Audiences, and only audiences give you the chance to inspire people en masse. When I focus on the end result, any nerves I may otherwise have felt fade into the background because I'm tapped into my drive - it becomes less about the speaking, and more about the audience and the results we can achieve together. What if you thought about speaking as a means to an end? Thereby allowing you to tap into something that is really important to you as the speaker? How does that start to change your experience? For me, as a trainer I can inspire 10-30 people at a time; as a speaker I can play with willing people's minds, triggering new neural pathways of success in unprecedented numbers. It's a privilege - and an exciting world we live in, isn't it?
And yes, I think sometimes people get excitement and nerves mixed up. Isnt the idea of excitement so much more ... well, exciting? Positive? Motivating... compared to anxious? And yet physiologically the are very similar... The butterflies in your stomach, the electrifying energy that buzzes all over your body, the adrenalin that keeps you so much more focused and ready to act! Its amazing how the way we think about something - even thinking about the way we think - changes it for us! Worth thinking about, isn't it?
For example, the other day I heard a fellow Toastmaster speak about taking the ‘dis' out of disability - the speaker spoke about dyslexia and suggested that rather than being a disability as commonly accepted in current society, that we could instead look at it as being just a different ability. It was a speech that truly made me think; one that challenged a commonly held belief and opened up a world of new possibilities. And as often happens, as I stopped and gave my thoughts and attention to it, the universe sat up and took notice of my noticing - and it sent me more.
It sent me more in the form of a Ted Talk I discovered and downloaded off iTunes. This speech was entitled ‘Looking past your limits'. Caroline Casey told her tale of how she went through life until she was 17 years old, with absolutely no idea that she was legally blind. I mean ‘no idea', literally no concept or understanding that she had a so-called disability, and as such her belief (that she could see, that she was able) helped her through life as well as you or I. She had no special needs schools or concessions, and more importantly, she was not shackled with the social labels that can hold people back. She went on to live a high performing life, following from the attitude and beliefs her parents had nurtured in her. Hers is a truly inspirational story, and it made me think, it made me question how we think, how we define what is possible, what is normal, what limits us.
My favourite phrase popped up once more, ‘what if'. What if we, as a race, had an ‘enable' focus, a focus on what we can do, on abilities rather than a focus of what we cannot do? How would that make us and our experience and what we can achieve different? How would it change the world we all live in? If we don't label and focus on ‘disabilities'; does that change them? Could that take us away from a dichotomous world of right/wrong, black/white, can do/cannot do? Because, in what way does focusing on and labelling disabilities truly help us? I have a problem with the way we do this. For me, it simply does not fit with the concept and reality of being human.
Why? We are human, that means, by definition, there will always be things we cannot do perfectly - in fact, if there are not, you are a poor human or even a fake one - possibly a droid or robot of some sort. ‘To err is human...' they say. So to be a successful human, we must fail! How's that for a conundrum? Yet we live in a world that glorifies success and vilifies so called ‘failure'.
In fact we all, regularly reject doing things based on the fear of failure; and this is a socially constructed problem. Because just as we've decided ‘disabilities' exist and are not preferable, we have been conditioned to believe that not achieving what we intended or announced is a failure. And along with failure can come ridicule, rejection and loss.
With such beliefs in mind (and it is what is in mind that is exactly the point) we limit our world to the confines of what we believe with our current knowledge is possible. Even though we know that what we know evolves as our understanding of the world grows. Even though we know this we languish in our comfort zones for far longer than is healthy or wise. Instead, perhaps we could open our minds to embrace our ‘failures' too and celebrate them as part of our learning and part of being human. Recognise that mistakes and failure are ok - that it is part of us as human beings, or as humans being.
We can then recognise we are not perfect, nor are we meant to be - that we do make mistakes, its part of who we are. In this way our imperfections make us all right. Failure then should not deter us from acting. That labels reframe things in a sometimes ‘less than useful way', because really, just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder so too is ability and so too is success.
Ability and success are defined by the frame of reference we choose. We can in this way enable and empower ourselves, or disable and dis-empower ourselves by the beliefs we choose to hold around what it means to be successful, as a human being.
In closing I challenge you to take action. Here's the challenge for you: write down the limiting beliefs you've let dictate to you till now - record the ways they have been holding you back. Now challenge them. For example, write down any ‘disabilities' you have and ask yourself, how is this different if I think of it as an ability? To what degree do I have a different ability? How does that feel different now?
Take any of those old beliefs and the negative connotations associated and throw them far, far up in the air and see how many come back again. You can see how many you can let go of now, releasing them out into a black hole of nothingness where they belong, and feeling how that's different, hearing the different ideas and possibilities start to voice themselves now you've uncluttered your mind.
Its amazing the new worlds that open up as we challenge, listen, wonder and explore hidden and new frontiers. Happy journeying, my friends.