I was stuck. I wasn’t sure how to get over this hump that I had of public speaking. My palms would sweat. That’s an understatement. If you shook my hand before I would go on stage you would feel like you were shaking fins with a fish. It’s gross. It still happens to me when my anxiety kicks up too high, which usually happens when I speak to groups of people. It's why I switched to a fist bump instead of a handshake before I speak.
I would have mini panic attacks if I had to present to a group of people. My face would break out in pimples and a cold sore would form on the side of my mouth. It was awful. My anxiety was hard to handle.
My goal was to help people work happier. This was over 10 years ago and it’s what led me to my path of becoming an EQ (Emotional Intelligence) Coach. That’s why even if you don’t know what you want to do. It’s important to keep building your skillset.
I suggest to most of my clients that they start with a gratitude practice. When you focus on gratitude you are using waypower instead of willpower. Waypower pulls you forward and willpower is an internal push. Waypower is your connection to your why. Willpower is forcing yourself to do something because you think you should. This wears you down. You deplete your energy with willpower. Waypower actually energizes you. It's the wind behind your mental sails.
You can build your waypower through gratitude. If you know you will be presenting to your peers at an upcoming meeting and you are dreading it, then you have a choice. You can force yourself to do it, gritting through it. Or you can find little slivers of gratitude about why you want to do it, how you can do it well and doing those things to help your presentation.
When you understand your “why” then you are one step closer to being grateful for what the opportunity has to offer.
This is how I began to use the most important tool in my mindset toolbox.
The best way to build confidence is to be grateful for each thought and emotion.
“Fear is excitement without the breath.” Fritz Perls
If I could be grateful for my anxiety then I could use it to lean into the challenging things that would really help me grow my career. This is waypower at it’s best. So I listed why I wanted to push through my fear and speak to groups of people.
- I will teach people how to grow their EQ.
- I will teach people to reduce their stress and anxiety.
- I will teach people to see opportunity in their failures.
These are my north star reasons and it got me excited to go a little deeper.
Then I listed why I was grateful for public speaking:
- It helps me reach more people with my message.
- It gives me a boost of energy that very few things do.
- It challenges me to have a clear communication plan that people can understand and apply to their lives.
Then I listed why I was grateful for my fear of public speaking:
- It exposes my fear of judgement from others and how I need to practice letting go of this judgement.
- It shows me that even though I’m scared I can still do it. My mindset is much more flexible and I can enjoy difficult things.
- It makes my hands sweat and reminds me that I need to do a better job of slowing down and breathing before I go in front of people.
After this last list I felt so much better. I was clear about my “why” and that motivated me to take action.
When I stood in front of the group of executives and explained why they should work on their emotional intelligence I felt much more calm than I thought was possible. My anxiety felt manageable.
It was a nerve-racking talk, but it went really well. I felt empowered after it was done. The Q&A went well and I had science to back up my talk.
Your Mindset Toolbox
It’s important that you understand the difference between waypower and willpower. If you force yourself to do the difficult thing, you will deplete your energy. There is only so much willpower that you have each day.
If you understand your “why” and feel grateful for the opportunity to improve your life then you have a better chance of making a new habit a daily reality.
For example, if you want to start exercising every day and you can focus on why you enjoy exercising and what you enjoy about it then you will have the mindset momentum to make it happen. This takes lots of practice, but the more you do it the easier it gets.
You have to work at building the habit. So before you begin, ask yourself three questions:
- Why do I want to build this new habit?
- Why would I be grateful for this new habit?
- What do I enjoy when I practice this new habit?
These questions will inspire you to start building the habit. I wrote an article to help you encourage your kids to build a gratitude practice. This article can help adults as well.
I suggest starting small. For example, if you struggle to build up a daily exercise habit then focus on the smallest exercise that you can do. Look at your least painful exercise and do just one minute every single day. For instance, try doing Yoga for one minute every day. Anyone can do Yoga for one minute. The idea is to make it so easy that you can say yes to it. Once you do one minute a day for seven days you can increase to two minutes for the next seven days. You build your internal momentum that makes it easier to keep expanding your habit to where you really want it to be.
What do you want to improve over the next few months? I suggest starting with a seven day challenge. It’s a great way to kickstart the habit you want and strengthen your neural pathways.