8/25/2009

Improve your speaking voice with this simple trick




Last year, one of my intentions was to strengthen my voice and develop more confidence while speaking. My biggest challenge, whenever I spoke, was the lack of power behind my words. Because of this, I would often times be asked to repeat my self or speak louder so the other person could hear what I was saying. Another bad habit of mine was talking too fast. Again, I believe that had something to do with my confidence levels. I didn't slow down enough to fully articulate so that others would clearly hear and understand what I was saying.

Because of my despair in this area, I decided to take a voice coaching class offered locally. After researching the credentials of the instructor online, I was all too excited about learning the secrets to a stronger voice. I'll share with you some of the sound principles I learned in the class. Some of the information was new to me, some of it I'd heard before. One thing I would say is that all of the info was extremely practical and would make a difference if applied consistently.

So here are some practical techniques to improving your speaking voice:

Open your mouth:

Most of us, when we speak, tend to keep our mouths relatively closed. When we do so, the sound that we create is altered. The voice doesn't come out as rich and supported as it does when we open our mouths a little bigger to allow the sound to naturally flow out. I'll be the first to tell you that it feels a little weird at first, when you open your mouth wider while speaking. But in all honestly, this really does make an impact on how far your words will travel.

Make your voice travel:

Opening your mouth wider is the first step, the second step to improving on your voice quality is to support your words with your breath. It's the air you use that will allow your words to travel and not fall flat. Words that aren't supported by air go absolutely no where. Then you're tasked with having to repeat yourself once again. What you should try to do is be mindful of your breathing while you speak. Are you caring your words with a smooth exhalation? Or do your words struggle to reach it's intended destination? You should be taking in natural breaths before sentences and allowing the breath to be released as you speak. The advice my speaking coach gave me was to make sure that I "splash" the other person with my voice. If my voice were to actually travel, it should land behind the person or people I am speaking to. It makes all the difference in the world.

Relax:

Nervousness will affect your voice more than anything else. When we lack confidence or feel unsure, our voice will certainly reveal it. There are two surefire ways you can overcome feeling nervous, adequate preparation and mental toughness. I strongly believe that confidence follows action and preparation. So I suggest you first start with preparation. This means that you should never present to a group of people without feeling absolutely comfortable that you know the information like the back of your hand. I know there will be times that you won't have the amount time you'd like to adequately prepare, in that case, use whatever time you are given. Preparation is the speaking equivalent of giving yourself steroids before a body building event. It gives you an edge that you might not otherwise have. Soon, you'll begin receiving compliments on how well you are at presenting (because you were well prepared), not long after, you'll find yourself feeling more assured and transferring that same confidence with you when you're asked to speak on the spot.

Finally, I'm going to give you the very best piece of advice I've heard yet on improving your speaking voice. This tip comes from the audio book 100 ways to motivate yourself from author Steve Chandler. Steve has a deep strong voice that really resonates with the listener. What really surprised me is that Steve claims to have once had a voice that was weak and nasally. So what did Steve do to completely change his voice? He sang. That's right, Steve claims that he was able to both strengthen and develop his speaking voice by making it a habit to sing to his favorite tunes at the top of his lungs. With the consistent practice, his voice (and lungs) became stronger with each passing day.

I heard this advice weeks ago and have been implementing it daily in my practice ever since. Today, I am more than excited about how much better of a speaker I am today than I was a few weeks back. My breathing is now consistent, my voice tone is richer and my confidence levels are sky high. I do want to mention that I am a terrible singer. I probably have the worst signing voice around. But I don't this to become a better singer. I do this to exercise my vocal chords and to develop my lung capacity and regulate my breathing when I speak. The change I've experienced in the past couple of weeks is amazing. I even received a compliment the other day because someone on a conference call noticed that my voice sounded more confident. I know for a fact that my preparation for the call, along with my stronger, more conditioned voice, is how I was able to present this information with confidence.

The best part of all is that signing doesn't seem like it's hard work. I get to enjoy my favorite songs while benefiting myself in the process. There's nothing better than that. Because I actually enjoy this practice, I find myself being consistent in doing it every day. The more I do it, the stronger and better my voice gets. I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking to improve their speaking voice. Give it a try for a few weeks, before long you'll be signing its praises.


6/02/2009

Overcoming self-limiting behaviors

This past week or so has been, for me, and exercise in moving forward in my progress with the least amount of resistance possible. After doing some introspective thinking, I realized that my natural tendencies with regards to progression, even at the most basic levels, were slowed down by my own doing. After this realization became apparent, my only recourse was to quickly adapt my behaviors to shifting the beliefs which were the driving force of my behaviors.

I believed that overcoming struggle was a natural part of achieving goals. Once I figured out the craziness associated with this type of thinking, I immediately began to brainstorm some options to overcoming this growth inhibitor. My first response to this dilemma was to enlist the help of my mental capacities. I focused on shifting my thinking from "overcoming resistance" to allowing myself into believing that accomplishing simple objectives was just that.....simple.

My expectation changed to assuming that everything came to me easily with little effort. As soon as I started cultivating that new belief, my actions followed. I also made a conscious effort to recognize how easily most objectives were to reach. For instance, if I was avoiding making a phone call, I forced myself to just get to the final step which was picking up the phone and dialing the numbers. I'd worry about the conversation once I got there, not well in advance. The only step I needed to take was to pick up the phone and dial.....simple.

Nine times out of ten, the dreaded conversation turned out to be nothing more than a simple conversation. All the tension that I created on my own with my thoughts and actions (avoidance) was completely unnecessary and only worked to serve as a blockade to everything else I had going on at the time. The absolute worst part of creating bottlenecks in our lives is that we literally slow down the progress of all of our other endeavors. The mind will continue to create pop-up reminders that you haven't done said thing and completely disrupt, or at minimum, distract what you are doing at the moment.

So now my beliefs are shifting. I am at a point where I can honestly say that reaching a goal or intention in the fastest way possible is what I truly desire. I start off by accepting that accomplishing the task is a simple process and take the most logical action that actually aligns with my thoughts. If I believe it's easy, then I need to make it so. As I move forward with little resistance, I further reinforce my beliefs. As I reinforce my beliefs, it becomes my reality.

5/22/2009

Are you slowing down or self-sabotaging your own progress?

This morning I did a quick meditation exercise where I asked myself a burning question and waited for an honest intuitive response. After allowing myself to become completely relaxed, and open to the experience, I asked the question as to why I sometimes slow down the progress I am trying to make towards my intentions. Even some of my smallest intentions, it seems, was hindered by some type of resistance on my part one way or another.

When my answer came, I was somewhat disappointed. The answer to my deep seated issue was a simple "because you don't feel like it's a true accomplishment unless you experience some type of resistance." At first, I completely dismissed the activity as useless and non-value added, but as allowed the thought to simmer a little while longer, I began to understand how profound the revelation actually was.

Did I truly believe that overcoming resistance was the only true measure of accomplishment? Was this belief so strong within me that I was willing to create my own resistance even when it was completely unnecessary to do so? I was immediately turned off by the idea until I thought about the concept of physical exercise. In the world of physical fitness, the only true way of realizing the results you want is to feel the burn that comes with increasing the level of resistance. No pain, no gain right?

Whenever anyone wants to accomplish anything, that person will likely have multiple ways of achieving that desire. For instance, let's say you wanted to put on a pair of shoes so you can go for a walk. You could probably contemplate putting on the shoes, think of all the alternative shoe options you have and which shoes would work best. You might also focus on the negative aspects of going for a walk. You also have the option of watching your favorite show and take the walk later. The list goes on and on.

Or, you can just put on the shoes, and walk out the door. Plain and simple.

This example may seem a bit simplistic compared to our larger goals but I believe that we subconsciously create ways to slow our progress more than we think. If realizing a desire is just as simple as wanting it, taking the most direct actions, and getting it, we start to believe that the desire holds less valuable because of how easy it was to get it. The belief that most of us have deep down is, "if we didn't work hard for what we want, then we won't appreciate it."

The exercise I completed was extremely valuable for me because I now realize that I was creating artificial resistance in order to "feel the burn." Somehow this gave me the false of accomplishment for having to overcome to achieve. Now comes the next step in the process where I cultivate the desire to experience the victory (end result) more than the desire to overcome some type struggle along the way.

When I say struggle, you have to keep in mind that the word is relative. I'll define the word "struggle" as anything that hinders you from achieving what you desire in the quickest way possible. Examples of struggle include but are not limited to:

-Any type of procrastination on your part which keep you from doing what you know you have to do.
-Taking extra steps to reach an end result which a reasonable person would deem unnecessary.
-Slowing down forward movement by over analyzing or contemplating.
-Deliberately not taking bold action even if you know that such an action would move your progress forward.

You get the picture. I do have to say that I'm grateful to have received this insight into my beliefs around achievement. Now comes the next steps which I will blog about in my next post. In the mean time, I want you to think introspectively and honestly about how you go about achieving the results you want. Are you headed straight there or are you slowing your self down unnecessarily.

3/26/2009

Taking back control of your mind part II

Our minds have the power to cause great distress in our lives if we allow it. I'm often caught off guard by how quickly I can become emotional over a small issue simply because I was led by a series of uncontrolled thoughts. One of the reasons why we so quickly believe what the mind dictates is because it sounds just like us. Because the mind speaks to us in our own voice, we come to believe that the mind is actually us.

I finally realized my mind was not me when I actually analyzed what was happening. For instance, I would find myself becoming overly emotional, or depressed, frustrated, or whatever because of the constant flowing of negative thoughts. Then I realized that I didn't want to experience those feelings. I felt like I had no control over my reactions to situations even though I desperately wanted to master my emotions. That's when I realized that the simple desire of wanting to change the patterns proved as confirmation that the voice did not represent me. The voice was lying to me.

At that point, I decided that I had to be on my guard at all times. The voice was constantly working in the background so I had to constantly remain vigilant. The key to taking back control of your mind is conscious awareness of your thoughts. Knowing that the mind is constantly interpreting your actions and the actions of those around you will serve as a starting point.

Never let your guard down. This new habit of monitoring your thoughts has to become a permanent part of life. I'll share with you one method I learned from a book called Mindfulness written by Ellen J Langer. The book takes a scientific approach to remaining mindful by detailing the results of a series experiments on the results of living a mindless life as opposed to living in a state of mindfulness. One of the most memorable parts of the book, for me, was when she described three control groups. The first group was deemed the least mindful and went on about their daily routines as they normally would. The second group was described as more mindful because they would be aware of what they did and kept record of their actions. The third and most mindful group of people were asked to do something extraordinary. For example, instead of going to the pantry and grabbing a bag of chips. The group was asked to consciously think of three other options before grabbing the chips and making a conscious decision based on the three options. Those groups of individuals, after the experiment, were described as more confident, in-control, and happier then the other two groups of people.

Mindfulness is about not allowing yourself to operate in a perpetual autopilot. Its about making the decision about what you will do, say, eat, experience without defaulting to the choice your mind makes for you. When your mind makes the choice, it does so without thinking about what truly is the most value-added benefit. Your mind makes choices based on old, out-dated, information.

Decide today what will benefit you most. Would you rather continue down this path of mindlessness or would you rather create new experiences and new realities for yourself by operating in the moment. The choice is yours.

3/24/2009

Taking back the control of your mind

For the past several days I've operated with a feeling slight feeling of uneasiness. Not being completely sure where the feeling came from or what it meant, I merely proceeded to move on ignoring it hoping it would go away. Finally, I had to stop and figure out what was happening because I felt as though the feeling was becoming stronger by the day. That is when I realized that I had not been living in the present moment and was allowing my subconscious mind to take full control.

When we go through the course of a normal day, and proceed to repeat a set of actions similar to what we did the day before, the conscious mind has little involvement. The subconscious mind, however, take complete advantage of our mindless daily actions and proceeds to fill our minds with infinite thoughts. In general, we should avoid operating in states of being "zone out" for prolonged periods of time because of the amount of opportunity for our subconscious minds to take over. Unless you have taken time to condition the subconscious to work for and not against you, I highly suggest that you attempt to operate in a state of presence whenever possible.

So how does a person operate in a state of presence? Lets first start off by describing what the state of presence looks like. When I think of being present, I picture someone who is operating in the moment fully aware of what is happening and making conscious choices and decisions along the way. For instance, someone in the present does not rely on reflexive behavior engrained in the subconscious mind but instead purposely choses how to react in various situations. An example would be of a person who may receive a questionable comment from someone at work. Instead of simply reacting to that person's comment, and possibly end up saying something he might regret, the conscious person takes a moment to quickly assess the situation, and perhaps decide that spewing out a reflex response is simply not worth it.

Another example of a person operating in the present is one who stops and thinks about consequences of a purchase according to the budget he or she established. Taking back the control of your mind simply means that you aren't letting your mind replay out the same patterns over and over again. Just because you may have overeaten in the past doesn't mean you have to do it today. Just because you were shy in the past does not mean you have to play the part today. I strongly believe that each one of us should be constantly striving to remain in a state where we can make conscious choices about how we chose to act in any and every circumstance. So let's talk a little about how we do that.

The first step to taking back the control of your mind is to realize that your mind has taken control of you! You have to become aware of the fact that whenever you are not truly present in any situation, your mind automatically kicks in and takes over. When our minds take over, it pulls from past experiences and uses the established patterns of the past in the present moment. This is not a bad thing in the case of driving a car or washing dishes. But when you are trying to overcome unfavorable habits that you've once had in the past, your subconscious mind is no longer your friend but is now the one sabotaging your efforts.

The remedy to this dilemma is to commit yourself to operating in the present whenever possible. This means the difference between walking on a city sidewalk and making it across a stream on stepping stones. The fact that one wrong step means falling into the water causes you to be much more careful of your actions. Notice also that you won't be thinking of your grocery shopping list at that moment. You'll be there 100%. Operating in the present is not easy, it's like walking around with your stomach sucked in at all times.....nearly impossible. Sure we can do it whenever required but maintaining that state is often difficult.

I'll cover more practical ways to live in the present in my next post which will be part two of this series.

"Till next time!"

3/13/2009

Power of Focus podcast

This is my very first podcast entry on the topic of maintaining focus and how imperative it is to our ability to actually see the results we want. Without focus our results just won't be there. Enjoy the podcast. There will be many more to come.

3/02/2009

Are you creating your reality or is your reality creating you?



Creating lasting change in your life requires an enormous amount of mental faculties. Yes, the direction and the pattern of your thinking is a huge indicator of what your reality will ultimately look like. I strongly believe that a new set of continuous thoughts equates to a creation of a new experience. I also believe, however, that one of the most direct ways to help impact your thoughts is to first change your environment.

Think of your surroundings as an anchor to your ship of life. As long as the anchor is firmly planted far beneath the ocean, your boat will never sail. The engines can roar but resistance will always be there. You are intending to change your current reality, what you must first do is determine whether or not you are saying "move forward" or "stay here." I believe one of the most evident ways to determine whether or not you believe in inevitable change is to assess your environment for signs of your move forward.

For instance, some examples of those who are not sold on the idea of moving forward include someone who still holds on to unnecessary mementos of a previous relationship. Or someone who refuses to give up the same types of foods that helped to create their current circumstance. Does your surroundings reflect that air of confidence that you've been attempting to create with your thoughts? If you wish to manifest wealth, are you preparing for the wealth by ridding yourself of useless clutter?

Clutter, I believe, is the biggest obstacle to your ability to create. Clutter takes the place and space of that you wish to manifest. As long as you continue to place items that represent the old you in your direct line of sight, you will find yourself struggling to create that image of the new you in your mind. Every time you gaze upon what you've created through your old habits, you are essentially engraving a deeper carving of the image into your mind.

When you rid your physical world of clutter, you are creating a space whereby you can begin to easily and openly imagine the possibilities. Heck, you can even go out and obtain a new object that represents your new reality and place it where the clutter once resided. Every glance at your physical representation of your possibilities will help you to create both images and feelings of experiencing your manifestation in full glory. You will also find that your creative senses will be heightened when you find yourself in a clutter-free environment.

Take a moment to clear away the items that block your ability to clearly see and experience the new you. If the thought of de-cluttering your entire house intimidates you, set aside a block of time to take on one area at a time. The change in emotions will be instant once you've done this. What you are doing essentially is sending a message to your subconscious that the old is gone away and you are in eager anticipation of the new.

2/22/2009

Perfecting Perfect Practice



As part of my quest to improve my life experiences, I've come to a place where I am completely sold on the idea of practice to make perfect. I remember reading a book a couple of years ago where the author shared his story about the value of practice. The author was not only an advocate for practice, he spoke about perfect practice.

Perfect practice is the art of learning slowly and accurately the actions required to perform an act in an excellent fashion. Years ago, I shunned the idea of preparing and practicing for an event. I believed that my natural talent and the rush of adrenaline would be enough to create a picture perfect result each and every time. I was half right. Some of my results would surprise me because of how great things worked out. Sometimes on the other hand, I'd experience less than exceptional results. When the latter occurred, I'd simply dismiss my poor performance by reminding myself that I hadn't had time to prepare. If I would have prepared, I'd think to myself, I would have done a fantastic job.

At one point in time, leaving my results to chance would have been acceptable. Now that I am focusing my efforts of steady growth, I find that practicing for perfection is the only hope I have of being able to produce above average performance time and time again.

So what exactly is perfect practice? Learning your skill in a deliberate manner to bring about a specific outcome is perfect practice. Whenever you are learning a new skill or are fine tuning the rough spots on what you do today, you should always seek to learn the most fundamental techniques that lead to a great looking finished product. Taking the time to adequately learn every step will actually lengthen your learning time but what you are essentially doing is creating an embedded program that will direct your performance later on. Learning each step is not enough, the steps must be learned to as close a perfect as possible.

Whenever we are performing an activity whether its doing our regular job, playing a sport, presenting information, whatever it may be, our goal should be to practice in a perfect way that will create a better result each and every time. How do you do that? Here are some of my ideas.

Start with a goal

Unless you enter your practice with an intention to improve, you are giving yourself permission to continue on the same path of mediocre performance. You continue to embed the program of following the same steps that you always follow. Unless you change it, you allow yourself to experience the same frustrations repeatedly. What you want to do instead is decide what you want to improve upon every time you take an action. For instance, if you want to get more work done in less time at work, you should tell yourself the results you want to achieve. Just as an athlete knows the time she has to beat, so should you know what your goal for the activity should be.

End with an evaluation
Unless you take a moment to honestly evaluate your performance, you will not be able to glean any value or benefits from the activity. Did you perform as well as you hoped? What do you need to look out for next time in order to get better? These are the types of questions that help you move your level of performance forward.

Stretch your limits
Improvements in performance only truly happen when a person decides to step outside of her comfort zone. If we avoid situations that can contribute to our growth then we become our own worst enemy. If growth is your objective then slightly uncomfortable situations are your friend. The more uncomfortable those situations are to you, the better you become if you decide to take on the challenge. Whenever something becomes too easy for you, its time to move to the next level so you are careful not to stagnate your growth. The best way to identify if you are within your comfort zone is to analyze whether or not you perform your activities unconsciously. If you complete your tasks mindlessly then you are probably operating in the realm of comfort. Becoming better means that you will have to "get in the game" mentally as well as physically.

Now that you are aware of the differences between simply doing and practicing, decide today if you want to continue down do what you've always done or if you want to improve ever so slightly every day. Practice is the doorway to improvement and perfect practice is the key that unlocks the door.

1/24/2009

What is the fastest way to reach your goals?


We're heading into the second month of the year. Now is a good time to contemplate where you are with respects to your 2009 goals. Are you making a bee-line straight for your goals, or are you going in circles wondering when you are going to get there?

If you feel like you are not making as much traction as you would like, I want you to stop and ask yourself if you are taking the fastest and most direct route to your goals. If you decided today that you were to make a trip across town, one of your first thoughts would probably be focused on how you can take the quickest route there. If the reason for your trip were time bound, you definitely would seek to avoid any sightseeing or lallygagging at all costs.

When you think about a goal you want to reach, you should plan as if you were taking a trip going across town. You'd ask yourself, "what time do I want to get there?" "What's the fastest way to get there without running into any traffic or detours?" If you don't know where this place is, then you seek the counsel of a friend or family member who's familiar with the area. You may even research the driving directions online. Once you've decided where you want to go, you usually get there in the amount of time you've estimated with little or no obstacles.

I want you to think about the process of reaching your goals as a literal destination you want to get to. When do you want to get there? What is the absolute fastest way to get there? Do you want to take the quickest route?
Most often we know what the quickest route looks like but we somehow end up taking a detour a long the way. With a road trip, even if we run into detours, we work feverishly to make our way back to the main highway the minute the opportunity becomes available. Sometimes with our goals, we allow ourselves to travel at slower speeds through the back roads unsure of when we will get to our intended destination.

Decide today if you are traveling 75 miles an hour to your goals or going 40 and hoping you get there on time. Don't allow yourself, to waste gas and energy taking a road that leads to no where. You can make it back to the highway staight to your destination as long as you see the signs and chose to get back on track.

1/02/2009

Develop mental toughness by starting your day with an act of courage


In my previous post I shared a video where a man encouraged his viewers to begin each day an act of courage. His suggestion on how to do it was to take cold showers. One reason why he suggested cold showers is so we can overcome the need to instinctively want to seek the comfort of a warm shower first thing in the morning. In fact, we normally tend to seek comfort in much of what we do throughout the day.

I've been taking cold showers for the past week or so. The act of choosing step into frigid water in the morning is one of the most difficult things you'll ever have to do. Your first instinct is to flee the very moment the water hits you. If you don't remain steadfast in your decision to follow through in your cold shower, you will quickly revert to pacifying yourself with warm waters.

The great thing about cold showers is that the longer you stand under the cold water, the less painful the experience. Your body increases blood flow to help raise the body temperature. Soon you find the the excruciating feeling of standing in cold water no longer holds the same value. All of the sudden you are able to handle the experience and what follows is worth its weight in gold. There is nothing like coming to the realization that you have overcome the voices in your head that tell you to run quickly into the arms of warm soothing water. A rush of excitement will fill your senses as you find that you've conquered the demon that is cold water.

Mental toughness is the ability to push through even when you do not feel like it. Its knowing that the discomfort you are feeling is only a representation of fear and not worthy of your attention. Mental toughness is not a trait that one can develop overnight, it comes from making choices that normally don't come easy for us. Not only is mental toughness difficult to develop, its even harder to maintain. That is why making a choice to do something that challenges your mind every day is crucial.

For me, developing mental toughness comes in the form of a cold shower. For you mental toughness can be getting up at 5:00 am every morning. You might decide to workout every morning to toughen your mind. Whatever it is, I encourage you to take on your act of courage in the morning before your day begins. When you do so, you are sending a powerful message to the mind that you are willing and fully able to take on challenges without so much as even a flinch. You've already conquered your most difficult task of the day and everything else is just a bunch of details. Decide this moment what actions you will commit to doing daily as a way of challenging yourself. By adding mental toughness to the ever growing list of your character traits, you're allowing yourself to take on the world with a whole new set beliefs about what you can and cannot do.



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1/01/2009

What will be your theme for 2009?

2009 is upon us an I am extremely excited about this time of year. To me the new year represents an opportunity to assess where we were, where we are, and where we're going. This time of year is ripe with potential because everyone is given a new chance to start over. By starting over, I mean that we can decide to create a different reality for ourselves starting right this moment.

Hopefully you already have a couple of intentions you would like to see materialize, but if you don't, now is the perfect moment to decide upon them. In order to avoid being overwhelmed by your goals, perhaps you want to try to follow one major theme for the year as opposed to 5-10 different goals. You might find yourself trying to remember what your goals were by April but if you chose one major theme for the year, that message will stay with you every day. Your mind will not likely let you forget your chosen theme for the year.

For me, the major theme I plan of focusing on is courage. I was somewhat inspired after watching this video. Living every moment with courage means that I will chose to do that which feels slightly uncomfortable to me until I no longer experience the discomfort in the circumstance. Courage can be as simple as calling up a friend I haven't spoken to in ages or it can mean confronting my manager about a decision that I do not agree with. As I continue to increase my level of courage, I will also focus on creating the courage to challenge myself to say yes when I would normally say no.

This year is laden with potential and our intentions should be to experience all the opportunity that lays within it. The reason I get so excited about the new year is partly because I can look back at some of my previous intentions and realize that I am now experiencing what I desired. This creates even more excitement within me to continue to dream bigger and bigger. Every start of the year I always say to myself that this year will be the best year ever, and it always turns out to be the best year ever. Is it because I went into the year with positive expectation? Absolutely!

Take some time today to create and focus on your major personal growth theme for 2009. For those of you who need a little inspiration to get you started, take a look at this video and allow your positive mind juices to start flowing.