By Guest Contributor Seema Menon
As a leader you want to achieve in your career/business, and also in your personal life. To meet your goals you need to be aware of three ways that achievement can be undermined. These are: distraction; MISinterpretation; and MIScommunication.
SO, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? Let’s consider the issues and start with the issue of distraction, or to look at it another way, attention.
This is the most important aspect of our consciousness. In the past the capacity to focus was a given, but with the explosion of distractions around us from advertising to emails, from social media to news, giving attention to something has become a virtue.
Lack of accomplishment is not attention deficiency, but attention ambushed and misled to the more sensationalist and entertaining aspects; the attention candy of instant gratification. And as the mind gets used to being distracted so often and with such compelling content it looks to feed this need and takes us away from focusing on our goals.
How does one regain attention? Mindfulness is one way. It’s a type of meditation, a focus on being in the present and bringing full attention to the object. Mindfulness means calling attention to our thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and movements. The aim is to be engrossed in the act of engaging, be it enjoying a walk in the park, sharing a chat with a friend, painting, having a cup of tea or jogging. Mindfulness is about putting your attention towards that which is intended instead of being led by distraction.
Practicing Mindfulness brings more awareness to one’s breath and we can use this to relax tense muscles or focus on a situation that requires attention. Breathing can also be used to help deal with pain, anger or the stress of daily life.
By being mindful and putting our attention on the goal we want to achieve, we will remove distractions and will therefore be more likely to reach our target.
Sensory stimuli impinge upon the mind which then interprets this experience based on one’s conditioning. Whenever there is stimulus, we interpret it, give it meaning, and behave accordingly.
Distress and trauma, for example, are not products of what has actually happened, but rather how we interpret it. Someone can lose a job or have a physical accident and say, ‘Now my life is not worth living’, while another person can say ‘So what, let me see what I can do next’.
A change in interpretation can alter your life dramatically. During the Covid Lockdown, you have a choice to be upset about the circumstances and feel depressed or you can make the most of this time to develop business plans, pick up a new skill, work on your physical and mental fitness, keep in touch with family via Zoom etc. The choice is on the individual.
Interpretation is therefore ‘communication to the self’. If our communication is positive then we are more likely to be motivated to achieve, to be willing to try again when we fail. Both of which are important if you want to achieve something. Negative interpretation is a killer of success, so change the way you look at things – and you’ll be more likely to succeed.
While attention and interpretation are intricate aspects of the self, one of the aspects of what makes us human is the ability to communicate with each other. Communication has two aspects: a. Communication to the self (our own inner voice, our interpretation) and b. Communication with others.
Lack of good, clear, engaging communication is one of the killers of achievement. So, it’s essential we enhance our communication skills. We’ve covered internal communication, now let’s look at external.
For example, when communicating with an audience, large or small, there are three key elements to master:
- Managing your state
- Connecting with your audience
- Creating change
MANAGING YOUR STATE
You can use your breathing to help manage your emotional state. Breathe slow and deep to calm yourself. Once relaxed, speak normally, and pause to breathe if you feel your stress rising. Pausing is also important in order to add punctuation to your speech and give the audience a chance to digest and contemplate the contents.
CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
Give your audience the information they need. If you are an expert in subject, then demonstrate this through the information you share. Speak with confidence (but not arrogance). Making eye contact is also important. And smile.
Help your audience visualize the future. Help them see how things can be different. Help show them ‘how’ they can change. Many of us have desires but fail to act, so show them how to act, how to take the first step. Help them feel strong and positive, so they can make a decision. People in a low state don’t make decisions! The essence of good external communicator is to effect a change in the audience, moving them to where you want them to be.
Understanding these issues and barriers to achievement, then taking appropriate action will help you to meet and even exceed your next goals.
Seema Menon, is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org
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