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Weekly 3: Fear and anxiety

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Summary: Be a more confident public speaker. Change your view of anxiety. Identify the fears holding
 

Idea Journal Weekly 3

August 19 · Issue #48 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Be a more confident public speaker. Change your view of anxiety. Identify the fears holding you back. (~6 min read)

#1. Use practice to reduce your fear of public speaking.
Fear of public speaking is common, but it can be overcome with practice.
In his book It’s Not What You Say, advertising executive and speech coach Michael Parker suggests the following 5 steps to help you ease your nerves and deliver an effective speech:
1. Use chunks: Break your speech down into more manageable parts, and deliver them as if they were mini-speeches.
2. Conquer the opening: Your first words can be the most intimidating. Make them short, easy to say, easy to remember, and easy to listen to.
3. Use “signposts”: Come up with key words that signal each main thought in your speech, and memorize them. Signposts can help to keep you on track and reduce the need for notes.
4. Rehearse: For Parker, “Rehearsal is all about what the audience takes out, not what you put in.” This means you have to perform your speech and not just read it. Find someone neutral you trust, who can act as your audience. Their role isn’t to criticize the content, “but to encourage you, boost your confidence, and tell you how you came across.“
5. Practice the pauses: Pause to breathe deeply. Pause to collect your thoughts. Pauses increase your confidence and also make you appear more confident.
#2. Reframe your thoughts about anxiety to lessen its effects.
In an episode of his podcast Waking Up, neuroscientist and mindfulness expert Sam Harris recommends 2 ways of shifting your perspective of anxiety to help you better deal with it:
1. Reframe the problem:
For example, many people are afraid to fly, and even those of us who enjoy flying can feel anxious in significant turbulence.
But ask yourself: Is it rational to worry that your plane will crash if you’re experiencing turbulence?
No.
Given how relatively rare plane crashes are, flying might be the safest part of your trip.
During your journey, you should be more worried as you’re getting into a taxi, or as you’re walking in a crosswalk while fixated on your smartphone. These are the moments “when sweat should be beading up on your forehead.”
Once you take this perspective, you can simply experience the turbulence, and cease to interpret it as a sign of actual danger.
2. Reframe anxiety itself:
The other perspective is to become mindful of the feeling of anxiety itself: What is it? What does it mean?
As Harris notes, anxiety is just “a pattern of energy and it actually doesn’t mean anything at the level of raw sensation.”
Your thoughts about that sensation might be negative, but the feeling itself is often indistinguishable from the feeling of excitement: How do you know the difference between being anxious about something and being excited?
For the most part, it’s your thoughts that frame how you feel about that same sensation.
Harris argues that the best way to respond to normal anxiety is to become willing to feel it, and to continue functioning even as it’s happening.
It will eventually pass: “Anxiety rises and falls like any other emotion, and if you’re not continually thinking the thoughts that make you anxious, it actually can’t stay around very long.”
#3. “A lifetime of mediocrity is a high price to pay for safety.”
Author and creativity expert Todd Henry writes in his book The Accidental Creative that making something new always involves some amount of risk.
Fear often causes us to project negative consequences onto our efforts and limit our engagement, no matter how likely those consequences are.
Henry suggests that there are 2 types of fear that could be stifling your best work, and he offers the below guidelines and questions to help you identify them:
1. Fear of Failure:
In order to succeed, we have to reach beyond our current circumstances and take chances that our work might fail.
Ask yourself:
  • Where are you refusing to take risks in your work?
  • What are the perceived consequences that are holding you back? And do you think they are real or imagined?
2. Fear of Success:
If we don’t stretch ourselves, we don’t grow. Growth can be uncomfortable, but without that discomfort, our capacity doesn’t simply remain the same, it shrinks: “If we’re not growing, we’re dying.”
Ask yourself:
  • Have you ever held back an idea because you were afraid of the consequences?
  • Are you withholding yourself in your work because you’re afraid that you won’t be able to sustain the pace of your success?
In dealing with both types of fear, Henry recommends that you get to know your comfort zone, and then work hard to stay out of it.
Quote of the Week
“Anxiety is nothing but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance.”
- Author and marketing guru Seth Godin in an article on Seth’s Blog
Idea Journal
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