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Archive for June, 2013

Are you ready to make a REAL decision?!

Monday, June 17th, 2013

 

How good are you at making decisions? If you are still pondering the answer to that question then you already have your answer…let’s move on!

 

Making decisions is actually, in most cases, really easy to do. You know what to do, more importantly, you know what you *want* to do, you decide to do it and, as has already been said, you move on. Decision made.

 

But that’s not what happens for many of us, is it? In fact what actually happens is we know what to do, we know what we want to do…then we look to see if there is an easier or less scary way to do it, we ask some other people in the hope they will make the decision for us, we worry about it for a bit, we procrastinate, worry, ask about, worry and then we then make a half ar$ed, safe decision that goes just some of the way, but never all of the way, in the hope that ‘it will do for now’ and then, when it all goes t!ts up, we decide we’re crap at deciding because we didn’t do what we knew we wanted to do in the first place and the whole cycle becomes even more difficult next time.

 

Sound accurate!?

 

The two places I see this strategy carried out most often is giving up smoking and losing weight. Both of these things are big things. Especially with weight loss, it can take time and both require lifestyle changes. But they are things that people all around us want. So why don’t they get it?

 

My opinion? It’s simply because they never truly decide to do what needs to be done.

 

I totally promise you, when you truly decide to lose weight or give up fags, you will. The biscuits will stop miraculously jumping in your shopping trolley and even Jim in accounts offering you a fag on that night out, when he should have known you were two weeks into giving them up, won’t be enough to make you go ‘aye, alright then, just one’. But to make these changes, it takes YOU to decide.

 

A decision is a moment of certainty. A moment when you draw a line that you want go back across. It is a moment of power where you gain a clarity and focus, where a switch flicks in your head and you just know, you don’t know how you know but you know, something has changed.

 

You don’t have to fight it, you don’t have to be told, you don’t need to feel good or ever feel like you’re cheating, you just choose, completely and congruently, to live life a certain way and, from that place, I promise you, even changing the big stuff is easy.

 

I know if you think about your life there will be times when you made a decision like this one. You’ll recognise that nothing would have ever undone it even if the results of that decision were painful or sore. You will remember just being focused on keeping yourself safe, happy or free and that made even the sore bits easy to cope with. So, you have the ability, now all you need is some practice!

 

Try it on. I dare you! Give it a shot tomorrow. Just for one day, decide to make a change. Doesn’t have to be a big one, but make is a good one. Decide right now that you are going to stick with it. Feel free to post it here in the comments if you want all of us to see how well you did tomorrow. But decide.

 

There’s a wee phrase I remember picking up a long time ago; baby steps lead to miracles, miracles don’t lead to baby steps.

 

Time to just find your feet tomorrow. Than maybe the next day you can decide to walk a little further. Who knows where you’ll be by the end of the week…

 

Do Good Things

 

Brian

 

 

How to handle Public Speaking Nerves

Friday, June 14th, 2013

 

Have you ever been asked to deliver a talk or presentation and found yourself spiralling into an abyss of nerves and uncertainty on the run up?

 

Perhaps it was the 10 minutes before, the hour or maybe even the whole day or week?!

 

It might have been a wedding speech, a meeting you had to take or a more formal presentation in your job. There really is nothing like a bit of public speaking to get the blood flowing for most people.

 

One of the most commonly asked questions we get regarding public speaking is how to handle the nerves. How to be more confident and comfortable….How to stop the million and one voices shouting in your head on the run up to starting speaking!?

 

While there are lots of NLP techniques and ways you can use your imagination to prepare your frame and state of mind that really help, the main thing for me is experience. The techniques really help let go of the deep seated fear to let your natural, confident self shine through and the experience cements all these changes in place.

 

Another aspect that a lot of people forget though is being able to speak calmly and confidently even while you are feeling nervous.

 

Of course, the end goal is to reach the place where you don’t feel the nerves or (what is more often the case) where they are at such a minimum they hardly affect you. At the same time it’s equally if not more important to be able to get up and deliver a confident, killer talk or presentation while you feel nervous.

 

Most people forget about this middle ground but it actually makes up most of your early experience as a speaker (and a lot of the time for more experienced ones even though they probably don’t want to admit it!)

 

About 3 years ago I was asked to be Best Man at one of my mates wedding. When he first asked I was more than a little cocky. I had a lot of experience delivering training and also, being a member of the public speaking organisation ‘Toastmasters’, I knew how to design and deliver short talks and presentations.

 

An  8- 10 minute best man speech would be a piece of cake right? Ehm, not really…

 

In actual fact it has to rank as one of the most terrifying talks I’ve ever given.

 

Well, that’s not strictly true. It ranks as one of the most terrifying and nervous ‘run ups’ to a talk I’ve ever had. The actual speech was easy but the build up was wobbly to say the least.

 

On the morning of the wedding I was very confident. I’d done all my preparation and I knew my speech inside out. I knew the content was good and was convinced it would get both some good laughs and, at the same time, touch a few emotional nerves.

 

During the ceremony everything was fine. I felt comfortable and relaxed and pretty certain things were going to go well. It wasn’t until just after that the nerves kicked in.

 

The problem I had strangely enough was that everyone knew I had a fair amount of public speaking experience. It’s amazing how as human beings we generalise and distort information (I think the drinks also had a fair amount to do with it).

 

What started as people saying to me “Hey I hear you run training courses so this should be a bit easier for you”  quickly changed after multiple drinks to “Hey I hear you’re an after dinner speaker! And do some stand comedy so this should be a breeze!”.

 

Where the heck did they get that from!

 

That’s when the nerves started…suddenly the pressure was on. Not only was the speech being filmed and all my friends were going to be there it seemed the audience were expecting a super polished, hilariously funny after dinner speaker!

 

It amazes me what nerves can do to you. The walk out to the top table was like some weird dream where I was dissociated from my body. As I sat down my legs had turned to jelly, my mouth was like sand paper and my mind was a blur. I don’t use any notes when I speak so i’d decided to do the full 10 minutes speech completely from memory. In that moment though I was cursing myself for not bringing a piece of paper to read from and, more importantly, hide behind.

 

The strange thing was, even though I felt as nervous as I’d been since I started public speaking and giving presentations at some deep level I knew I’d get through it. I think this is where the experience comes in. Once you’ve given a few talks and presentations irrespective of the nervous feelings you feel you start to realise that you will live actually through it! In fact, you can in fact still get the job done pretty damn well!

 

You learn how to feel solid and strong at the same time as feeling nervous.

 

A lot of people think you are either nervous or confident. That it’s like a digital switch that’s either on one side or the other when that’s simply not the case. You can actually feel confident, strong and comfortable at the same time as feeling nervous.

 

Obviously it’s much nicer when the nerves aren’t there but I think it’s a much more useful skill to maintain strength and balance while feeling nervous. Unless you speak a lot then this will make up a large part of your speaking experience.

 

So anyway, back to the speech. After the groom finished his speech and kindly told the audience that I had started taking acting lessons so they should expect an impressive showing (thanks Derek!) I stood up and started talking. The first line contained a joke and, when I spoke it, the audience burst into laughter. I knew right then that, despite my anxious fretting, it was going to go well. It was such a friendly vibe and you could tell everyone was willing me to be funny and entertaining.

 

What I had convinced myself was going to be one my toughest audiences actually turned out to be one of the easiest and most compliant ones I’ve ever spoken to.

 

The speech went down a storm. I like to think I did my duty well and suitably humiliated the groom in a respectful manner while complimenting the bride and touching a few emotional nerves along the way.

 

When I think back it certainly stands out as one of the biggest buzzes I’ve had from public speaking but the main learning was how important it is to get experience standing firm irrespective of the nerves.

 

So if you’re asked to give a talk or presentation and find yourself slipping into the nervous abyss, realise that no chasm is bottomless. An ‘Abyss’ doesn’t really exist, it’s just a word created for fantasy novels. Every hole or pit has solid grounding within it and around it. Go ahead, look around and reach out…You’ll catch a hold of something solid and regain your balance soon enough.

 

Take Care

 

Steve

 

Public Speaking – The wonderful place where Creativity, Freedom & Bliss exists

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

 

I remember reading a book on Creative Public Speaking a few years ago and a comment the author made jumped out at me. She said that there’s a wonderful and natural place where creativity exists that massively improves your Public Speaking skills yet most people have almost completely forgotten about it. She said that this wonderful natural place is not just about creativity or becoming better at Public speaking, it’s about freedom, bliss & being and that people would be a lot happier and content if they allowed themselves to go there more often.

 

She also said that it’s not somewhere you can go by forcing or doing, it’s a place you get to by letting go and allowing. That when you reach that place of trust it ‘just kind of happens’ without you trying to consciously make it so.

 

At the time I was utterly confused by it. What the heck was she talking about!

 

At that time I was very much a ‘get out there and make it happen’ type person. If things weren’t working then it must mean I’m not trying hard enough. Clearly I wasn’t putting in enough effort. I operated very much from the mindset that the more force you put into something the more you get back out.

 

If you think about it though, the more force you inject into something the more you run the risk of pushing it away or even worse causing it to spiral wildly out of control.

 

Now obviously things don’t simply materialise by reading ‘The Secret’ then spending all your time in a dark room asking the universe for better health, happiness, wealth and opportunity. Contrary to what some people think you do actually have to get off your butt and physically DO something!

 

There comes a point though where effort starts to seriously counter act the good work you’re putting in. If you’ve ever heard someone tell you that you ‘just try too dammn hard!’ then you’ll know what I’m talking about. Everyone has their own ‘effort threshold’ that, when they go over it, creates a tension and neediness that actually prevents them from getting closer to the goal.

 

Obviously you have to put the effort in but you also need to let it go.

 

It’s like working out in the gym. You don’t build a bicep by working it every day for several hours. Your body needs time to repair and it’s this ‘repair time’ that causes your muscles to grow bigger. The amazing thing is you don’t have to consciously do anything during this period (other than eat!)…your body does it for you.

 

I used to be soooo guilty of this in the early days when I was giving presentations.

 

I would plan everything out to the nth degree. Almost every minute was scripted, every pause and joke planned ahead of time and I used to practice out loud for hours on end before a training. It was a heck of a lot of work and pretty stressful, especially if I was asked to deliver something with little preparation time.

 

When I look back it seems almost ludicrous because, as soon as I started to speak, changes in the environment meant I had to go ‘off script’ anyway.

 

Then I did an improvisation class and it opened me up to a space I hadn’t considered for a long time, probably since I was a kid. It opened me up to place that massively improved my public speaking and my sense of happiness (and sanity!). It opened me up to this wonderful place where creativity, freedom and bliss naturally exist.

 

You see, the main purpose of improvisation is to take you to a place where you feel comfortable not knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s a place of trust that often produces a level of effectiveness and results that simply can’t be matched by trying to consciously force it. Some of the stuff we produced in that improvisation class was pure comedy gold. The kind of standard I could never have matched if I was trying to force it out consciously.

 

In NLP we make the distinction between ‘Proactive’ and ‘Reactive’ thinking styles. Proactive thinking is where you like to plan ahead of schedule. Reactive is where you say “To heck with planning, I’ll just figure it out at the time”. Proactive is where you like to know and plan step by step how an event is going to pan out and then prepare for it. Reactive is where you allow yourself to respond in the moment to whatever comes your way.

 

There are advantages and disadvantages to both and everyone has the capacity to do both. The problems arise when you become ‘stuck’ in your preferred style and forget how to do the opposite.

 

Public speaking is a great example. Imagine you were someone who felt they had to plan everything to an almost obsessive degree and you were asked to do an impromptu presentation…There’s a good chance you’d be freaking out right now!

 

On the flip side, a lack of planning can also create problems. If you don’t have some kind of plan and know your content ahead of time you run the risk of being seriously caught out even if you’re skilled at ‘figuring it out in the moment’.

 

This is actually one of the fundamental skills of Public Speaking…being able to balance proactive and reactive thinking styles. Being able to plan ahead of schedule and have a structure but then also being able to let it go and go to a place where you’re in ‘the now’, responding to feedback from the audience. You master those two then you can pretty much deliver presentations anywhere to any audience with confidence.

 

In fact I’ll go one step further…when you pan the camera back, balancing these two thinking styles is actually a vital skill in life!

 

Sure, it’s incredibly useful to set goals and create step by step plans to achieve them but it’s equally if not more important to let them go and be ‘in the now’. How else will you spot and take advantage of the opportunities that’ll get you there in the quickest possible time?

 

We often forget that life is mostly reactive by nature. Things change every minute of every day and it’s probably a more important skill to be able to respond and react to the changing conditions rather than attempt to control and dictate them ahead of time. There are few things that will help your levels of confidence and well being more than trusting that, no matter what happens, you’ll manage to figure out a way to make it work. When you really get that the future becomes a much friendlier place.

 

So if you are frequently attempting to control and plan things ahead of time then perhaps it’s time to let go a bit more and see where the tide of life takes you. You can still have your plans, just allow them to loosen a little bit and improvise as you go along. If you’re the kind of person that never plans and just blissfully floats from moment to moment then maybe it’s time to start planning. Again it doesn’t mean you can’t be ‘in the moment’. It’s not about swinging entirely the other way, it’s about finding the balance that works for you. At the end of the day there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you’ve put plans in place to allow you the time to enter that wonderful place where creativity, freedom and bliss naturally exists.

 

Take care

Steven