How would you feel if you were living your ideal life? Amazing, right? Take a few minutes to imagine your future life. Sit back. Put your feet up. Ask yourself… Who is near you? What are you doing? Where do you live? Imagine how you might feel. Relaxed? Happy? Stress-free? Loved? Successful?
Now that you have basked in the glow of your future life, ask yourself the following question:
Why Aren’t I Living My Ideal life?
Deep down, we all probably know what is standing between us and our future life. Quite often, it is the fear of _______________ (fill in the blank). I would argue that, in most cases, we have the power to overcome our fears.
In pursuit of my All Things Great project, I am testing the following five steps to overcome my own worst fear—public speaking.
- Identify your fear(s)
- Decide to overcome your fear(s) and its associated obstacles
- Practice, practice, practice
- Cross train
- Continue to seek new and challenging opportunities to face your fear
1. Identify Your Fear
Identifying your fear(s) is the most logical first step toward living your ideal life.
In my case, I fear public speaking. I am a complete nightmare to be around when I have an upcoming speaking engagement, especially when my briefing skills are rusty, I am speaking about an unfamiliar topic, or I am not fully prepared. It is not uncommon for my husband to say, “Geeez, I wish they wouldn’t ask you to brief!” to which I usually respond, “Yeah, me too!” The introvert in me despises the incessant butterflies, the shooting pains in my chest, the dull pain that emanates from behind my right ear and gradually swells into a pounding headache, and the constant trips to the bathroom. The struggle is real. This fear will manifest itself for several days leading up to a presentation. After surviving the presentation, I am always surprised. The experience is never as bad as I imagined it. Yet, when the next briefing request surfaces months later, the cycle repeats itself. My fear of public speaking is undoubtedly the main barrier between my ideal life and me.
Exercise: What is your fear? Write it down.
2. Decide to Overcome Your Fear And Its Associated Obstacles
Knowing what you fear, and deciding to overcome your fear, are two different steps. You have to want to overcome your fear. If you tell yourself, “I don’t want to overcome my fear”, you never will. If you tell yourself that you will overcome your fear, you have a better chance of succeeding.
Exercise: Tell yourself that you WILL overcome your fear. Then, write it down. Using a 3×5 card, write down a goal that will help you overcome your fear. It should be written in large letters, in the present tense, and you should keep it where you can see it. Tape the goal to your bathroom mirror, near your desk at work, in your car, on your fridge, in your wallet, or in all of those places. As an example, my newly created goal card is, “I brief at least 5 people every month for the next 12 months.”
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
The only way to get better at anything, including overcoming your fear, is to practice. Ask yourself… What action will allow me to face my fears? If you’re like me and you fear public speaking, you have lots of options. You could sign up for a briefing class at work, if available, or at a community college, join Toastmasters, or ask your boss or coworkers for briefing opportunities. Once you have committed to a speaking opportunity, pick a topic, write a script and start practicing it over, and over, and over again. Find a quiet room in your house or place of employment and practice until you feel more confident with your briefing.
Exercise: Find one opportunity within the next month that will allow you to face your fears. Then, take the necessary steps to start practicing so you are prepared.
4. Cross Train
Athletes improve their overall performance by cross training. Employees cross train to learn new skills. We can use the cross training concept as well. Select a fun activity that will help you overcome your fear indirectly. In the case of public speaking, there are many ways, besides giving a speech, to become comfortable in front of a crowd. You don’t always have to speak in front of someone to work on your skills. In addition to regular presentations, sign up for a dance or drama class, volunteer to read books to kids at a local school, join the PTA, sign up to become an assistant coach for your kids’ sports team, take music lessons and sign up for a recital. The goal is to put yourself in an environment that helps you overcome your fear.
Exercise: Sign up for a fun activity that will indirectly help you overcome your fear.
5. Continue to Seek New and Challenging Opportunities to Face Your Fear
Unfortunately, overcoming a fear does not occur overnight. Continue to seek new opportunities. If you fear public speaking, don’t stop with one briefing to 5 people. Do another one. And another.
Exercise: Find another opportunity.
As Tim Ferriss said in the last minute of his 2008 TED talk, Smash Fear, Learn Anything, “Fear is your friend. Fear is an indicator. Sometimes, it shows you what you shouldn’t do. More often than not, it shows you exactly what you should do.”
Was this post helpful to you? If so, I would love to know how it helped.