How do you let go of fear? Give it what it wants.

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In my work as a public speaking coach, fear comes across my desk in many different forms: fear of speaking in front of an audience, of voicing your opinion in a meeting, of making small talk in groups or social situations, of stating your needs in a relationship, of being your own advocate and standing up to a boss or co-worker.

It seems that if we could just erase fear from our realm of possible reactions, we would get so much more done. We could do what we’re passionate about, live the life we dream of, find the partner that we want, request what we need to succeed in our career. Everything we want is on the other side of fear.

We know that it’s purpose is to protect us, to keep us alive. So, how can we allow fear to do it’s positive thing without blocking us from doing our positive thing? 

Face it: Start by getting to know Fear.

Fear is a chemical reaction. Dan Goleman (youtube link here) walks us through the structure in the brain responsible for our fear reaction: the amygdala. The amygdala is the brain’s sentinel. A small part of everything we see in every moment goes directly to our amygdala. It scans the information to see if it is a threat: “Do I eat it or does it eat me?”

The biological reactions are as follows: cortisol is poured into the bloodstream as a result of the HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal) Axis activation. This is Fight, Freeze or Flight (FFF), the classic stress response. We’ve all experienced this one: shallow breathing, racing heartbeat, dialated pupils… sweat. This activation also suppresses the immune system, digestive system and reproductive system. If this activation is sustained, over time we develop chronic fatigue, adrenal burnout…. blah blah blah….hormones.

But, this is the part I found fascinating: Look at what happens in your mind…

The triggered HPA axis changes the way that your brain prioritizes information. For example, if the snake on the trail in front of you is causing an overwhelming reaction of fear, then everything that is relevant to that snake is what preoccupies all of your attention.

Therefore, if you are giving a speech and you walk on stage, fearful that your audience will not like you,  then you have already manifested your worst nightmare! 

Biologically, you are programmed to notice and fixate on every detail in the room that substantiates your reason for being scared stiff and lifeless:

Your boss checking her watch, your colleague smirking, the man in the back on his cell phone, the angry face in the front row. You’re not just imagining that people are sending you these signals, they are, but from your perspective, in the grip of an amygdala heist, they are heightened and these small, negative details are the only ones you see. 

It’s a downward spiral…

This “amygdala hijack,” this hormonal activation, creates hypersensitivity to all the scary stuff and also changes the hierarchy of your memories. The memories that your brain chooses to bring to the surface, at this moment, are those that substantiate your fear.  

Your brain is very kindly reminding you, again, why putting yourself in this situation has been (in the past), is currently, and will forever be hazardous to the survival of your species.

Thank you, brain.

As Golemen says, “fear response is suboptimal to life,” to put it mildly. So, really, facing your fear is about knowing yourself well enough to know when you’ll be stepping into a situation where your system will be activated. Once you have the knowledge, you can prepare in advance, to send signals to your body that there is no threat and you are calm and at ease. 

“So, what do I do about this?” 

Answer: Manage your fear before it has the chance to start its vicious cycle by preparing your body and mind to be relaxed and present before you do that thing which scares you most.

How do you do that? Stay tuned for next week’s blog or click here to get immediate, fear preparation strategy. 

What is your Work?

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There are moments in life where we experience realization. Byron Katy calls it waking up to reality. It is the moment you realize that you play a vital and unique role in the universe. I had my realization this summer when an eight foot, water-logged pole hit me on the back of the head when I least expected it.

That pole may as well have been dropped by God. It stopped me in my tracks and took me down to earth: pole to head, forehead to dirt, palms and heart to earth. In that moment, I was helpless. I could not lift my own weight. I dared not move my neck. All I had was my inner awareness and stillness. In that stillness, these were my thoughts:

  • I am not in control.
  • Life is precious and can be short.
  • Do your work now, not later.

As I gave the full weight of my body to the earth, and allowed my family to come and care for me, I also had a realization that these moments of complete and utter giving up, are not such a bad thing. Let others lift your weight into safety, let them hold the burden for a moment. My family brought me into our living room, one member at my head, the other at my feet, the last holding my hands. I was held completely. 

Waking up to reality.

Have you ever had a moment when you were no longer able to move forward in your current way of doing things? You may have become inexplicably sick, or physically hurt. A combination of your conscious and subconscious body would not let you continue on your current trajectory, probably for good reason. Your body was simply asking you to be still, become aware and realign your action. 

 

That pole made me commit.

The coaching work I’ve done this year comes from the tools of acting I learned while training at The National Theater Conservatory, the commitment work that shifted my life forever through The Max with Paula Shaw at Esalen Institute, and from the coaching training that I completed this year where I was able to synthesize my knowledge into simple and applicable tools that I can teach to anyone. 

But truthfully, it all came from from the moment when a pole hit my head. Because, in that moment, I committed to not thinking about it anymore, but actually doing it, now. 

What work are you still waiting to do?

In one-on-one sessions we break down your relationship to performance or, what happens to you when you stand up in front of other people and talk. We also break down the commitments you have made in your life by looking at your actions. The work takes you from how you show up now, to how you want to show up in a larger, more empowered, visionary way. 

As we come into a brand new year, I have a few wishes for you:

  • Stop.
  • Listening to your inner voice.
  • Clear clutter so your vision can arise.
  • Act on what you know to be true.

Most importantly: Start now.

 

 

10 wholistic practices to increase your odds of landing the job

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You have the expertise, job history and experience to qualify for your dream job, but you are still not landing the position.  You have prepared your content to perfection, so what else could it possibly be?

Your body language, presence and the silent conversation your body is having with others in the room might be having a huge effect on your success rate.

Neuroscience research shows that the subconscious rules our behavior 95-99% of the time. Without knowing it, most of us are undermining our interpersonal and professional credibility, simply because we’re not aware of what we’re communicating on a physical, vocal and energetic level.

So you google  “body language interview tips” and you get stock answers that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. In the best case, the stars align and you eek by, just barely. In the worst case, they make you seem less human, too slick, and fake. 

Why body language interview tips DON’T work:

When I first started practicing yoga, I was just following the form— the shape that my instructor’s body was making at the front of the class. I didn’t learn how to embody the asanas until I started to understand what the pose was supposed to accomplish.

Learning the form was good training, but at a certain point, in order to rise to the next level, I needed to understand why. I believe the same to be true for interview preparation and coaching. It’s not enough to learn the forms, you have to learn the why.

For example, standing tall or sitting up straight with good posture can quickly look arrogant or hollow. This exudes in-authenticity if all you’re doing is practicing the form or posturing.

In contrast, if you are able to stand powerfully, knowing that your feet need to be planted squarely beneath your hips and your weight, balanced equally between the balls of your feet and heels, then that gives you a presence of weight, authority and gravitas.

Or, if you allow yourself to sit with a straight spine in your seat, knowing that this is enabling your body to take a deep, diaphragmatic breath,  then you are sending an authentic signal of confidence to your self, your nervous system and your audience.

The crucial tip that WILL make you stand out from the crowd:

Often we over prepare the content for these high-stakes situations but we don’t prepare physically or emotionally. We only take care of one part of ourselves. Any small thing can then knock us off our game and send us into a state of defensiveness and mental muddiness. This is not only communicated to your interviewer but it has a spiral effect on your own nervous system. So, here’s how you prepare efficiently and effectively for the success of your whole being:

Before the interview:

Practice diaphragmatic breathing. 4 counts on the inhale, 4 counts on the exhale. Put a hand on your belly to make sure that you are releasing as low down as possible. You can place a hand on your back to make sure that you are breathing three dimensionally. Try filling up your lungs from the bottom to top, imagining that your lungs are balloons filling with air.

Practice a powerful neutral stance, first while standing, then sitting down. Then, try transitioning from walking in, to sitting down, like you’ll be doing in your interview. At all times, your feet are planted firmly beneath you and are in parallel. Your hips are over your heels, your shoulders are over your hips. You can imagine that your head has a string pulling out the top and your chest is slightly raised. 

Warm up your voice. Find a closed space and practice rumbling as low as you can go. Often we want this deep resonance in our voice. It adds authority and weight to our ideas. It also sends a message to our bodies and our interviewer that we are relaxed. When we’re nervous our voices tend to jump a pitch, often because tension has risen to our throat. The more you can practice a lower pitch, the more you will feel relaxed and send a message of authority.

Move your face and body, tensing and releasing, before you walk into the interview. Often, we’ll prepare by staring at a computer screen or reading or notes over and again with our face down and brow furrowed. Our face will then remain frozen in ways that don’t communicate our excitement or enthusiasm for the position. 

During the interview:

Focus on this the other person. Often we’re so worried about how we’re coming across, we forget that others might be having the exact same experience. Try this, focus on the other person. What can you do to make them feel comfortable? In an awkward pause, be curious about them. Have a list of questions that you know you can pull out if needs be. Ask a question and then focus on listening and really hearing the answer.

Re-set the playing field. How often have you walked into an interview and you’ve been taken off guard? Something they said has thrown you for a loop, or something happened in your personal life, just before you walked through the door, or something in the room has made you uncomfortable. This type of experience can make or break an interview. If you do not take the time to make yourself comfortable, you not only fail to set yourself up for the possibility of success but your looking uncomfortable makes the interviewer feel uncomfortable. This also a great way to reset the playing field so that your interviewer knows that your’e in control.

Find your center and stay there. Often, we’ll lean forward to try to look engaged or lean back to try to look confident. Don’t do either, stay in your center. This is not only sending a signal of strength and ease to your interviewer but it is sending a signal of safety to yourself. When answering a question try to keep your head level, your eyes level and stay in your center. If you start to lean or swerve, notice what made you feel that this was necessary. You’ll probably begin to notice that you’ll only do this if you’re not sure about what you’re saying or in some ways trying to “dodge” a reaction from the other person. Try to ask and answer questions “head on.”

Plant your feet and point your toes where you want to direct your focus. Try noticing which way your toes naturally point. Your feet will naturally fall pointing towards where you instinctively want to go. Often, this is right out the door. Instead, try pointing them towards the interviewer to send the signal that you want to be exactly where you are right now.

Put your hands where people can see them and allow gestures to come into play. We want to see where your hands are. It makes us more comfortable. Maybe so we know you don’t have a hidden agenda. Allow your hands to rest comfortably in your lap or on the arms of the chair, but when there’s an opportunity, gesture with an open palm and from the heart. 

Bonus tip for powerful communication:

Breath is connected to thought. So, inhale to find “inspiration” and exhale while giving your answer. Try looking at the interviewer while inhaling to “find” your answer, it will keep your answer connected to the person in front of you, enhancing your relationship and keeping you authentic and honest in your message.

There are many other tools and techniques I could teach you, these are just a few. But you can start to see the difference in technique thats specific to your needs. Imagine the difference between wearing an off the rack, one-size-fits-most, clothing item, and a tailored suit. The quality of interview experience you can have, after working with a coach who tailors to your unique communication style, is well worth the effort and the price.

The importance of an interior life

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It’s like a movie.

This summer I had the opportunity to be with my family on a remote island off of Vancouver island. Quiet, free from technology’s reach, distractions, social obligations and rat-race requirements. I was able to follow the threads of my curiosity and notice, without too much eye-raising or judgment from loved ones, what was “up” for me.  What began to fascinate me was the process of watching my inner life, like a movie.

Our inner life is always “on”, whether we are aware of it or not. We are running stories, memories. All the other parts of ourselves (the inner critic, the fearful child, the rebellious teenager, the dominating bitc–etc…) are reacting and responding to what’s going on outside (see the Pixar movie, Inside Out). It can color, warm or darken, our external experience. It can run wild like a film. One could even imagine our internal life set to a thrilling musical score, mirroring the rise and fall of our curiosity, inspiration, joy and the extremes of vulnerability, loneliness and even rage. All of these colors are present throughout our day  and often we don’t know why. There is an internal experience to everything. What is yours?

Is an interior life a good thing?

I get myself into trouble because I often find my interior experience to be far more exciting than what’s happening in front of me. This poses a problem in social situations. Great big grins to the left and right, silly pranks and antics, conversation for filler and shock value, provocative jokes and tirades against this or that group, extreme familiarity– arms strung between bodies, intertwined and suspended, clutching half-committed, are fun for a while but feel like we all have a great need to perform our internal experience rather than relishing savory moments and simply being with what is happening.  

Drawing yourself inward in the morning, for a moment of meditation, prayer, deep breathing can familiarize you to this place inside of yourself, inside of your experience, and alert you to some very significant signals throughout your day. How do I feel? What’s “up” for me? How do all the different parts of my body feel? What muscles am I needlessly holding?  Is my mind repeating a word, a song, a thought, a memory, over and over that I have tuned out? What is it saying? Where am I now and where do I desire to go? What can I do with all of this new information? This type of check-in can bring surprising clarity and direction.  

What’s the first step in getting to know our inner world?

Try this for a day: total external rebellion. Don’t read the news. Don’t read what other people think about what’s on the news. Don’t take pictures of your experiences. Don’t look at pictures of other people’s experiences, deciding whether you like them or judge them. Instead, appreciate the wealth of your own current existence, be in the soup of your own experience, and let everything else fall away. How fortunate we are to be so complicated! It makes for great entertainment.

The uniqueness of this moment will never come again– these people, this place, this fresh wind, this bite, this thought, this internal age of every cell, this coalescence of the right elements, at the right time, intersecting for a perfectly imperfect you, right, now.