They say that if you really want to stretch yourself and grow, then try doing something every day that scares you. What does that mean? Does that mean to rent the latest blockbuster thrillers that have all of the gore and guts and get your adrenaline going a million miles a minute?
Not in my book, but I like the philosophy. There are so many things that we quite possibly take for granted that others find intimidating. If you turn on one of the tabloid TV talk shows, youíre libel to see someone with a weird phobia of balloons, or even trying to conquer a more normal one of heights.
I know that I used this test in my classes on Charisma about being UNCOMFORTABLE. Most often, with a few questions, you can normally find normal people who find regular things to be uncomfortable.
How about this list:
1. Going to a movie by yourself
2. Going to dinner alone
3. Walking into a party by yourself
4. Traveling alone to another city, renting a car and locating a destination all by yourself
5. Getting in a bathing suit in front of your friends
6. Speaking before a group of people
7. Leading a meeting
8. Flying on an airplane
9. Driving in a race car
10. Handling a snake
Okay, did anything in this list give you bit of nerves? Usually, all of us have things that give us the jitters. But the trick is to keep doing it over and over, until it becomes easy.
According to the book of lists, public speaking is the number one fear of all people. Iíve been in the public lecture business for a long time and have seen my fair share of professional speakers and performers. Iíve seen many people get nervous on stage and hide it well, but one performer really stood out to me as a glowing example of having fear and doing it anyway.
It was Scott Thomas. Better known as Carrot Top!
I saw him perform in front of a college crowd years ago when his career was on the way up. He was doing his funny act of showing the creative uses heíd designed for particular people using regular items that he combined to make something ridiculous; like putting a long haired pony tail on the end of a tennis racket for Andre Aggessi when he had long hair. He was always guaranteed a lot of laughs because he was so outrageous. But this particular time in the middle of the show, he stopped for a brief second and said to the audience, ďoh my gosh! I just had a panic attack! Have you ever had a panic attack? I just had a panic attack right here in the middle of my performance!Ē
Then, with a rush of relief, he went on with his show and didnít skip another beat.
I was blown away by his understanding of the human mind and personality. Not only did he allow himself to behave out of the ordinary and admit to having a panic attack but he shared his stress with the audience and then continued the show. For that moment alone, I knew that that guy would never be stopped. He faced his fears head on, acknowledged them and then walked through the fear.
If you turn on Oprah or Dr. Phil, youíll find that peoples fears range from the fear of flying to the fear of being around balloons! Some are realistic and some are off the wall crazy. But one thing is for sure, the more you are exposed to the thing that you fear, youíll learn to deal with that fear and manage it.
The people who I coach for public speaking often times get sick in their stomach just at the very thought of having to get up in front of the audience. But taking time writing their message, rewriting it, doctoring it up and then ultimately practicing it makes them realize that they can conquer their fear of public speaking. When I coach someone with this issue, I work with them over and over in a small room with the camera ON. Iím the only other one in the room. In that safe environment, Iím able to first tell them, and then show them, when they are improving upon their message. My whole goal is to just GET THEM TO BE THEMSELVES in any situation. When they reach the point that they are able to laugh and joke, as if their friends are in the room, then I know that they have tackled the issue and triumphed!
What is it that scares you? Is it meeting new people? Is it going out and getting a job? Are you afraid of doing taxes? Are you afraid of heights?
Having some fear is healthy for us as it can allow all of our senses to be at their greatest capacity of alertness and will be fully functioning, but having our fear run us is a different matter. It holds us back, makes us lose out on things and events in life because we wonít even try.
This weekend, challenge yourself. Take on something that is scary. Talk to that person in the hall youíve seen for years and never had the guts to meet. Take a trip to the pool and venture out into the deep end. Just do somethingÖ ANYTHING.. that will stretch yourself.
I promise, when you do, youíll feel accomplished and youíll want to challenge yourself even more. Good luck and have fun!!!