As a swimmer, every race that I swam became a challenge, a chance to push myself beyond what I had achieved before. It wasn't so much about pushing boundaries, but bettering yourself little by little within discipline. To shave a millisecond off your best time was a thing to celebrate!! I took this approach of improving into university studies - I went from getting acceptable passes and credits in my first year to gaining 1st Class Honours in my final year and topping the class. My uni years weren't all "slack off for three years and only work for one," they were a gradual build up of skill and confidence through challenges, until I knew that I was the best I could be, in that moment, in academia.
(image courtesy of Jessica - talented flatmate)
I am now applying the same to my speaking. I like to think I am a great speaker now, but even a great speaker can get better (ask any professional speaker and they will say they are continually looking at where to improve). So each speech, talk, presentation, workshop that I do I dissect afterwards, look at what went well and what could have been done better . . . but the best way to improve, I think, is to challenge yourself.
Challenge: 1. A call to someone to participate in a competitive situation or fight to decide who is superior in terms of ability or strength:
he accepted the challenge
- a task or situation that tests someone's abilities: he took up the challenge to organise a sports day.
(Oxford Dictionary Online)
Now, when I talk about challenging myself as a speaker, I don't go into a boxing ring and try to "out-speak" my speaking opponent (though that would be funny to see)
No, a challenge to oneself is to 'test your abilities.' Simple, easy-peasy, fantastic!!!! Sort of . . . to challenge oneself against ones very own standard can be tough, it can be easier to just 'throw in the towel' and give up as opposed to when you are competing against someone else. BUT that is the challenge in itself - how much do YOU want to improve? How much better do YOU want to get? Do YOU want to be the BEST that YOU can be?
I had my own challenges last week. Firstly I spoke at an event called Bettakultcha. Bettakultcha is where a group of people come together to speak about things they are passionate about . . . the catch? You have to use twenty slide (i.e., powerpoint) and only have 5 minutes to speak. ME SPEAK IN ONLY 5 MINUTES!!!! You have got to be joking!! Challenge to self 'be able to make a point in a very short amount of time.' Tough? VERY TOUGH! I did it, and I got praise for it . . . but it was my first time at this challenge and I know I can improve. So guess what? I am going to apply to do it again! No giving up here, no way!
My second challenge was radio. I was invited to be interviewed for 'One on One with Martin Kelner.' I have been on radio before, but not for an hour or for a one on one interview (and my favourite songs being played, YAY!!!). I admit, I was nervous, I wasn't sure what to expect, but Martin was a wonderful interviewer, and guess what? I had the time of my life!! Sometimes challenges can be one of the best things that you have ever done . . . I mean now I am considering a radio career, I had so much fun!!!! (Joking, joking, I love being face-to-face with my audience too much).
What have you done lately to challenge yourself? To grow and expand? To thrive and bask in the sunshine of opportunity and fun? Do you need to challenge yourself more often? I know I do and plan to. Don't be afraid of challenges, just remember, whether you succeed or fail, that you can learn and become better for the experience - that's what life is about peeps!