I’ve just been to a three and a half hour meeting where my team and I had to present to our wider service group. It’s always a little stressful knowing you’ll be presenting. I’m reminded of what Jerry Seinfeld said on the matter:
I saw a thing, actually a study that said speaking in front of a crowd is considered the number one fear of the average person. I found that amazing.
Number two, was death. Death is number two?
This means, to the average person, if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.
The presentation went just fine and we had a surprise special guest speaker as a small treat afterwards. That just didn’t sound all that promising. As it turned out the speaker was knowledgeable in meditation and relaxation techniques and that seemed really timely and a nice acknowledgement from our director that we’re working hard and deserve to unstress a bit.
He spoke thoughtfully and with purpose and gave us some really easy techniques to become grounded and present. I know that by the time he had finished speaking everyone was enjoying the sensation of being much more centred and calm.
And then when he asked if there were any questions he received this one:
If you had to choose only one tip for students on how to deal with stress leading up to exams, what would that be?
I found his answer to be of the type that only someone who absolutely knows their subject can give – after he said the answer it seemed completely stupidly obvious. It wasn’t the right answer insofar as it wasn’t what we expected. We expected ‘take a moment to smell the flowers’ or something along those lines (maybe not quite that flippant – I’m being facetious) but what we got was:
They need to do the study…
The ellipsis (…) is there because he got interrupted by shouts of laughter: the type of laughter that only a freshly relaxed bunch can give. Laughter which was a relief because the room had become so grounded and centred that they needed to forget themselves a little and shake off the slight paralysis that a still, quiet room of concentrated individuals can bring on. At least that’s what I thought.
They need to do the study.
This is the type of advice we give people about interviews as well, if you want to be less nervous, prepare well.
I recently came to a standstill while writing a post about why so many job applications have simple mistakes. I stopped because I realised that the root cause is lack of preparation. Telling people they need to prepare better is like telling a drowning person they need air. Procrastination is a habit people have in spite of themselves. I can speak from experience when I say the procrastinator knows what they’re doing – in the past I’ve gotten butterflies because I know a deadline for something I’ve been avoiding is approaching, that just meant I got further involved in whatever time-wasting activity I was involved in to forget my priorities.
As a sufferer of procrastination I can’t offer any single remedy (I’m getting better by the way, thank you) but I can tell you that there was one time in my life when my attitude towards things I found stressful but which had to be done was as positive as you could hope for. This was during the time that I was practicing meditation. My attitude towards these stressful tasks was this:
This task is causing me stress. This task has to be done. Start now.
On the one hand, that’s an attitude shift which sounds like hard work and can be. On the other hand it actually means doing less – no longer making excuses, no longer trying to forget your priorities, no longer avoiding stress and instead doing something about it. No longer getting in the way.
So while this has been an anecdote or a snapshot of my current thoughts, I also hope it provides something that can be taken away as advice – it’s in there somewhere, I’m almost certain.
Anyway, I’d love to hang around but I have to go write an email I’ve been avoiding…
By the way, here’s the website for our surprise special guest speaker: http://wellbeings.co.nz/