I am a firm believer in reflection. Reflection, according to me, is the understated ability to take a step back, eliminate any distractions and just think.
Recently, during such a time, I was fortunate enough to revisit a particularly poignant memory of mine. I started remembering the day that I realized that I was unreservedly useless at public speaking and how I managed to turn this weakness into an underlying strength…
It was 2007 and I was asked by some of my teachers to read a paragraph out of the bible at a school Christmas carol evening. I had done orals and “mondellings” before, but this was different. This was in front of my friends, school colleagues and their parents.
Student after student went up and did their thing, confidently, undeterred and without any errors. After what felt like an eternity, I found myself quivering in front of around 150 people having just lost my place in the verse that I was reading. I found my hands shaking uncontrollably and voice buckling under the pressure. It took me almost 4 minutes to read out 5 lines.
To put it bluntly, I had failed horrendously and decided that public speaking was definitely not for me.
Long after my dismal performance and as fate would have it, I came across a potent quote made famous by Reinghold Niebuhr, which says:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
the courage to change the things that I can
and the knowledge to know the difference.
After reading this quote, I felt the profound impact that the words had had on me. I found that it had made me face my inadequacy with public speaking head on. I couldn’t help but feel a resounding anxiousness as if I was stuck in a precarious position between accepting my weaknesses and my willingness to change them.
I knew that if I wanted to fulfill my purpose as a future leader of this beautiful country, I would need to have the courage to change. It was imperative for to improve my public speaking ability and from then, I took stock of my skills and ways in which I could improve.
Given this experience, I think it would be beneficial to mention some of the strategies that I had used to change, which are:
1. Use positive language
My epiphany had made me realize the importance of the language I was using. Using words like “weakness” only entrenches negative feeling towards an activity. I was cognizant of the effect that negative words would have on my willingness to change and improve.
From there on end, I had made a promise to myself that I would no longer refer to anything as a weakness. Rather, I would call all areas in which I could improve, my development areas.
The impact that this change will have should never be underestimated. It takes practice. It takes time. But the rewards are endless…
2. You need more than courage to change things. Be Proactive.
Talk is cheap, because supply exceeds demand. I have always believed that my mind, like a malleable metal, is continuously being forged into something that can create for the benefit of others. I felt as if courage and acknowledging my developmental areas was a good start. However, it was a bit to passive for a proactive leader like me.
3. Study people who are great at your development area
Once you have acknowledged your development areas and decide that it’s time to be proactive, you need to start analyzing people who have already mastered that skill.
Understanding opportunity cost helps emphasize the fact that it’s inefficient and time consuming to want to do things all by yourself. There are millions of resources out there that can help you get to where you want to be a whole lot quicker. Take time to synthesize all the information and make it relevant to your circumstances and needs. Once you have done that, you can begin to apply the knowledge that you have learnt.
(Some of the great resources that I have used to source a lot of information regarding my development areas are; Blinklist, BusinessInsider, Quora and TedTalks.)
4. Expose yourself to situations in which you can constantly improve on your developmental areas
It might seem harrowing at first, but I have come to realize that a task looks a whole lot worse before you have actually gone through with it.
After acknowledging and studying your development area, it is imperative that you start proactively looking for situations in which you can apply yourself.
I remember constantly putting up my hand when there was a speech that needed to be made at academic functions, social events or even the Brightest Young Mind’s conference.
Exposing yourself to these situations will help instill in you a certain level of confidence that can spread to all other areas of your life.
Practice makes perfect…
5. Find ways to measure your progress
I have always taken a pragmatic approach when it came to setting goals and objectives. By this I mean that I always write down SMART objectives. This means that your goals should be:
An example of this would be: I will obtain my Bcom Economics degree with an average of 65% from TUKS in 2016. Constantly review and add tangible things that you can do to ensure that this SMART objective is achieved. This will ensure that you’re able to measure your progress, analyse the steps that you have taken and lessons that you’ve learnt.
6. Be Patient. It takes time…
I believe that it is foolish to want things to happen quickly and easily in life. Boredom and fear will cause whatever you receive to slip away as quickly as it was obtained. I believe that one should build a foundation that serves as a cornerstone of your character and that will continue to grow sustainably.
You need to learn how to endure long hours and sleepless nights, knowing that at the end of it all, you can truly appreciate the higher pleasure of knowing that you have not only mastered the process but also mastered yourself. Your sense of who you are and what you perceive your limitations to be, will determine what you will achieve in life. Start today, by acknowledging your development areas, appreciate the process and train yourself for greatness.
I believe in you…