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Three Thoughts to Make You Instantly Happier

Three Thoughts to Make You Instantly Happier
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My fiancee’s sister is in town, along with her five-year-old niece, which means I’ve been temporarily set aside for long bouts of playing “house” and discussions about the new baby on the way in May.

Rather than become upset about my relocation to the periphery of attention, I’m enjoying some extra time to think.

One of the most striking observations I had over the weekend was that many people go out in search of “happiness.”

We really look for happiness in three things: the people around us, the work we do, and our current situation.

This would be fine, if any of these things actually make us happy.  They don’t.

Here are three truths most people never realize until they travel the world, do what they love, and achieve an impossible goal:

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1) No matter where you live, people will be pretty much the same

“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” -Dagobert D. Runes

I’ve lived in three different countries now and have traveled to 9 (I think), and I’ve found this to be absolutely true.  Once you peel back some of the strange ways people do things, you really see that people are the same everywhere.  In Afghanistan, I met slick salesmen and devoted husbands.  In Turkey, I have known noisy neighbors and horrible gossips.  Lately, in Turkey, there’s a huge surge in Justin Bieber fanaticism.  Some people work hard and are happy; some people are very lazy and bored.  Some are happy; some are not.

When I lived in America, I saw much the same habits from the people around me.  Some were happy while others complained.  Some were honorable while others cheated in an attempt to get ahead.  There really is no difference in people on a human level, and once you’ve lived in a foreign country for a few months, you realize this.

I’m not saying there are no differences in culture or thoughts; just that the strange people you find so fascinating are available in your own neighbor hoods, if you care to notice them.

2) Everybody, even people who love their jobs, sometimes hate getting up and going to work

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” –Steve Jobs

Okay, okay, we’re probably using Steve Jobs’ quotes a little too often, but the man had a good philosophy on work.  I’m told he was horrible to wait on in a restaurant, but that’s neither here nor there.

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Steve Jobs was a strong believer in doing what you love every day.  He refused to work on something which didn’t fill him with passion.  I believe this led to much of his success.

If you read the quote carefully, you will notice he says “too many days in a row.”  Not “today” but “too many.”  There’s a great message there.  He didn’t wake up every day excited to go to work.  Most days, yes, but not every day.

I do what I love for a living.  I get to spend my working hours helping people, answering questions, writing blogs and books, and generally getting to nerd out.  It’s a dream job I worked hard to create for myself.

Even so, some days I want to stay in bed and watch Lord of the Rings.

Every person I know, whether they work for a company or themselves, has days they don’t “feel it.”  Pushing through these days and getting the job done is essential if you want to succeed.

That being said, if EVERY day over the course of season feels like this, you should move on to something else.

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Understand, we all have days we don’t want to work, even those of us living our dreams.

3) Whatever you’re going through, it will pass soon, for better or worse

“This too shall pass…” –mistakenly attributed to The Bible

Full disclaimer: I’m a Christian and for years I believed this was part of a Bible Verse.  Imagine my surprise when I learned this is nowhere in the Bible.

Regardless if this came from the Bible or not, it’s still a great truth for all of us to remember.

Think back on your happiest memory, that single moment in time when everything was going right.  Got it?  Are you still every bit as excited as you were then?  I’m betting (unless reading this post is the happiest moment of your life, which if that’s the case, I’m very flattered) you have lost some of that excitement.

Now, think back on the lowest moment of your life, when everything seemed hopeless and you saw no relief on the horizon.  Got it?  Are you still as depressed and scared as you were then?  If you are, please don’t blame my writing style.  Leave your suggestions in the comments section below and I will furiously work to be less depressing (I promise).

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Either way, the ups and the downs have passed and will pass you again.  This is the natural way our lives work.

We all have rough times and good times; great successes and failures; deep love and crushing heartache.  Life does this to us, and it’s the best part of life.  If we didn’t experience the down times, we wouldn’t appreciate the great moments.  If we didn’t have the great moments, we wouldn’t understand when things weren’t going well.

As I write these closing words, I think on them once again and I’m smiling.  I realize that even though I live in a foreign country, do work I enjoy every day, and understand how fleeting life’s moments are, I could easily be just as happy back in Nashville, working at Dell.

I’ll close with Abraham Lincoln as he said “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Wise words for all of us to remember.

Trent

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P.S.  There is actually very little evidence Abraham Lincoln said this.  Dr. Frank Crane first published this in a newspaper in 1914, attributing the quote to President Lincoln.  There has been nothing to suggest this quote ever surfaced before then.  Fun fact. :)

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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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