Do you have a real fear of public speaking that you want to get over? Have you for years aspired to learn a language but never seem to get around to it? Fancy yourself as the next Rubik’s cube record breaker?
The good news is, there is a motivational read for you to dive into allowing you to better understand your mind and how to set yourself up to achieve your goals, whatever they may be.
How to Be Comfortable with Being is Ben Aldridge’s debut book. This wonderful read does what it says on the tin: the author guides you through 43 challenges that he braved and excelled in to overcome his severe anxiety on his journey to build a resilient mindset.
The book has a well thought out structure and each challenge is explored by looking at: the level of difficulty of the challenge; the amount of time required; the ‘what, why, and how’ of the challenge; how you can make it even harder for yourself; current related academic research; the writer’s own experience and learning from the challenge. This makes it easy for readers considering how they can achieve their own goals and challenges.
What we can learn from Ancient Greece
Near the start of the book, Ben provides an introduction to some philosophical concepts. Not quite what you’d expect from a book about achieving your potential! However, he is clever in linking this directly to the rest of the book and in encouraging us to consider our own mindset and resilience.
For example, he talks about Stoicism which originates from Ancient Greece. This ancient philosophy instils that when something bad or unpleasant happens, you can choose how you deal with it. Stoicism is all about the true importance of self-knowledge, self-improvement and self-discipline and it can teach you some practical ways of how to handle life’s challenges:
Stoicism’s golden rule: The only thing you have control over is how you respond to external events
The author also looks at cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as a therapy used to help you reframe the way you think about a situation. The ‘golden rule’ of CBT is: change the way you think, and you will change the way you feel. Hard now not to see the link between CBT and Stoicism!
He challenges readers to consider when they have negative thoughts and to use positive ‘affirmations’ – powerful internal dialogue – to overcome their fears. Common phrases such as ‘I can handle this’ or ‘I’ve got this’ can help here. This technique is also frequently used in life coaching.
Being able to understand and adjust your mindset is absolutely fundamental if you want to overcome your anxieties and achieve the life you want to live.
Fixed vs growth mindsets
Ben explains that there are two broad types of mindset: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
Put simply, a fixed mindset is when you believe that everything is set in stone and will never change. ‘I am not good at running, therefore I will never get fit,’ is a common one. A fixed mindset means that you can live your life predictably and feel safe as you are never stretching yourself. The downside to this is – and it is a biggie – that you never achieve your full potential.
On the other side of the fence is a growth mindset, with the most important aspect being ‘keep trying’. When the going gets tough, you don’t stop. You keep trying and you persevere. No athlete or person with immense professional success gave up at the first hurdle. Instead, they tried and tried again and if they still didn’t make it over, they asked, is there another way I could tackle this?
People with a growth mindset work hard to better themselves and even when they fail, they think through what they have learned from the situation.
Having an awareness of when you are within either a fixed or growth mindset is important particularly if you are wanting to make some changes to your life, or if you have specific goals you want to achieve.
You can, of course, change your mindset and this is CBT, other forms of therapy and life coaching can help.
Without wanting to give the gems of this book away for any potential readers, I will highlight briefly just a few of the challenges that stuck out to me:
- Run a marathon. Ben describes his first experience of running a marathon and his struggles reaching around mile 22. He used positive affirmations which he had learned through CBT to get through the experience.
- Pronounce the world’s longest train station’s name. It is too long a word to put in here, but the station is in Wales if you want to look it up. What I loved about the writer’s description of how he took this on, is that rather than trying to learn the word as a whole, he broke it down into different stage and phrases using a phonetic approach to remembering how it sounded.
- Sleep in a bivvy bag. A night under the stars, literally. As well as the practical challenges of finding somewhere to put your head down in the wild, you also test your mental resilience with this challenge. Can you really sleep when there are strange sounds and creatures lurking outside?
Everyone has something they are dealing with
Near the end of the book, the author describes how people often opened-up to him about their own mental health challenges and fears. We all have ‘issues’ we are dealing with.
Having read the book, I couldn’t help but reflect on times in my life when I felt the fear and went ahead and did anyway.
I used to be nervous giving presentations in the workplace. I had the usual fears around public speaking – would I look stupid? Would I lose my nerve? My heart rate would increase, I’d have sweaty hands. To get over this fear, I did something radical. I offered to do some guest lecturing spots at a local university. This allowed me to ‘test’ some of my presentations for the workplace in what I saw as a safer environment, without judgement from colleagues. Some months later, I did a presentation to a room of almost 100 delegates. A colleague commented to me afterwards: “I am so envious of your relaxed and calm presenting style.”
Without realising it, I was using my own growth mindset to get over my fears.
Ben Aldridge’s book is a hugely insightful read for anyone interested in how you can better understand and control your mindset.
Disclaimer: do not attempt to read this at night-time particularly if you are a light sleeper, as this book is highly motivational and is likely to keep you awake.
Mike Findlay is a senior communications professional, freelance writer and life coach who lives in Scotland. He is also a book review editor for Psychreg. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeFindMedia.