Category Archives: Personal Development

If Goal Setting Doesn’t Work, Try This

goals

At this time of year there are hundreds of blog posts and articles from all sorts of people telling you how to set and achieve your goals. And hundreds of other articles outlining all sorts of reasons why you’re unlikely to achieve your new year’s resolutions.

I don’t know about you, but around this time of year I really enjoy spending time reflecting on the year that has just come to a close and making plans for the coming year. I am fortunate to have a great friend and accountability partner and we have spent several hours together discussing our plans for 2017.

What is really interesting (and quite frustrating to her I’m sure) is how different we are when it comes to goal setting. She is very structured and likes to set achievable goals with achievable time frames. She is the type of person who will beat herself up if she doesn’t achieve a goal.

I, on the other hand, like to be more fluid with my goals. I’m not saying it always works but it’s a better approach for me as I’m not driven in the same way to achieve specific goals. And I also like the idea of not limiting what you think you can achieve, because in my experience you can usually achieve more than you think you can!

As an example, I have a vague goal of improving my fitness and energy levels in 2017 so on Boxing Day I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I went for a run today?” I don’t consider myself to be a runner and haven’t actually ‘run’ for many months; however, I figured I would just get out the door and see what happened. As I was running I felt okay and started to think “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just keep running for as long as I feel okay?”

So I kept running. At around 3.5kms I noticed my legs were starting to hurt but I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if I could run 4km today without stopping?” So I kept running. Once I reached 4km I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could run 5km without stopping?” (5km is the furthest I have ever run without stopping and I’ve only done that twice in my life – once last July when running with someone else and once in a ‘fun’ run more than 20 years ago!)

So I kept running. Once I got it into my head that it would be a great thing to do, I actually ran past my house and did an extra lap around the block to bring the total distance up to 5km. I completely surprised myself at my ability to achieve this. And that’s what I love about this way of setting goals. If I had have set off with a goal of running 5km that day, I doubt whether I would have set off in the first place!

So this year I’ve decided to set out my plans for the year as a series of questions. For example:

  • Wouldn’t it be great if my book was published this year? Yes it would!
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I could learn to surf this year? Yes it would!
  • Wouldn’t it be great if I was booked for more international speaking gigs this year? Yes it would!

I took a similar approach when I stopped drinking alcohol for a year. I didn’t proclaim that I was going to stop drinking alcohol for a year, I simply thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I stopped drinking alcohol for a while?” As the year progressed I changed the question several times until I was at about 11 months and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could say I had stopped for a year?” And I did. I’m going to try the same approach with junk food this year!

So if SMART goal setting doesn’t work for you (Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound), why not try a different approach?  What do you want to achieve or focus on this year? If you’re experiencing any resistance to your goal setting I encourage you to consider turning it into a question. For example if you want to get over your fear of public speaking, consider starting with, “Wouldn’t it be great if could speak up at a meeting this week?” Then you can move on to, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could visit a public speaking group just to see what it’s like?” And once you’ve done that, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could try out a short speech in front of a small supportive audience?” Yes it would!

Obviously, you also have to make the decision to do it and take action, but I find it’s so much easier to just take that initial first step with a more vague question pondering the possibility rather than a hard and fast statement of the goal. For me, this way of working towards what I want to achieve is far more appealing than specific time bound goals, and the great thing is that I never beat myself up for not achieving something because I always seem to be moving forward. Of course, you might think of this as a cop out, but I find that by using this approach I often achieve more than I would have originally thought possible.

So, if you’re like my friend who prefers to set and achieve SMART goals and that works for you, go for it. But if you want to try an alternative in 2017, why not ask the question “Wouldn’t it be great if… (fill in the blank)?”

Here’s to a year of exciting possibilities!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_

 

10 Ways That Running is Similar to Public Speaking

Running2

Have you ever committed yourself to doing something without having any idea of how you were going to achieve it? I’m a big believer in saying ‘yes’ to things and working out the how later; it has served me well and given me many opportunities that I may not have had if I had stopped to think first!

With this in mind, and having recently come to the conclusion that I need to improve my fitness, I decided to commit to doing Julie Creffield’s Five Weeks to 5K run. I’ve never been very sporty; I also have an aversion to gyms and I certainly couldn’t call myself a runner by any stretch of the imagination – I had no idea whether it would be possible and but I was never going to find out if I didn’t try.

So over the past few weeks I have found myself out ‘running’ (if you can call my slow shuffle for a few minutes at a time ‘running’!) Of course, I rarely stop thinking about my work so during a recent ‘run’ I started thinking about the parallels between my running and public speaking.

Get your mindset right

I will never know if I am capable of running 5km unless I try it but I have to believe it’s possible. It’s the same with public speaking. You have to look at your beliefs about your ability to speak well in public and find a way to believe that you can. I often help clients to shatter their limiting beliefs and replace them with new positive beliefs that will allow them to move forward with their public speaking goals. If you are serious about wanting to improve your public speaking, you need to have the right mindset. Get help with this if you need to – work with a coach, speak with a trusted friend or mentor or look into hypnotherapy, EFT, resonance re-patterning or any of the many other options available to help you get your mindset right.

(By the way, I have a belief that everyone can learn to speak well in public so that means you too!)

Stretch beyond your comfort zone

I don‘t feel mentally or physically comfortable about running. The idea of what others might think about me huffing and puffing along the road with my wobbly bits wobbling makes me feel uncomfortable! Pushing my body beyond what it is used to challenges me physically. But unless I stretch beyond what is comfortable I know I’ll never improve. Many people feel that public speaking is way out of their comfort zone but unless you stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable you won’t be able to develop any further than your current level of ability.

Start small

5km is a good goal to have when you initially start running. I’ve still not run 5km without stopping but each day I try to run a bit longer and by next week I know I’ll be able to run the full distance. If I had set myself the goal of a running marathon it may have felt like too much and I would have stopped well before reaching my goal. When you’re starting your public speaking journey, start small. Your longer term goal might be to speak at a big event in front of 1,000 people, but give yourself a more attainable goal when you’re starting out. That might be delivering a 30 second pitch at a networking event, challenging yourself to speak up in a meeting, joining a public speaking club like Toastmasters International or getting yourself a coach.

Just do it!

I know will never get good at running by just thinking about it. And you will never get good public speaking by just thinking about it. Until you get out and speak in front of an audience you will never know what works and what doesn’t, you will never be able to build your confidence, develop your own style or to implement any learning. It is the actual doing of it that helps you grow and improve so stop thinking and start doing!

Enjoy the high of achieving your goals

Today I managed to run half a kilometre more than I did yesterday before stopping for a short rest; I felt a great sense of achievement and it gave me a bit of a high. When you have set yourself and achieved a small goal in relation to your public speaking, make sure you take a moment to congratulate yourself and enjoy the feeling. If you’re someone who avoids public speaking, it might surprise you to know that just like running, many people find that once they’re over the initial resistance they experience a high after public speaking as well.

Learn from experts

In the Five Weeks to 5K programme, Julie Creffield provides helpful advice and encouragement delivered directly to my inbox each week. As I get further into running I will consider hiring a coach to review my technique and help me find ways to improve. Even as an experienced speaker, I am always looking to further develop my own expertise so I read books, watch webinars and regularly work directly with experts who help me refine my skills even further. If you want to improve your running or your public speaking, learn from the experts.

Get support

As part of the Five Weeks to 5K programme, participants can join a facebook group where they can ask questions, share their challenges and encourage each other. You should do the same for public speaking; there’s only so much you can prepare in isolation, eventually you need to speak in front of people – practice your presentation in front of a supportive audience who can give you constructive feedback, help and encouragement. Choose these people wisely – sometimes your family, though they may mean well, might not be the best for this; a public speaking group is always a good option.

Warm up

Just like an athlete warms up to ensure they are in peak condition before a race, so should we warm up before a giving a presentation. With my background as a performer I never warm up on the audience’s time. As a presenter, it is your responsibility to show your audience the best possible version of yourself and ensure your communication tools are sharp. You should ensure that your body, voice and mind are thoroughly warmed up so that you bring the best energy and delivery to your speech.

Awareness is key

When out running I become very aware of my body and how it’s performing. I notice when I’m breathless (a lot!), when my muscles are feeling tired or when I feel a twinge of pain somewhere. When presenting, you should be aware of your body as well. Are your gestures appropriate and effective or are they repetitive and distracting? Is your voice rich and expressive or are your nerves making it high pitched and squeaky? Are you speaking too quickly or too slowly? Are you sounding apologetic and unsure because your voice is too soft or you are including too many ums and errs? The more aware you are, the more effectively you can adapt your delivery during your presentation and work on improving it for the future.

Take time to reflect

At the end of each run I take a moment to reflect on how I felt and how I can improve for next time. I do the same with my talks and workshops to ensure that I am always growing and developing my ability. At the end of your presentation or speech, ask yourself what went well, what didn’t go so well and what would you do differently next time? Then incorporate your learning into your future talks to ensure continuous improvement.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

 

The No 1 Way You Are Sabotaging Your Confidence (and what to do about it)

Confidence

I’m fascinated by confidence. I’m intrigued as to why people feel confident (or not), in what circumstances they feel confident (or not) and why some people are generally more confident than others.

And it’s interesting that a lack of confidence shows up in different ways for different people. In my work I come across a lot of successful people who have confidence in their business idea or their area of professional expertise; however, they have a lack of confidence when it comes to standing up and speaking in front of large groups of people. Other people I know have confidence to take on new and unfamiliar tasks or make huge changes in their lives such as moving to a new country; however, they may lack the confidence to speak up in meetings or challenge a decision made by someone they perceive to be more important than themselves.

Often a lack of confidence will stem from three fears:

  • the fear of not belonging
  • the fear of not being good enough
  • the fear of not being liked/loved

These fears are all about what other people think, but confidence really comes down to a belief in yourself; a belief in your own power and own abilities. So essentially confidence is really about our ability to judge our own abilities; it’s about the story we tell ourselves.

Having said that, one of the things I’ve noticed is that some of the most overly confident people I know can often be a bit lacking in ability and some of the most under confident people I know have loads of ability; and sometimes there seems to be no correlation between someone’s ability and their level of confidence!

You probably know someone who is amazing at what they do but completely lack confidence; maybe that person is you.

So we need to become aware of how we judge our own abilities and the story we tell ourselves. Examples of some of the stories we might tell ourselves are:

  • “I’m hopeless at speaking in public.”
  • “I have to work long hours in order to feel like I’ve earned my place in this job.”
  • “I’m not good at speaking up in meetings because everyone else in the room knows more than me.”

Stories are self-fulfilling – whatever story you consistently tell yourself is likely to be true for you.  For example, if you consistently say “I’m terrified of public speaking”, you actually start to believe it and it becomes embedded as a belief. But it really is just made up in your mind. If you recognise and change your story, you can significantly change your life.

So the first thing to do if you want to build confidence is to start to become aware of the stories you are telling yourself and interrupt them; start to question them and challenge them.

What’s your confidence story? Is the story you are telling yourself sabotaging your confidence? In what way can you change your story to improve your level of confidence?

In a future post, I’ll share my confidence story, how it sabotaged my success and what I have done to change it. In the meantime, I urge you to take time to understand your own confidence story and change it if it is hindering your ability to achieve your personal and professional goals.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood works with ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals who want to speak with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s inspiring talks and programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

Why Other People Are the Key to Your Success

People

I have recently formed a mastermind group with some other professional speakers for whom I have immense admiration and respect. We are all at similar stages in our professional speaking journey and it’s exciting to think that we will be able to support and inspire each other to reach our goals.

It has been an aspiration of mine for quite some time to set up a mastermind group to focus specifically on speaking. But it has taken a while because I knew how crucial it was to get the right people involved.

Jim Rohn is quoted as saying, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with’ meaning that if you hang around with negative people who have no motivation to achieve anything in their lives, it is likely that you will find yourself in a similar state. If you want to change that situation, you need to change the people you spend time with so that you surround yourself with positive, motivated, driven people who are committed achieving their goals.

Ever since I went into business the message has been clear: surrounding yourself with the right support is the key to your success. And I think this is true in life as well as business.

I am involved in another supportive group and we meet on a semi-regular basis. We are all quite different in our outlook but we have a common aim to move forward in our lives and achieve our goals. Unlike my speaker mastermind group, this group focuses on all areas of our lives – health and wellbeing, career/business, fitness, finance, relationships, social life, fun, soul nurturing, personal development and home life. We get together to share our plans, to challenge each other, to motivate each other and to support and encourage each other. It’s a great opportunity to get different perspectives and ideas on the challenges we face. And we celebrate together when we achieve the milestones we have set for ourselves. In this way, we are able to refocus on what we are achieving. I can’t tell you how often I look at my massive ‘To Do’ list and feel overwhelmed; however, when I take a moment to look at my ‘Ta Da’ list I realise how much I am achieving and moving forward in my life and business. Sometimes it is not until I meet with this wonderfully supportive group that I take the time to reflect on my ‘Ta Da’ list. It’s also lovely to have someone else remind me of how challenging something may have been and congratulate me on the great job I did in achieving it (something I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself!)

My parents had the same idea as Jim Rohn when they warned me as a teenager not to get in with the ‘wrong’ crowd. As two of my biggest supporters, they are delighted that I have always chosen to surround myself with people who have my best interests at heart and help me grow both personally and professionally. Outside of the two groups mentioned above there are numerous other mentors, coaches, advisers and friends who also provide support and a useful sounding board as I continue my journey in life and business. Despite the fact that I am fiercely independent and I have always been incredibly reluctant to ask for help, I know that people love the opportunity to offer support and every day I am grateful for the individuals around me who continue to guide me and encourage me to stretch myself and be the best I can be.

Who do you surround yourself with? Are they on your side, are they your cheerleaders, your biggest supporters? Do they believe in you, inspire you, motivate you, challenge you, encourage you and celebrate your successes with you? Or do they make you feel insignificant, unsupported and uninspired to live your full potential? Sometimes it may not seem like it, but you do have a choice – choose your cheerleaders wisely and you will have a much better chance of achieving the life of your dreams.

Mel Sherwood empowers ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to communicate with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s inspiring talks, masterclasses and coaching programmes go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential

What’s Your Theme For 2015?

Image - Courage quote

We are already more than three weeks into the new year and there has been a lot of talk about new year resolutions. But I wonder whether you are sticking to your resolutions? Have you already broken them or at least some of them? Often we set too many or make them completely unrealistic so that it is impossible to stick to them.

I haven’t made new year resolutions as such for many years although I do set personal and business goals as part of my planning. What I tend to do is to give myself a theme for the year. Last year was about focus and discipline (which appeared to be waning in relation to writing blog posts towards the end of the year but that’s a whole other story!)

Having a theme is easy to remember and allows me to remind myself on a regular basis. I can check in with myself to ensure that whatever I’m doing aligns with that theme and I find that it always moves me forward personally in some way.

So what is my theme for 2015?

Courage.

That’s it. Courage.

People who know me well can’t understand why I would choose courage as a theme. I am generally seen as quite courageous in a lot of ways; here are a few examples from the last 10 years:

  • I left a great job and a great life in Australia in my mid-thirties to travel the world alone
  • I arrived in the UK with just a backpack and started a new life halfway across the world away from my family and friends
  • I wrote, produced and performed in my own one woman play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
  • I left another safe, secure job that I enjoyed to set up my own business from scratch
  • I regularly speak in public by choice!

In some ways, in some people’s eyes, I am courageous. But in many ways I don’t think I am. So my next step in my courageous journey is to share publicly some of the areas that I would like to focus on this year.

Deep breath and here goes!

I will have the courage:

  • to go deep within and get in touch with my authentic self (I’ve been so busy focusing on building my business that I have lost touch with the essence of who I am and what I really want from life)
  • to step up and fulfil my own potential (whilst I am on my way with this, I believe there is more that I can offer to the world)
  • to let go of the perfectionism that sometimes stops me taking action
  • to let go of the fear of being judged by others
  • to let go of the limiting beliefs that are keeping me comfortable
  • to be true to myself and not follow the path others expect (or that I think others expect!)
  • to say goodbye to what I ‘should’ do and hello to what I ‘want’ to do
  • to be honest with myself
  • to make decisions and trust that they will be okay
  • to take some time away from my business to question, to dream, to plan (I’ve been in reactive mode and not taking the time to consider whether what I am doing is truly fulfilling me)

So there you have it. I’ve laid my soul bare. It’s funny how one of the most challenging but the most important points on the list is the final one – having the courage to take time away from my business.  But I’ve been so busy working that I’ve not even had a chance to review my business plan and outline my objectives for 2015. I’m grateful to my friends, mentors and advisors who convinced me that I need to stop in order to move forward. And now that I’ve accepted how important it is, I can’t wait to do it! I know how beneficial it will be and I have committed to going away for the first two weeks in February to reconnect with myself and map out what I would like to achieve personally and professionally over the coming years. With courage as my theme, I’m really looking forward to rediscovering what makes my heart sing, working out how I’m going to incorporate that into my life and business and just going for it (no matter what others might think!) So stay tuned…

What about you? Do you have a theme for 2015? If you feel comfortable to do so, I encourage you to share it in the comments section; there is definitely something very empowering about declaring your intentions publicly and maybe you’ll inspire someone else to share theirs too.

Mel Sherwood is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, a company passionate about providing the seeds to speaking success. Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer.

Specialising in helping others transform their life and their business through clear, confident and credible communication, Mel empowers ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to clarify their message, engage their audience and use their body, voice, mind and heart to enthusiastically and authentically express their ‘inner oomph’. To find out more go to www.grow-your-potential.com or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential