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The 7 Deadly Sins of Happiness

The 7 Deadly Sins of Happiness
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There are a lot of discussions going around about what actually makes people happy.  In fact, in the last two decades, and entirely new field has been created around this question. We refer to this new area of psychology as “Positive Psychology.”

While the scientific world is discovering the many different factors which go into determining how happy a person will be, throughout history we have been told by the greatest philosophers and religious leaders what to avoid in order to be happy. I’ve compiled what I consider the deadliest attacks on our happiness.  These “sins” are so deadly that we often don’t notice we are falling into their trap until we wake up one day and wonder why we are glaring at ourselves in the mirror.

1. Comparing yourself to others

“Comparison is the death of joy.”

Thank you, Mark Twain, for starting our list today.

He’s absolutely right. Whenever you begin to size yourself based on what you see others achieving, you have no choice but to feel unhappy. Either you will feel guilty because you see those less fortunate struggling while you live in relative comfort, or you will feel inadequate because others seem to be better off than you are.  It’s kind of a lose/lose scenario.

Instead, focus on making yourself a little better every day.

2. Talking about your dreams instead of going to work on them

“Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.” -Nicolas de Chamfort

This brilliant French playwright knew a truth which eludes many to this day: acting will always make you happier than speaking.

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Although it is a great idea to talk about your passions and dreams, if all you are doing is talking, you will find yourself depressed in a very short time. In fact, you will begin to feel like a fraud. You will start to question if you will ever achieve these dreams you speak about, and slowly you will stop speaking about them.

The best way to cure this is to start working on your dreams, while you talk about them. I like to say something to the effect of “I’m building up my readership to become an international best-seller. Right now I’m spending some time building up a loyal fan base on Twitter.” Do you see what I did there? I made a large statement about my end goal, as well as what my current action step is. I may not be able to claim to be a best-seller yet, but I can start to build a fan base on Twitter. By following up my words with actions, I’ll avoid feeling like a fraud.

3. Listening to people with nothing positive to say

“A complainer is like a Death Eater because there’s a suction of negative energy.”

-Barbara Corcoran

Who doesn’t love a good Harry Potter reference? All fictional character allusions aside, you would be much better off taking this wisdom to heart.

Negative people are a drain on you. It’s impossible to become immune to someone complaining in your presence—even when you diligently ignore them, simply being in the same room with someone spouting negatives will affect your mood. The only way to really combat negative people is to avoid them. It is nearly impossible to cheer a negative person up, and even if you succeed for the moment, the chances are high your former sour-puss friend will go back to his/her old ways in short order. The best you can do is go on about your business and stay around positive people.

4. Focusing on the news

“The bad news is that only the bad people reach the news, because they are noisier.”

-Javier Bardem

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When was the last time you finished watching the news and felt good about the world? I don’t believe this has ever happened to me.

In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey points out that the majority of successful people spend very little time watching the news. The primary reason behind this is that we really can do nothing about what we are watching, which leads us to feelings of helplessness and negativity. By focusing so much on problems in other parts of the world, we forget how much good we can do in our local communities.

Instead of worrying what is happening on Capitol Hill, why not focus on what you can do in your neighborhood?  Are there local kids you can mentor? Can you deliver meals to the elderly? Perhaps you can organize a neighborhood beautification project, which will help everyone around you. By focusing on what you can influence locally, you will create a much greater impact on the world than by simply watching the world news and then talking to your friends about how bad things are.  Plus, you’ll be much happier.

5. Deciding someone else needs to change

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

-Jesus (Matthew 7:3)

Regardless of your religious beliefs, there’s no denying the wisdom of Jesus.

Have you ever thought about how much better your life would be if your spouse/coworker/child would just fix themselves(or let you fix them)? You’re not alone. As we can see, this phenomenon has existed for at least 2,000 years, and for much longer, I would wager.

It’s so easy to look at someone else and see exactly what they are doing wrong; the difficult thing is to look at ourselves and see how we can improve instead. As I draw closer to the date of my own wedding, I find myself repeating a simple prayer: “God, please help me be the husband I tell her I am.” I know I don’t always live up to my own expectations of others, but the best place to work is myself.

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Instead of thinking about how others can improve, ferret out your own shortcomings and go to work on them.  Trust me, you have plenty of work on yourself to keep you too busy to correct others.

6. Thinking “happiness” is a destination you can reach

“Joy has nothing to do with material things, or with man’s outward circumstance…A man living in the lap of luxury can be wretched, and a man in the depths of poverty can overflow with joy.”

-William Barclay

Many people walk around saying things like “I will be happy when I get my house paid off” “I’ll be happy when we are finally married” or sometimes “I’ll be happy when we’re finally divorced.” That last one stings a little, but I have had clients tell me that.

You may have the idea that once you accomplish a goal, you will be happy. I’m sorry to tell you, this will never be the case. Whenever you set out to achieve something and base your happiness on that achievement, you have set yourself up for dissappointment.

History is full of people who scrambled madly for money, power, fame, or any other accolade or possession we can think of, only to finally achieve their goal and discover a deep sense of disappointment.  The wisest people realize that happiness is only achieved during our journey, not at the end.

Discover what makes you happy on a daily basis and create goals that line up with those activities. If your greatest happiness comes from teaching and working with children, setting a goal to be CEO of your company doesn’t really line up. You might eventually make CEO, but you won’t feel happy about it; a better goal would be to create a lifestyle business which allows you to teach and work with children as often as you like. Maybe you will make less money, but trading money for true happiness is always a good trade.

7. Forgetting to say “thank you”

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”

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— Cynthia Ozick

This last sin is probably the most commonly committed. Regardless of what your situation is right now, there are things you should be grateful for.

Do you have someone who loves you? When was the last time you told them how much you appreciate their love? Do you have a job and receive an income? When was the last time you thanked your boss or company president for providing you this opportunity?

Let’s say you are completely alone, broke, and in poor health; you can still read the words written in this post.  Have you thought about how lucky you are someone took the time to teach you how to read, and now you have the opportunity to learn and better yourself because of that gift? Forgetting to stop and say thank you for the blessings you receive keeps you from receiving more blessings.  Worse, the blessing you do receive won’t be recognized because you have learned to focus on what you lack, instead of what you have.

Take a small notepad with you throughout the day and write down any little thing you can think of to be grateful for. I promise you, within 24 hours, you will feel happier than you have in years.

Avoid these sins like the plague, and you will be well on your way to a very happy life.

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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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