Ep #28: How a Quiet Mind Can Improve Your Speaking and Your Life

by | Podcast

This is one of the most important topics I've talked about on the podcast. Sounds mysterious, I know – but what I talk about today seriously has the power to change not only your approach to speaking, but to change the way you approach creativity and even the rest of your life.

I was working with a client recently who was brainstorming topics for an upcoming talk. But every time she would come up with an idea that had some real potential, she would talk herself out of it. Her rational brain was telling her all the ways the topic didn't make sense, wouldn't work, her ideas were lame… just shutting her down. This is hardly a unique experience – we all know that critical mind flurry – but I'm here today to tell you that there's a whole other place in our mind that we can connect with, even when the flurry is in high gear.

This week, I talk about how to get in touch with the part of your brain that's always quiet. This is the part of your brain that's responsible for your freshest, best ideas. That inner peace is always there, and knowing this can transform the way you go about your days and how you approach public speaking. That's certainly been the case for me. I'd love for you to feel that connection to your quiet mind more often, too.

If what you heard here today was useful, you’ll love the free guide I’ve created for you at speaksoitmatters.com/yes. Sign up now and get immediate access to our Power & Grace Speaker’s Toolkit (including The Only Presentation Outline You’ll Ever Need). 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • Why our rational brain sometimes jumps in and interrupts us when we're in a state of creative flow.
  • Some of the common places clients tell me they come up with their best ideas.
  • Why I no longer sit down and try to think myself into a talk and go for a walk instead.
  • How I get in touch with this quiet place in my mind before going on stage, even in high-pressure situations.
  • Why cultivating and getting in touch with a quiet mind isn't really a strategy, but a daily presence.

Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:



You are listening to the Speak So It Matters podcast, episode number 28. Welcome to Speak So It Matters where we share a mix of stories of inspiration and super practical public speaking and communication guidance to help you release all the barriers to becoming the speaker you know you're meant to be. Some of us are called to use our voice to serve others and our world as well as to become the most fully expressed version of ourselves. If that's you, you've landed in the right place. Let's do this, my friends.

Oh, my speaker friends, I'm feeling so much beauty and goodness just moving into this conversation with you today. Honestly, it's probably the most important conversation I've ever had with you on this podcast because it has the greatest power to transform not just your speaking but your life overall. I don't mean to be all overly dramatic or anything, but actually, it's just true.

First I want to tell you a little story. I was recently working with a client on a high-stakes talk that she was about to deliver. This was a dream speaking gig for her that would likely lead to more very nicely paid speaking gigs as well as significant new business for her company. It really felt like a big deal. She wanted to do an amazing job at this, understandably.

We were in the creative phase which means exploring all kinds of ideas and just kind of going everywhere, like a brainstorming process, for the content of her talk. Yet, every time she started to blossom her ideas in a particular direction, she'd sort of come upon the clarity of an idea and kind of start to branch out with it. I call it blossom. Turn it into something that was really exciting. She'd be getting excited about it. She'd start to shut herself down with all the reasons why this beautifully blossomed idea wasn't going to work.

Just imagine with me a rosebud, right? A beautiful rosebud blossoming. It's just beautiful and bright just stretching out, rich and full. Then suddenly, all the petals fell off, and we're left with this stem of an idea and really the need to start over which is absolutely fine. Sometimes that is what the creative process looks like, but I just started to get suspicious when this happened over and over again. Of course, I've seen this happen over and over again with clients. After this happened a few times with this particular client, I stopped our exploration and I said to her, “I noticed that every time you get excited about a new idea and start to enjoy the process of exploring it, you shut it down. I wonder what's happening in your mind when that happens.”

She stopped and stared at me when I said that. She said, “I don't know. I guess I'm just trying to think things through fully.” That makes so much sense, right? That's what I said to her. I said, “That makes sense,” because isn't that what we're used to doing, thinking everything through? In this case, though, what I said to her is, “I'm wondering if that thinking process that's shutting down your ideas, these blossoming ideas, I wonder if it's really helping.” I could tell that just sort of throwing a wrench in that thinking process was really kind of mind-blowing for her at that time.

We just went down a little path of, what happens for us when we start to get into a creative flow, and there's kind of this … It's got a life of its own. When we tap into that place in us that knows something really special and starts to really enjoy digging in and exploring the possibilities, sometimes our sweet beautiful brain … maybe even commonly … starts to pop in and want to protect us or save us or … Our brain's job is to save our life all the time. To filter out the danger. Sometimes these big, creative ideas … and especially when we're imaging taking these big creative ideas to a stage, to a whole room full of people and putting ourselves in the vulnerable position of sharing our ideas and being assessed. Which is what happens, people listen to our ideas and they decide whether they agree with us or don't agree with us. It brings up all kinds of things in them. Our brain just kind of leaps in and says, “Wait a minute. Is this a good idea?”

As I was in this conversation with my client, we're exploring this sort of what tends to happen in her brain … and really, me too, in all of our brains. If you're human, this has happened to you, I'm sure. I shared that in my experience, as wonderful as our beautiful, brilliant brains are, they're actually often the greatest barrier to our most authentic, powerful expression, especially for those of us like my client who have brilliant, very active brains that seem to have actually been the source of so much success. You see many of us attribute our success to that thinking brain. We think that all of that strategizing and analyzing and planning is the reason for our success. It can feel like our answers are in our brain, inside of our brilliant thinking.

It's actually simply not true. Our greatest wisdom doesn't actually live in our brain. It lives in that place where we were first going with her when she was generating those ideas, and they were blossoming so naturally, bright and beautiful, just like that rose. That is where our greatest wisdom lives. It lives in a deeper place in us which our brain also knows how to translate when we give it space and time to listen in. I'm not saying that anything that our brain is bad. Thank goodness for our brain, right? Not only does it regulate our breathing and other things that are necessary for survival, but it really does save us. We do use that same brain … maybe not in the same way … but that same brain to process what we're discovering in that deeper part of us, that wisdom.

Try this on for yourself. Recall the last time that you had an exciting idea, one that felt totally fresh and new. Were you doing some good, hardcore thinking? Probably not. More likely, you were in the shower or on a walk or a run, staring at the ocean or out your window. Maybe you were laying in bed, like almost asleep? You know that time right before you fall asleep at night? Maybe you were just waking up. It's these quiet times when our mind is quiet when we are quiet, that these kinds of incredible fresh insights just sort of show up. That's often the source of some of our most brilliant ideas. Our best thinking, if we could call it that.

I had a client who had an awesome insight about how to move forward with her Ted talk while she was hanging out on the couch, kind of semi-watching football with her husband. I cannot tell you how many times clients say to me, “I had the most awesome idea for my talk on my run today,” or, “I realized in the shower that I want to go a whole new direction with this.” As for me, I no longer know how to think my way into a talk or presentation. Honestly, I can't do it. I can't sit down and go, “Okay, let's think this over.” It just feels really hard and kind of stale. It doesn't work. It's kind of like edgy and painful.

Instead, I'll take a drive out to Point Reyes National Seashore. Not to brag, but I do have that like 25 to 35 minutes away which is totally beautiful. There's cows on the horizon above the ocean, and they just blow my mind every time. Picture that. You just see them standing on the edge, and the ocean right behind them … It's so beautiful. I do love pastoral scenes. Or I go for a walk. I just enjoy the beauty even in my own neighborhood. It doesn't even have to be out in nature, though I do love to do that too.

Sometimes, I just sit in my office and watch our cute little chickens doing their little chicken things outside, like scratching at the dirt, pecking at each other, suddenly leaping into the air for reasons I can't quite figure out most of the time.

My book, Soul Power to Your Message, was written mostly on walks in the Virginia woods very close to my house. These podcast ideas, they come to me in moments between work, mothering, doing all the things that I do. Sometimes while I'm cooking dinner, which I do less often than you might think, but sometimes good things come of it like fresh ideas … even if not so much the taste of the meal. I'm not the best cook … but doing things that sort of allow me to relax into and find spaciousness. This is often where those fresh ideas come from.

You might be thinking, “Okay, great. I'll try the quiet mind strategy,” but that's the thing. It's actually not a strategy. Have you ever decided to create a quiet mind? If you did, how'd that go for you? When we try to create a quiet mind, we often get a whole lot of thinking about why we can't stop thinking. At least that's what happens for me, so maybe it's just me, but I don't think so, because I've had some good conversations with friends and colleagues about meditation.

This isn't even about meditation. I'm not saying, “Go meditate.” Nor am I dis-saying meditation. I'm saying, “This is something else.” There's sort of like this meditative place in our mind and our body that's available to you all the time. You don't have to sit on a cushion. You know this place because you've been there before. It kind of happens naturally between thing often or in other scenarios that I described where you're running or walking or laying in bed. That's been my experience. Once I started just noticing that sometimes I feel very think-y with my brain all revved up. Other times, I feel really relaxed. It's not circumstantial. It doesn't depend on external circumstances. Sometimes, I am everywhere in all kinds of directions, taking my girls to their 17,000 different activities, trying to balance client responsibilities, all of those things, and I'm in flow and peaceful. I'm just moving through it all with ease.

I can be sitting on my deck and looking at the beautiful view and have my brain going a million miles a minute. I know that it's not an external circumstance. Then I can see that there's nothing specific I have to do to have a quieter mind. I can just look in the direction, “Whoa, my mind is all revved up,” and know that that's maybe not a good time to make some big decisions. Then let just some time and space move, because what I do know is whether I'm calm or whether my brain is all revved up, it's all going to move through me because thoughts are always moving through me, as our feelings.

Also, just this knowing that underneath whatever's going on in my super active mind … underneath all of that thinking … there is a quieter mind. Now whether I can access it in that moment or not, I don't know. It may or may not happen, but knowing it's there has given me an incredible amount of peace and freedom and really kind of creative access … not on a dime. Not like I get to decide, but it seems to come more readily and easily because I know it's there. Sometimes I can feel the quiet. Other times, it's just not as accessible, but I always know it's there. I really want you the know that too.

What I do know is that whatever is happening, it will pass. I'll get all think-y again, and I'll feel the quiet again, too. So will you. So did my client, all within one session we moved in and out of these periods of quiet and access to all kinds of great ideas and then all kinds of thinking that made it feel a little bit more stuck. When I pay attention, I get to enjoy it all more. The more and more I look for the quiet, that quiet, peaceful part of my experience, the more it does seem to show up. It's a feeling of spaciousness that allows for all of my emotions to just be what they are.

I wonder if you're wondering what this has to do with public speaking. I could imagine that you might be. What about that period of time right before you head into a high stakes talk when your whole body is full of intense emotion, maybe even overwhelming anxiety? This has been the deepest revelation of all for me. Even then, our quiet mind is there underneath it all. Just knowing this has allowed me a kind of spaciousness that I've never known before, that no other anxiety reduction strategy … and I've tried many and shared many … has ever touched. I have found this to be true for my clients, too. It's been a beautiful revelation. I still have all of those feelings … so do they. I just also feel that connection to my deeper wisdom. I think that's just what walks me out onto that stage or to the front of that room.

Just a few weeks ago, I was speaking for a brand new audience. I was sharing new material which did not feel like it lived within me. That's the way I think about my material. I like to practice and prepare and get familiar enough that it's kind of living within me. This material was new, and I hadn't actually done it with an audience yet, so I'd practiced, of course, and prepared. But it didn't feel like it was completely living in me yet.

My body was practically vibrating with all the feelings. Yet, I walked up there, vibrating body and all, and I started talking. Actually, it went great. It will go better next time, and it will go better the time after that, because of course, when we get to go up there and do this over and over, we refine it over time. As is often the case, after a bit, as I went up there on this first time delivering it, the feelings evolved. All that vibration, it kind of settled a little bit. New feelings and energy showed up.

It's just so fluid, and it was fluid. I noticed that. That's the beautiful gift in this. I know that now. Everything, whatever I'm feeling, it's okay. I can handle it because it's going to pass of course. I just wonder, can you see that? How fluid these things are? Our thoughts and our feelings? They seem static like they're never going to go away, but they're never static.

Here's the heart of it. Our quiet, spacious mind allows us to access our deepest wisdom. This is the place in us that is full of confidence, clarity, commitment, caring, and charisma all the time. I talk about these five pillars of transformational thought leadership in my book, Beyond Applause. Those five Cs I just mentioned. They came from an insight that I had during one of my spacious walks in the woods. What I'm starting to see more and more clearly is that we don't actually have to do much of anything to tap into those elements within us. We have within us all the time clarity, commitment, confidence, caring, our own natural charisma. We just look toward the truth that underneath all of our thinking, there is so much wisdom. We tap into that wisdom to guide us in what might feel great next. When we are in that good feeling, our brilliance is so available. All those things you want to say in your next talk or in that book you've been wanting to write for years. The juice and energy for moving forward is often there, too, when we tap in.

Don't just believe me about this. Don't take my word for it. Try it. See how it feels for you. You are always the one who knows best about what works for you. That call you feel to share your stories and expertise, that desire you feel to make it matter when you speak, no matter what size or type of audience, my guess is that comes from that wise place in you … that place that knows who you are and what you want to say. You already have a really good connection with that place in you. You can go there as often as you'd like. It's always there for you waiting to support you in being the most powerful speaker possible. I just love this. It's the most beautiful thing we can ever know.

While this insight into the quiet mind and source of rich wisdom is the most important thing I can share with you, I also love to give you tools to help you take action when your wisdom is telling you to get cracking. That's why I created the Get Started Speaking guide which includes action tools like, The Only Presentation Outline You'll Ever Need, which you will use over and over and over again forever. I know, because people tell me all the time that they pull out this template every single time they speak. You can get yours at SpeakSoItMatters.com/Yes.

That is all for this week, my beautiful friends. My heart is just beaming thinking about you and your gorgeous, powerful self-expression. I love that I get to be here with you each week. It feeds my soul. It allows me to live into my own call to serve, so thank you for being here with me. Please remember, you were made for this. I know because you know. Let's meet here again next week.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Speak So It Matters podcast. If what you heard here today was useful, you'll love the free guide I've created for you at SpeakSoItMatters.com/Yes. Not only will you get immediate access to our power and grace speakers toolkit including The Only Presentation Outline You'll Ever Need, but you'll also receive weekly updates with our best resources as they're created. I can't wait to see you out there shining your beautiful light and changing lives with your message.


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