Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

Our beliefs have more power over our lives than a hurricane. The most powerful are disguised as assumptions or certainties about who we are. They don’t seem like beliefs at all. And yet what we ‘know’ about who we are can liberate us, or constrain our lives as surely as prison bars.

Here’s a conversation with Kahla (name changed) from a recent class in presentation skills. After some arm-twisting from me, she has just finished speaking with seeming confidence.

Kahla: That was awful.
Classmates: What? How can you say that? You were good.
Kahla: But if I speak like that, people will think I’m arrogant.
Me: Okay, watch the video. (I replay the clip of her speaking.) What do you think?
Kahla: (Still troubled.) It’s not me. I'm not a show-pony, I'm a shy person.

There it is… I am… my single greatest challenge in presentation skills classes. Faced with my opinion, with the unanimous opinion of her classmates, and with the proof on the video, Khala still could not accept that she had done well. She could do confidence, but she could not yet be it.

Why not? Confidence is what she came for.

Because “I am…” describes her self-identity. Change at that level is a threat! The conscious mind wants it, but the subconscious folds its arms and won’t budge. Many people fiercely protect unhappy self-identities no matter how painful because it’s about survival of what we perceive to be our core self.

Over our lifetimes, our most frequent and vivid thoughts, feelings and attitudes sink deeply into our subconscious – so deeply we don’t realize our self-identities are being self-made. Within wide parameters (think of a highway with a thousand lanes) we are entirely the creators of our lives (which lane we choose to drive in). You are mostly the creator of you.

Want to change lane? Want to get out of prison?

Get a piece of paper and write as many I ams as possible (including I am nots). Then stand back and observe each not as a certainty, but as a disguised belief. Ask, Is it serving me? Is it making me happy? Can I replace it with a more helpful belief? By observing, you begin to take back conscious power.

Now, what will you have to do to make the new and more helpful belief stick? What do you have to do to become your altered I am... ?

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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