Over the course of recent years, we have been using the phrase “thinking out of the box” to the point of overkill. It has become a cliché. Today I would like to “flip” that cliché and say that when we leave the box, we need to put something back into it. Here is my most recent experience that is an example of what I mean.
I was recently invited to give an opening day presentation at a local camp grounds. I was asked to talk about a project I am working on with my friend Craig Abbott. We are trying to get his autobiography published. The woman who invited me had heard me speak before. She said that she really enjoyed it, and she wanted Craig and me to come, and to “be inspiring.”
Of course, the whole notion of doing this sent chills down my spine. The anticipated crowd was around 100 people. I get nervous in front of 3.This is not in my comfort zone. I immediately told her “yes.” Just because something is not in your comfort zone does NOT mean you should avoid it. In fact, in most cases, it is probably the opposite.
What to Do?
I had plenty of time to prepare for this, but that did not solve the problem. I had done this before, and knew what I was going to say. The problem was anxiety, nerves, fear. Call it whatever you want. You know what I am talking about. I had to get out my good old tool kit and figure out a way to deal with doing this event.
The first thing I did was to break it down into its components. I asked myself whether or not I really wanted to do it, and the answer was “yes.” Still, that was not good enough. I asked myself whether or not I was afraid to do it, and came up with the same answer. What this all boils down to is that I needed to find a way to do what I want to do, but not be afraid of doing it. Ideally, this would mean being relaxed and enjoying doing it; but we travel in baby steps and that is a bit down the road.
My first course of action was to “attack” anxiety. To be out of my box, I need to put anxiety in it, seal it tight, and send it far, far away. And a good way to do this is to use distraction techniques. I found myself thinking about my situation a lot, and usually those thoughts ran toward the “what if’s”: what if I forgot what to say, what if I panic or pass out? Though not totally irrational, they are improbable. On these occasions, I reminded myself of past successes and tried to focus on them.
But even better was not thinking of my situation at all. I kept busy. I kept my brain occupied. I focused on other things, including work and most importantly, helping other people. Last night, I watched an interesting show on television, and it took my mind right off of this morning, when the presentation was scheduled. I essentially isolated anxiety and minimized it right until the very end, when I had to get into my car and go do it.
I awoke early and surprisingly calm. I left the house ahead of schedule, and arrived with plenty of time to go over the logistics and prepare myself. Was I nervous? Sure, I was, but not as nervous as my thoughts wanted me to believe. Was it a success? Yes, it was; just like all the others. Did I enjoy myself? Yes, I did – and I firmly believe that if I can accomplish this, so can you!
Something happened today, right after I gave my presentation. It was a beautiful thing, and I shall always remember it. A woman came up to me. She told me she enjoyed my speech and she thanked me. Then with tears in her eyes she said “You are a miracle!”
It nearly brought tears to my eyes, as well. I thanked her by telling her how much it meant to me to hear her words. And I also told her that, if I was ever nervous again, I was going to use her words to focus upon.
Miraculous things can happen for you, too, but only when you step out of the box, and put all the bad things back into it. Let them go. You don’t need them. You are a miracle, too.