Whew! I have been BUSY. Actually, scratch that. I don’t like using the word “busy.” It implies what my friend, ah-mazing speaker, and consultant Neen James calls, “unintentional attention.” You know, that thing where you’re doing things just to do them, but not really paying attention to what you’re spending your time on, or why.
Busy is stressful. I don’t like “busy.”
No, instead, I’d say the past few weeks have been very, very “full.” After Labor Day weekend with my boys (ropes courses, arcades, and games, oh my!), I started the week in Cleveland keynoting Content Marketing World, and ended it back here in Boston, speaking at Hubspot’s huge INBOUND marketing conference. All three of those were spectacular and nutso and amazing as they always are.
The two events, in particular, *could* have been the source of incredible stress and anxiety. Content Marketing World was my largest audience so far (4000+), and I did back-to-back sessions at INBOUND (they added a second session after my first one sold out in the first week registration was open). I’ve also been working for months on this new talk and was (and am!) super excited about it. (And no, I didn’t use a three-point structure in any of them, in case you read my rant on that two weeks ago.)
Of course, there were some symptoms of anxiety there, sure. Racing heart right before I got on stage, a bit of dry mouth. I always want to make sure I do the best job for audiences as I can, so I always get those two before getting onstage. It turns out, though, that anxiety and excitement have the same symptoms. Just reframing your anxiety as excitement can make a huge difference.
A big part of stage fright, and anxiety in general, is that people start to get anxious about being anxious. As a recent #swipefile points out, certain levels of stress and anxiety are normal. After all, it’s not normal for you to step off a platform into… nothing, something I had to do while zip-lining with my two adventurous boys during that weekend before.
Yes, I was in a harness, and yes my descent was going to be slowed by an auto-belay. But it’s not normal to just walk off of something when you’re 25 feet in the air, even if it is perfectly “safe,” and even if it’s the only way off a ropes course.
It’s also not normal to be standing in front of a group of people to pitch or present, even if it’s a regular part of your job. We’re pack animals after all — we’re wired to be part of the crowd, not staring at it. The racing heart and dry mouth are likely going to happen regardless (see the pack animal bit, above!).
So, in those moments, it can help to remember that normal-ness of your reaction. At the very least, it removes that extra level of anxiety. And allows you to focus on what’s really going on, and maybe even help someone else.
It can also help to remember, and recognize, the normal-ness of that reaction in those you’re trying to help — your clients, customers, or audiences. Because, in a lot of ways your job as a creator of change (however big or small) is all about helping people feel calm(er), and even excited, about doing something different. About stepping off into the nothingness of a new experience (where there’s no previous experience to hold them up).
That’s stressful and anxiety-producing for THEM. People don’t like not having the answers to questions. It goes against their need to feel smart, capable, and good.
But, even though we know rationally that a situation exists independent of our feelings about it, it’s our feelings that more often than not determine how we react to that situation.
That’s why what we do — what you do — is so powerful. Your idea is an answer to those questions that make them feel stressed and anxious. More often than not, your idea came about as a result of your experiencing those questions (and the stress) yourself.
From that knowledge, experience, and empathy, comes the power to help. It means you can help people do three critically important things:
(1) By describing the situation from their point of view, you help them realize the situation they’re in is one other people are also in, or have been. You help them see that, even if a situation is unusual, it’s not abnormal. That they’re not alone in what they see. They have you, who can see what they see, too.
(2) By acknowledging the stress and anxiety that often comes with that situation, you help them normalize their feelings about it. That “anxiety about anxiety” reaction is a hidden one to most people, even to those who suffer from panic and anxiety (as I did for 17 years). That makes it the far more insidious reaction, as the #swipefile study from this week indicates. So, when you can give people reasons why their stress and anxiety makes sense, you remove that extra, insidious layer for them, and they can focus on what to do next.
(3) By giving them a new perspective on that now-normalized situation, you help them reframe it in a way that moves them forward. Instead of telling them to stop a thing, you’re showing them a path to doing a new thing that will get them the same, or even a better, result. That’s the power of reframing “I’m feeling anxious,” to “I’m feeling excited.” You feel anxious about things, and usually things you can’t do anything about. But excited? You’re in control of what you’re excited about… and what you do as a result.
So, yeah, that’s a very long way to explain why the shift from “busy” to “full” is so important to me. It’s not only a useful way to keep my focus on what I care about (and off of stress about stress), it shows the power of reframing in general.
Reframing didn’t take my racing heart or dry mouth away. It didn’t make stepping off that platform any less scary. But it did get me to what I wanted faster. A connection with the audience. A way to show my younger son that Mama will do anything for him… even stepping off into nothingness.
Thank goodness for auto-belays.By giving them a new perspective on that now-normalized situation, you help them reframe it in a way that moves them forward. Click To Tweet
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