationships, my health, and my marriage.

Now, I measure my self worth differently. I ask myself hard questions daily, such as: Am I doing what I love? Am I giving my best in all areas of life? At the end of my life, will I have regrets? Am I valuing people or possessions? Am I helping others? Am I leaving a legacy? If today were my last day of life, would I be happy with how I spent it? Living in this mindset brings me peace and shows me that I don’t need a massive salary or job title to be valued or happy.

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Let Go of  the Rat Race

Often, work creates a lot of distractions that prevent you from deeper emotional digging. I found that when I was working, the mental endurance needed to do my job left me too exhausted to entertain other possibilities. I was so absorbed in my work, I didn’t take time to evaluate my life. While I took a drastic step and left my job, anyone can take a few days off to devote to some self exploration. Go somewhere quiet and peaceful for a few days. Consider what you value and if it aligns with how you currently spend your time. It’s empowering when you finally decide to quit the martyrdom and embrace what excites you.

If you aren’t following your life longings currently, deep down you already know it. While it is scary to let go, it is even scarier to give your years to something that you dread doing. So many people just slog through their days and live for the weekends. That’s not the way I want to spend my time! Simplify your life, remove the noise that’s drowning out your inner voice, and discover your passion. You will often find you can make an amazing living, and an even more amazing life, doing what you love.

More by this author

Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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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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