I remember reading a book on Creative Public Speaking a few years ago and a comment the author made jumped out at me. She said that there’s a wonderful and natural place where creativity exists that massively improves your Public Speaking skills yet most people have almost completely forgotten about it. She said that this wonderful natural place is not just about creativity or becoming better at Public speaking, it’s about freedom, bliss & being and that people would be a lot happier and content if they allowed themselves to go there more often.
She also said that it’s not somewhere you can go by forcing or doing, it’s a place you get to by letting go and allowing. That when you reach that place of trust it ‘just kind of happens’ without you trying to consciously make it so.
At the time I was utterly confused by it. What the heck was she talking about!
At that time I was very much a ‘get out there and make it happen’ type person. If things weren’t working then it must mean I’m not trying hard enough. Clearly I wasn’t putting in enough effort. I operated very much from the mindset that the more force you put into something the more you get back out.
If you think about it though, the more force you inject into something the more you run the risk of pushing it away or even worse causing it to spiral wildly out of control.
Now obviously things don’t simply materialise by reading ‘The Secret’ then spending all your time in a dark room asking the universe for better health, happiness, wealth and opportunity. Contrary to what some people think you do actually have to get off your butt and physically DO something!
There comes a point though where effort starts to seriously counter act the good work you’re putting in. If you’ve ever heard someone tell you that you ‘just try too dammn hard!’ then you’ll know what I’m talking about. Everyone has their own ‘effort threshold’ that, when they go over it, creates a tension and neediness that actually prevents them from getting closer to the goal.
Obviously you have to put the effort in but you also need to let it go.
It’s like working out in the gym. You don’t build a bicep by working it every day for several hours. Your body needs time to repair and it’s this ‘repair time’ that causes your muscles to grow bigger. The amazing thing is you don’t have to consciously do anything during this period (other than eat!)…your body does it for you.
I used to be soooo guilty of this in the early days when I was giving presentations.
I would plan everything out to the nth degree. Almost every minute was scripted, every pause and joke planned ahead of time and I used to practice out loud for hours on end before a training. It was a heck of a lot of work and pretty stressful, especially if I was asked to deliver something with little preparation time.
When I look back it seems almost ludicrous because, as soon as I started to speak, changes in the environment meant I had to go ‘off script’ anyway.
Then I did an improvisation class and it opened me up to a space I hadn’t considered for a long time, probably since I was a kid. It opened me up to place that massively improved my public speaking and my sense of happiness (and sanity!). It opened me up to this wonderful place where creativity, freedom and bliss naturally exist.
You see, the main purpose of improvisation is to take you to a place where you feel comfortable not knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s a place of trust that often produces a level of effectiveness and results that simply can’t be matched by trying to consciously force it. Some of the stuff we produced in that improvisation class was pure comedy gold. The kind of standard I could never have matched if I was trying to force it out consciously.
In NLP we make the distinction between ‘Proactive’ and ‘Reactive’ thinking styles. Proactive thinking is where you like to plan ahead of schedule. Reactive is where you say “To heck with planning, I’ll just figure it out at the time”. Proactive is where you like to know and plan step by step how an event is going to pan out and then prepare for it. Reactive is where you allow yourself to respond in the moment to whatever comes your way.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both and everyone has the capacity to do both. The problems arise when you become ‘stuck’ in your preferred style and forget how to do the opposite.
Public speaking is a great example. Imagine you were someone who felt they had to plan everything to an almost obsessive degree and you were asked to do an impromptu presentation…There’s a good chance you’d be freaking out right now!
On the flip side, a lack of planning can also create problems. If you don’t have some kind of plan and know your content ahead of time you run the risk of being seriously caught out even if you’re skilled at ‘figuring it out in the moment’.
This is actually one of the fundamental skills of Public Speaking…being able to balance proactive and reactive thinking styles. Being able to plan ahead of schedule and have a structure but then also being able to let it go and go to a place where you’re in ‘the now’, responding to feedback from the audience. You master those two then you can pretty much deliver presentations anywhere to any audience with confidence.
In fact I’ll go one step further…when you pan the camera back, balancing these two thinking styles is actually a vital skill in life!
Sure, it’s incredibly useful to set goals and create step by step plans to achieve them but it’s equally if not more important to let them go and be ‘in the now’. How else will you spot and take advantage of the opportunities that’ll get you there in the quickest possible time?
We often forget that life is mostly reactive by nature. Things change every minute of every day and it’s probably a more important skill to be able to respond and react to the changing conditions rather than attempt to control and dictate them ahead of time. There are few things that will help your levels of confidence and well being more than trusting that, no matter what happens, you’ll manage to figure out a way to make it work. When you really get that the future becomes a much friendlier place.
So if you are frequently attempting to control and plan things ahead of time then perhaps it’s time to let go a bit more and see where the tide of life takes you. You can still have your plans, just allow them to loosen a little bit and improvise as you go along. If you’re the kind of person that never plans and just blissfully floats from moment to moment then maybe it’s time to start planning. Again it doesn’t mean you can’t be ‘in the moment’. It’s not about swinging entirely the other way, it’s about finding the balance that works for you. At the end of the day there’s nothing more satisfying than knowing you’ve put plans in place to allow you the time to enter that wonderful place where creativity, freedom and bliss naturally exists.