It All Adds Up In The End

It’s been my privilege throughout my career as a speech-language pathologist and public speaking/presence coach to work with individuals during particularly difficult times in their lives.  Whether it’s been the child, who’s never been able to utter a word, the adult who’s lost their ability to communicate due to a brain injury or the professional who is struggling with wrapping words around their key message to advance an initiative. Individuals have come across my path who have struggled with communication, with saying something…saying anything.

It’s a privilege for me because when you sit with someone who is struggling, you know what it’s like to share space during times of vulnerability.

It’s hard.

It’s  scary.

It’s frustrating.

It’s embarrassing.

It’s overwhelming.

It’s hard not to give up.

It requires a great deal of trust.

One particular client comes to my mind. We’ll call him Scott (name changed for obvious reasons). Scott had a relatively high profile sports job, a beautiful wife, ridiculous good looks and a substantial fan base. The kind of life that people look at with envy.

He also had a MASSIVE fear of public speaking.  I mean like, hiding-in-the-bathroom and unable-to-utter-a-word kind of fear…skipping out on events…feigning illnesses and praying for a car accident on the way to an event kind of fear.

Now, I know what you might be thinking here…why’s a guy like that afraid?  The truth is a lot. For him, speaking was scary… a place where he could fail at any moment and suffer the judgment of others.  When he was performing athletically, he knew what to do… he knew the moves, the plays…

He knew the steps…

He knew the steps for his job. However, he didn’t know or didn’t have steps to follow for his speaking. He didn’t have a way to gauge or measure his progress. And when left alone to his own devices, he did what most of us are guilty of… he assumed the worst about his performance.  This assumption only increased his anxiety and despair well before his speaking engagements even began.

So, we started with one tiny, minuscule goal. Just one.  One that was easy for him and others on his team to measure.

I asked him ….. to smile.

That’s it. I asked him to work on nothing else but to smile … just once during his next talk.

And he did.

So we celebrated.  I mean celebrated. I cheered (if you’ve ever seen me do this, it’s ridiculous… total rainbows and butterflies kind of stuff here). He laughed, we wrote it down, and we set a goal for more smiles during the next talk.

And smile he did.

As he became comfortable with that, we added more goals, scaffolding and building our way to more challenging skills as we went, still celebrating each success as it came. 

The truth is, we all struggle with something.  We have things in our life that are hard, scary, frustrating and just plain overwhelming. We see people so much further ahead of us, and we want to be there, too … yesterday.

Sometimes we don’t know where to start, so we never do.

I’ve learned over the years from working with people who have seemingly insurmountable communication problems is that people do best by taking one small step, celebrating their success with that step and moving on to the next. They go the furthest, and they suffer less frustration, anxiety and overwhelm.

As you approach your list of goals for 2018, all the things you want to tackle and conquer in the coming year, keep in mind one thing as the glitter from the start of the new year is swept away and the months get long and obstacles arise.  All you need to do is find one tiny step to keep moving forward, just one tiny thing. And once you’ve done that, celebrate like it’s New Year’s Eve all over again. And then, take the next tiny step.

Eventually, all of those tiny steps will add up, and you may just surprise yourself with how far you’ve gone. 


What steps are you going to take to achieve your 2018 goals?  Share away in the comment section below and I’d love it if you’d follow along with me in 2018.



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