November 6, 2006

The power of the mind

An acquaintance told me a story this weekend about the public speaking experience that mentally paralyzed her for five years.

As the valedictorian of her high school class, she had prepared a speech called "The Power of the Mind." She was not anxious about the speech, as she was an experienced performer and speaker. She began her speech confidently, with a strong opening. A short way into the speech, she started to wonder, "what if I fainted?" It made no sense, since she was not afraid of public speaking, but she started to question whether she would be able to finish the speech. As this thought took hold, she started to see spots in front of her eyes. She began to feel dizzy. She grasped the lectern with all her strength to keep from collapsing.

Finally, she got a grip on herself, took some deep breaths, and was able to finish the speech. She hadn't delivered it the way she had hoped, but was able to do it without falling over.

For the next five years, every time she had to give a presentation, she would panic, and this fear - that was literally created out of her own mind - took over.

Most of our fears and anxieties about public speaking are based on thoughts that have very little to no basis in reality. Sometimes, we actually have had true-life bad experiences that trigger those fears. But it's just as likely that a person who dreads public speaking has never had a bad public speaking experience.

If our mind is powerful enough to create fear from "nothing," it's also powerful enough to reframe our thoughts to propel us forward in a positive way.

I'll talk more about this, and share a similar experience with overcoming fear, in my November newsletter. Make sure you're on the e-mail list!

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1 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

Hey Lisa,

You write, 'But it's just as likely that a person who dreads public speaking has never had a bad public speaking experience.' So right.

One thing that doesn't help folk with their stinkin' thinkin' is that the media tends to focus on presentations that go wrong.

The President gets heckled. The Senator tells a joke that backfires. Students rush the stage during a Minute Men speech.

The focus is on what can possibly go wrong when you are public speaking.

The thousands of presentations that go off without a hitch never get a write up. They are not news. They're the norm.

Just a thought.

Take care,


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