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The Power of Self-Reflection: 10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

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The Power of Self-Reflection: 10 Questions You Should Ask Yourself

To find yourself, lost and without purpose, wondering how you ended up where you are, is a scary thought. If you are not careful, not mindfully aware of where you are going, you could end up somewhere far from where you want to be. These are 10 helpful questions that we each ought to ask ourselves on a frequent basis. The power of self-reflection can serve to keep you in check, to keep you focused on self-improvement and ensure that you are as fulfilled as possible.

1. Am I using my time wisely?

“Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

We all know time is precious. Our goal ought to be to use it in a way that isn’t counter-productive. For example, taking time to unwind and do nothing productive in particular could be beneficial for the mind and body. Finding yourself stuck in a job that offers a stable pay but fails to challenge you, make use of your skills, or provide some sense of value could be considered a substantial waste of time. Most of it is perception. The best way to evaluate this is to imagine yourself five or 10 years from now, looking back to where you are now, this could help you see what aspects in your life may be a waste of your time.

2. Am I taking anything for granted?

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your last misfortunes, of which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens

There are countless blessings around each of us. Even at our lowest lows we may have the support of family or friends, a roof over our head or skills that we ought to take pride in. We’re naturally forward-looking, which may blind us to our present circumstances. We ought to take a moment every now and again to look at what we have around us and be grateful.

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3. Am I employing a healthy perspective?

“Perspective is as simple as answering this question: If I had five months to live would I experience this problem differently?” – Shannon Alder

Whether or not we’re happy, doing what’s right, or if we are successful is all about perspective. We may have the world at our fingertips yet find ourselves utterly empty. We can grow to hate our jobs simply because of one co-worker whom we cannot agree with, or be devastated over a dissolving relationship that had been detrimental to our well-being in the first place. Sometimes we’re so zoomed in on various issues that, when we step back or hear an outside perspective, we can view the issue in a completely different light. Try to adopt new perspectives when possible; a glass-half-full approach can mean a world of difference in regards to certain matters.

4. Am I living true to myself?

“A lot of the conflict you have in your life exists simply because you’re not living in alignment; you’re not be being true to yourself.” – Steve Maraboli

This may take years to fully discover, with many mistakes along the way, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s vital to figure out whether or not we’re deceiving ourselves, leading a life that is far from what we want it to be. We have complete control over what we do, but without consciously evaluating our actions and circumstances every now and again, we can let things spiral away–like the the corrupt politician or steroid-dependent athlete. Figure out what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. If you’re doing something that will cause you regret down the road, work yourself away from it.

5. Am I waking up in the morning ready to take on the day?

“Know that dreaming is a waste of sleeping time and energy if you don’t wake up to achieve them.” – Israelmore Ayivor

Or are you waking up with a sense of hopelessness? The first thought of the day is a massive indicator of your general level of happiness. We all have days that we don’t look forward to, but if you find yourself not wanting to get out of bed day after day, and if you know why that is, it’s time to take action.

6. Am I thinking negative thoughts before I fall asleep?

“Insomniacs know that there is something about the night. A darkness, an energy, a mystery that shrouds things. It hides things at the same time as it illuminates them. It is this thing that allows us to examine our thoughts in a way that we can’t during the day. It is this thing that brings truth and clarity.” – Courtney Cole

When we finally lay down to sleep is when we unplug from everything and finally achieve a measure of clarity, clarity that prompts reflection. Your last thoughts before falling asleep reveal a lot about what’s going on in your life. If they’re consistently negative, try to identify a pattern of what may be causing them and then seek to address the stressors.

7. Am I putting enough effort into my relationships?

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.” – J.K. Rowling

Over time, we can begin to take our relationships for granted. Flames die out, naturally, and novelty wears off. In consequence, this requires constant effort to allow the relationships to grow. Moving away from family, for instance, requires lots of effort to stay connected and stay close. If you don’t want to find yourself losing various individuals in your life, make sure that you’re dedicated towards maintaining your relationships.

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8. Am I taking care of myself physically?

“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha

We have everything working against us as we get older–more work hours to put in, a family to take care off, decreased energy levels and a slowed metabolism, just to name a few. Our physical well-being can, in turn, be put on the back burner if we’re not aware. Keep an idea of where you want to be physically in the next few years and don’t let that image slip away from you.

9. Am I letting matters that are out of my control stress me out?

“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.” – Steve Maraboli

The biggest waste of effort we can make is to stress out about things that are outside of our realm of control. A completely unnecessary but inevitably common phenomenon that can ruin our days, our health, and our mental well-being. Make sure to continuously identify your stress factors and work towards eliminating any worries about things that you can’t control.

10. Am I achieving the goals that I’ve set for myself?

“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains.” – Rosa Luxemburg

This question is necessary to consider on a frequent basis. We all have a general vision of where we want to be in five or 10 years, but it’s a very obscure glimpse based around general accomplishments. PsychologyToday.com reports: “In life, people have many goals (e.g. exercise more, be a better spouse, save more money). However, goals often go unrealized because people lack self-awareness…Thus, to improve our chances of reaching our goals, we must remain aware of our current behavior.” It’s helpful to examine the visions of our future selves in close detail and break down everything that must be done in order to achieve them. Don’t solely focus on the where and what–account for the how.

Through frequent self-reflection, we can make sure that we’re on the right path. Lack of self-reflection can cause us to seem lost or without a purpose. Time flies by and without consciously evaluating our circumstances, we can let so many aspects of our lives slip away: our health, our relationships, our goals. It’s necessary for us to unplug for a few minutes every now and again, when possible, and address a variety of the questions, including those listed above.

“Whether it’s Buddhists engaging in meditation, alcoholics at AA meetings, or philosophers of the Enlightenment studying the texts of Immanuel Kant, being aware of ourselves is an essential step in self-improvement.” – Allen R. McConnell, www.psychologytoday.com

Featured photo credit: rearviewmirrow/greyerbab via mrg.bz

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Michael Woronko

Michael shares about tips on self-development and happiness on Lifehack.

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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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