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The Hardest Part About Change is Taking Action

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The Hardest Part About Change is Taking Action

I honestly don’t think that anyone out there really strives for mediocrity in every facet of their lives. There are some people that are content with their situation in life, but everyone has something they want to excel in; something they want to be proud of.  Unfortunately, most people don’t have the drive to do something about it. They waste away their time and talents day dreaming of what could be instead of living the life they want.

People are constantly taking the easy road in life: it’s less risky, it doesn’t involve a lot of effort and it’s comfortable. Change requires you to step out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. You have to change yourself, your surroundings even your habits.

Everyone has those moments in life where you look at where you are and the things you’ve done to get there; as a result, you’ll either be proud or disappointed. For those of you who have reached the point where you are wondering, “how did I get here?”, there is still hope.

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Change is difficult. If it were easy, we would all be famous billionaires living in mansions. The fact that it’s hard is what makes change and improvement so great. Improving your life will result in several positive outcomes such as, giving you a better sense of self, making you a better person, mother father, friend, etc. and you’ll find yourself being happier in general. You need to understand that changing yourself for the better won’t take away challenges in your life—it will just prepare you to be able to face them.

If you have tried to change in the past and failed, don’t quit. You can still change and start making a difference in your life. The following tips will get you set on the path to action. When you do these things, you are preparing yourself to do more than just dream about the life you want; you are getting yourself on the path to achieving it. Use these tips as guidelines to make the changes in your life that you want to see.

The first step toward changing is knowing what you want to change and why.

Take the time to sit down and write down your goals. Also write down why you want to change; make this as in-depth as you can because it will be a foundation for you. This is something you will be able to go back to when you are feeling like it’s too hard or you have forgotten why it’s important.

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Tell people your goals.

It can be embarrassing for some people to share with others what’s in their heart; but it’s necessary. In order to change, you have to be held accountable. Letting someone else know what you are trying to do will ensure that you have someone to answer to. Make sure this person is someone who will continue to encourage you and isn’t afraid to ask how things are moving along.

Replace bad habits with good ones.

Stopping something cold turkey is hard, so it’s best to replace the unwanted habit with something positive. If you have a major addiction, there are other steps you will have to take. If it’s just a bad habit, such as looking at Facebook too much, replace that with something like going for a walk around the block. If you are trying to stick within a budget, play a game with your family instead of going shopping.  Find something positive to do that will replace the negative things in your life.

Change is not easy, but it’s easier when you have someone to do it with.

Find a partner, coach, friend or family member who might be in the same situation as you. If you want to start working out, set up times when the two of you can go exercise together. If you want to get up earlier, call each other in the morning and encourage one another to get up and get moving. Whatever changes you want to make, find a way to include someone else in them. You will be each other’s support, can hold one another accountable for what you do or don’t do.

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Get rid of distractions.

There are things everywhere in our houses, our workplaces, and even our schools that can and will distract us from changing into the kind of people we want to be. Our phones, computers, iPads, etc. are all wonderful tools that we have at our disposal, but they can also hinder us. We spend so much time texting, emailing and checking various social media platforms. That is time that could be used doing something productive. Limit the amount of time you spend on the computer. Set an alarm and when it goes off, you’re done.

Turn off the TV.

I know so many people who have the TV on in the background while they are trying to get stuff done. I am guilty of this. In the past I would turn on a movie while I was trying to work or clean the house, but every time, I would find myself sitting on the couch watching instead of being up and moving. I decided to listen to audio books instead: that way I don’t have anything visual distracting me from the things I need to get done but I still have something entertaining or educational to listen to.

Only say positive things to yourself.

When you fail it’s easy to point out everything you did wrong, but that is so discouraging. Instead, say to yourself, “I can do hard things.”  You have the ability to change, you just have to believe in yourself. Don’t beat yourself down.

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Serve other people.

It’s funny how service works: you go out expecting to help someone else in need and you end up helping yourself. When you serve others, you feel better about yourself, you make a difference in someone’s life, and you give back to the community.

Recognize the good things you do, no matter how small.

Many people might skip this step because it feels arrogant and prideful. IT’S NOT! Changing yourself is about evaluating where you are in life, what you’re doing and why you’re doing those things. When you make a change, even if it’s something simple, acknowledge it, don’t brush it off like it doesn’t mean anything. It means everything!  It means that you’re actually doing it, you’re changing.

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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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