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The fear of practicing

Most people feel at least a little anxiety when they think about their next talk. One of the nasty tricks of that anxiety is that it likes to extend itself to the act of practicing for the real thing.

As a result, some avoid practicing for as long as possible because the thought of practicing ignites the anxiety about the actual event. Which causes them to postpone practicing. Also, there’s another email they need to reply to, anyway, it’s really urgent.

The problem, of course, is that this makes things even worse. Because as the event approaches, they’re still just as unprepared as a week ago. Which only amplifies the anxiety. This, in turn, amplifies the stress that the thought of practicing causes because you know that practicing will surface what’s not working well – and you haven’t got much time left to fix them.

And yet, that was the point of practicing: to surface what’s not working well so that you can fix them in time and show up prepared. In fact, practicing is the only reliable approach that can prepare you for the actual event. Practicing is what makes you feel less anxious when you’re in the actual situation.

Here’s the crucial shift: Practice is a safe space. It’s like taking a risk, but without the actual risk.

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