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May 16

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Oxford Life Coach: Practice, preach

Earlier this month, I head over to Upton Park, the home of West Ham FC. The occasion? Not a football match, but an event held by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, at which I am the speaker.

“Think your way to success” is the title I’ve been asked to explore, and I jump at the chance. The way we think about things has an effect on our expectations, our behaviour, and how the world responds to us. Understanding how this works is immensely powerful. There’s nothing spooky about it. It’s common sense, and I’m keen to share these ideas with anyone who’s interested.

I prepare a 90 minute interactive session and jump on the train. I am a tad nervous. I want to do a great job. But this is a new audience, a new talk, and I do not know how it is going to go down.

Luckily I have a ready-made coping strategy. I apply what I am going to talk about, to the process of talking about it. It’s no good turning up to talk about “Thinking your way to success” if my inner gremlin is going mental, and I’m convinced I’m going fall flat.

So I create a set of beliefs that will support my success this evening:

      Belief 1: I am a great public speaker
      Belief 2: I love talking about this subject
      Belief 3: The audience is eager to listen and learn

Here’s how:

I find evidence to support the beliefs. That is, I vividly remember (and write down if you must know) instances where I’ve had positive feedback on my public speaking, where I’ve enjoyed myself, where I’ve had an impact on an audience. I also apply some imagination. What other reason could there be for hard worked accountants to turn up at Upton Park on a sunny Thursday evening, if it is not because they are eager and interested?

I calm my inner gremlin. There is of course a part of me that is saying “The audience is only coming along for CPD points. They’ll be bored, and they will undermine me. I’ll get a terrible reception, and it’ll go horribly wrong.” This part of me is – believe it or not – trying to keep me safe. Stretching myself in this way, takes me outside my comfort zone where ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN. My inner gremlin, tasked with looking after me, does not like this prospect. So it tries hard to keep me in my comfort zone where it’s safe, easy, predictable (not to mention boring). I thank my inner gremlin for its concern and explain the worst that can happen is that people might be sarcastic and leave. I work out what I’d do in this highly unlikely circumstance. I explain to myself that this would not necessarily be a complete disaster. I would be able to use the feedback to alter my talk for future outings, or decide to find other ways to find new clients.

I tease my inner gremlin. When my inner gremlin starts catastrophising about how embarrassingly awful it will be if the audience is objectionable, I smile. I jest that across London as we speak, accountants are stockpiling rotten tomatoes in order to have something to throw at me. Furthermore, the world’s biggest personal development sceptic has cleared his diary and is flying in from LA, especially to hear me speak. My inner gremlin does not like being teased so it wrinkles its nose and scuttles back into the shadows.

I reinforce my success structures. Just like everyone else, I know what I need for things to go well. For me ahead of a big day, it’s about having supportive people around me, getting a good night’s sleep, eating properly and having a nice dress to wear (yes really). So I take some time to make sure these success structures are in place. I make sure I discuss the event with people who have absolute faith in me (and are not going to feed my inner gremlin). I schedule an early night. I travel to London an hour or so early so I can grab myself a healthy dinner (sushi – the food of champions) in a quiet spot before the event. And I buy myself a new dress. And jacket. And shoes.

I’m delighted to report that it all does the trick. The evening goes very well. People smile and laugh. The group willingly shares ideas. Some people even agree to stand up and pretend to be cavemen (you had to be there).

If you are facing a challenge, the first question to ask is: “What do I need to believe for this to go well?” Write down your belief and find evidence to support it. The more evidence you have, the stronger the belief.

Have a chat with your inner gremlin. It is trying to help, so be gentle when you tease it.

And finally, work out what needs to happen, practically, for you to be a complete and utter triumph of brilliance.

The only thing left to do it simply doing it.

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