Overcoming your fears

I remember waiting in line, long before computers were a part of registering for college, looking at the sign-up sheet for college classes. As an 18 year old freshman I had no clue what to expect as I waited my turn to talk to a counselor. The people who waited in line were like me, new and nervous. The lady behind the counter called my name. As she looked through her stack of papers I was relieved  when she found my information. She asked me what classes I wanted to sign up for. I told her English, Psychology 101, humanities, statistics, and American history. As she checked the list of classes that were still available, she said two of my choices were not open to freshman students.

I blankly stared at her and asked,” What do I need to do?” She said, “‘Well, you will need to take a speech class!” I stumbled over my words and in a shaky voice said, “I have to take speech?? ”  “Yes” she replied, “you do!” I felt sick to my stomach. I hated speech class! Until now, I had successfully avoided any class that would require public speaking and risk embarrassing myself. A million excuses raced through my mind, all the while I stared at this poor woman, not saying a word. When I came to my senses I said, “Ok, I guess I will have to take this speech class” and signed up for it. I finished signing up for the rest of my classes and walked back to my car.

As I drove home, I thought about the speech class I had signed up for. Then a fond memory from high school came to mind. My freshman year in high school, students were required to take a speech class or we could opt out for “Introduction to Band”. Those were the only two choices we had. Well, this was a no-brainer for me! Intro to band it was! I remember laughing at those who signed up for speech class. I was a new man, er…boy of 14, a freshman with something to prove. Let’s face it, I beat the system! I got out of speech! First day in the band room I met up with my good friend Todd. He hated speech too and had opted for band. We sat in the back row of the band room and waited our turn to choose the instrument we intended to play. Even though I had never held one of these instruments in my hand, I chose the trombone. It was gold and shiny and to a freshman boy, it looked cool. Todd picked the cornet. Once we made our selection, our band instructor, Mr. Base explained what he expected us to learn in 6 weeks. The class met twice a week for 45 minutes. I didn’t care! It could have met for 5 hours twice a week. All I knew was that I had wiggled out of speech class and that was all that mattered!

Mr. Base informed us that we would have to play one solo before the class and we could play from where we were seated! Wow! I loved this teacher! This would be no problem! I was game for that and was relieved I didn’t have to give any speeches in front of the class. I actually had fun learning how to play the trombone. When it came time for us to play our solos, Mr. Base instructed us to do our best. He knew he didn’t have many recruits for the band, but he had a fun group of kids who gave it their all. I was the last to perform and played “Mary Had A Little Lamb”. Although I botched it, I passed the class. Mission accomplished!

Back to reality! It hit me…I was signed up for a college speech class. Oh my god, what did I do? I worried the two weeks prior to class starting! Finally, the semester began and I met our instructor. She was an older woman in her 70’s. She stated her expectations:   eight speeches during the semester including the type and length of each speech with the longest being 30 minutes. My heart sank. That was it! I was going to quit college! That’s how shy I was. I made the decision to address my fear of public speaking to my instructor. She recognized how painfully shy I was. During that hour-long meeting, she tried every which way to convince me that I could do it. Then a miracle happened in her office. She said that I could give my speech in her office just for her. The highest grade she could give me was a D, but I was perfectly fine with that. Her actions that day kept me in college. I was thankful she understood my situation. Every week I would meet her in her office at 3:15 p.m. and recited my speech. Eventually, I earned three credits and a pass out of speech.

My speech class was a major battle for me and yet I managed to get my way and avoid my fears. That turned out to be a huge problem for me down the road. When I transferred to the University of Wisconsin, I was in college with the big boys. The professors were not sympathetic and were very demanding. I had a class called Exercise Science that required hands-on applications and hours of homework. The professor asked the class to prepare a paper on training for a team sport. I chose professional football and worked my tail off! The paper included flexibility, strength training, speed development, diet, polymeric training and included dozens of pictures and diagrams. This could have been a complete book project. Two weeks later we turned in our projects. I had forgotten about the project until the professor asked for our papers at the end of class. He called three people to the front of the class which had about a hundred students. He called my name, then my buddy John, and another student, Linda. He handed Linda’s paper to her, then John’s paper to him, and looked at me as he handed my paper back to me and announced to the class that I would be the instructor for the next two weeks because of the program I had researched and reported on. “Me? Teach the class???” I panicked! “Yep,” he said, “it’s your class now.”

As I look back now at that situation I can laugh, but at the time my first thought was to find a way to get out of teaching the class! Try as I might, he didn’t buy into my reasons. He didn’t cut me any slack or give me a break. I was destined to teach my peers! Today I am thankful he didn’t allow me to fall into my own excuses and quit even before I got started.

Did I face my fears? No! Did that experience make me a better person?   No! What did I learn? I used my fears as an excuse for not facing the challenges we all face during our lives. I see this same scenario so many times in my practice. Most of us don’t want to deal with our real-life challenges. Why do you think that is? What is the worst thing that can happen if we don’t face the trials and painful experiences we face every day? If we allow our fears to get the best of us and control us, we will find out in the end that they will defeat us if we don’t get a handle on them.

What excuses do you use to get out of projects to improve yourself? Do you make excuses when you begin thinking about starting a business or improving your marriage? Listen, we all do it! Now is the time to take action and make changes in your life. Don’t allow past mistakes and failures control your future. Decide how you will approach the things that freighten you. Make a list of how you plan to deal with each item that you’ve been making excuses for.

Following is a list I rely on when I have to attend public speaking engagements:

• When I get a call and asked about a public speaking engagement, I ask them what topic they would like me to talk about. If I am not comfortable with their request, I decline the offer.
• I ask myself, “how well do I know the material they want me to speak about? Can I research it and gather enough of the details so that I can make it a fun and interesting talk?”
• Can I use humor in my talk? This is an important step in engaging those who have come , lighten up and enjoy getting to know me as their friend.
• What time do they need me there and how long would they like the talk to last?

The bottom line is, stop making excuses because something makes you uncomfortable! Like Nike says, “Just Do It.” Get out of the habit of running away from uncomfortable situations.

Do you struggle taking control of your life and find yourself making excuses to get out of these difficult situations? Have you been afraid to face an upcoming life event, like a divorce or medical condition and make excuses to avoid taking proactive steps to resolve your fears? Would you like to stop making excuses and learn new skills that will help you the face the challenges in your life? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I can help you! I will show you how to put a working plan together that will guide you through the most difficult situations you face.

Online and phone Master Life Coaching is affordable, accessible, anonymous, and available by appointment, from the privacy of your own home. Avoid the travel and time it takes to get my office. You never have to leave the comfort of your own home to meet with me so your anonymity and privacy is completely secured and protected. I coach many out-of-state clients who have successfully used this method and have found it to be the most effective means for Life Coaching especially for those who live out of the Denver-metro area or are out of the state of Colorado. I can also arranged counseling services via Skype.

For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call or email me at 303.456.055 or mike@applicablecoaching.com. All calls are confidential and your privacy is protected.

Go to Mike’s blog and comment on today’s article at http://www.applicablecoaching.com/blog/.