Day 52: Preparation and Spontaneity

While I’ve thought of several different topics (and titles) for today’s blog post, here’s my ultimately goal for this post:

I am giving a 30-minute presentation, later today, at the hospital where I work, to somewhere between 8 and 15 doctors and residents. The presentation is about the work I’m doing at the hospital, which includes group therapy. So what I want to get out of today’s blog post is the following: (1) reducing my anxiety about doing this talk  and (2) helping myself prepare what I’m going to say.

Here’s the deal about #1 above: I’m actually not anxious AT ALL right now ,which surprises the heck out of me, for many reasons.

Here’s the deal about #2 above: I’ve been thinking a lot about preparation lately, and how challenging it can be to balance preparation and spontaneity, which seems so important when you are preparing for  …… um …… anything (including a presentation, a party, a meeting, a therapy group,  writing something, or anything else one might feel the need to prepare for).

I want to write a little bit, right now, about public speaking, because — let’s be blunt — that’s what I’ll be doing today.  And Fear of Public Speaking is one of the most common phobias — it’s often what people fear more than anything.   Jerry Seinfeld has a funny  line about that. I just googled that line and here it is:

“According to most studies,  people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number 2 is death. Does that sound right?  This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Man, I love Jerry Seinfeld. I’ve loved him since I first saw him — decades ago, when he first started performing  stand-up on late-night talk shows.  I could spend this entire blog post analyzing that above line and why it’s so effective — especially in terms of beautiful communication with the audience.  But I won’t. (Maybe that could be the topic of a future blog post?  That would be fun!  And I do have all year, don’t I?)

So why is public speaking sooooooo scary?

Well, here is my “expertise” about this (based on my own experience):

When I’m anxious about public speaking, I’m afraid I’m going to screw up.

That’s about it, folks.

Well, let’s take a little bit of a closer look of what “screwing up” means to me.  And I can really freak myself out about this — with lots of frightening details, dire results,  and scary images, too.

If I were to get anxious about the presentation today (and I’m assuming that’s going to happen AT SOME POINT today), here are some of the thoughts I might have:

I haven’t prepared enough about this.  What’s the matter with me?

I won’t have enough to say.

I’ll freeze.

They’ll all be staring at me, thinking things like …. She’s an idiot! She has no idea what she’s doing! Who hired her?  I would NEVER refer any patient to her, for group or individual work!  

The residents — my audience — will  be bored.

I will pick up negative signals from them (that they’re bored, impatient, confused, judgmental) and even if I was doing okay before that, I’ll immediately stop doing okay.

I’ve prepared too much for this.  

I have too much to say, and I’ll run out of time.

Because I didn’t prepare enough (or prepared too much), what I have to say is confusing.  

I’m sure I could keep going, with this Festival of Anxiety, but I think you get the picture.  (And I assume that some of you can relate to these kinds of thoughts.)

Okay, time out!  As your Blogging Host, in This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, I would just to point out  there are several cognitive distortions in my Scared Thoughts, above.  These include — at least! — Fortune Telling, Mind Reading, Labeling, and Catastrophizing. If you want to check out the 13 Cognitive Distortions (and maybe figure out how many distortions made an appearance above) see here.

So I guess I’ve already helped myself, this morning, by identifying cognitive distortions that are often involved in Fears about Public Speaking.  I’m hoping that naming those — here, with you —  will help “inoculate” me for later today, when those fears, inevitably, want to creep in. (That is,  as the 1:15 Time of My Talk approaches).

Eeeek!  (I definitely got a little Anxiety Bump, right then, when I wrote the starting time.)

Okay, reality check here, as I’m writing this post.

I had some things I really, really wanted to write in this post, because I thought that would help me prepare for the talk.

And, as usual, I’ve gone different places in this post (places I value, though). But how important is it —  that I write what I first intended to?

And how important is it that I prepare for the talk, by writing this post?  Wouldn’t it be okay (and make it more fun!) if I didn’t worry about preparation, had faith in my ability and knowledge about the topic,  and trust that I could say useful and engaging things in the moment?

I guess I was just defining spontaneity right there.

So, how should I balance preparation and spontaneity?

And I AM back to my topic.

Well, here is something that I KNOW helps me, when I’m preparing for anything.  It helps me o have some structure in place, that allows me enough room for play.

Structure = preparation.

Play = spontaneity.

And I’m realizing something: The reason I wasn’t anxious as I started writing this post was that I had reached some balance — in my mind –about structure and play for this talk.  I had identified some specifics about creating structure — and how I could play within that. And that had helped, enormously. Hence, no anxiety.

So I’m going to try to put into words, right now, what is giving this talk structure for me.


Well, I know how long the talk is (30 minutes).  And I know how many people are going to be there. And I know where I’m giving the talk. So all that helps.

Okay, what I’m going to write here — I’m realizing right now —  is probably THE KEY to why I’m not nervous . The doctor who asked me to give this talk — to the medical residents she helps train — gave me the following information, when I asked her some questions ahead of time about giving this talk.

These residents  have heard all sorts of different kinds of talks — formal, informal, whatever.

They have no particular expectations.

Because they can get nervous about what do when they are seeing patients who are reporting depression, stress, anxiety, or other kinds of emotional pain, THEY WILL LOVE TO HEAR WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO TELL THEM.

Now, the doctor who spoke to me didn’t yell those last words (and I am totally paraphrasing what she communicated to me, in my own language).  But I’m pretty sure those were the messages she gave me about How To Prepare.

So that creates a really stress-free structure, doesn’t it?  And it pretty much rules out mind reading and fortune telling, doesn’t it?  Because NO MATTER WHAT I SAY, THEY ARE GOING TO LIKE IT.

And that’s probably not entirely true, but it sure sounds good as a pre-presentation pep talk for myself — and  a great way to challenge any mind reading and fortune telling that comes up for me.

Again, hence, that lowers my anxiety.

Now I did want to say more, in this post,  about ways I am creating structure for this presentation, because I think that will be helpful, too.  It also fits in with how I tend to create structure (and safety) for the groups I do.

Ways I Will Be Creating Structure, in my Presentation Today

I will start out my presentation by somehow asking the residents — my audience — what they would like to get out of the talk.   I may — if I have THE GUTS! — use my new magic wand, and ask somebody to make a wish about what they’d like to hear from me during the 30 minutes.

Then, the wishes from the residents — about what  they want to hear  — will dictate what I talk about.  I will be prepared for likely things they might ask for, by having hand-outs on information. This will include information  about how they can refer patients for individual and group therapy and what kinds of therapy are available for their patients.

And, if they ask for things I haven’t prepared for, I will probably make a joke about that, and hand out what I have, anyway.

I will have — on hand — elements of the groups I do, so I can demonstrate these  (if time allows).  These components of the groups I do include Mindfulness Exercises (a way to be more in the moment, by focusing on one thing), Check-ins (where people introduce themselves and have room to say what they want to say), Exercises about Developing Coping Strategies, and Wrap-up (where we get closure on the group meeting, and people can say what they got out of it.


Okay, a light bulb just went off. (Hence, the “Duh!”)   And this is a very well-used light bulb, which seems to switch on, a lot. (I’m surprised this light bulb hasn’t burned out by now, but I guess that is the advantage to this kind of light bulb — a mental idea.)

This talk I’m giving today?  It’s a group.

Man, so many things I do are — in one way or another — a group. How would I define a group? A Group has two things: People and Communication.

(By the way, blogging?  That’s creating a kind of group, actually.)

And I know a lot about groups and how to do them and how to make them effective enough.

And the components of the group therapy groups I’ve been developing and running at work — those groups I want to tell the residents about today?  I  can use those same group components to give my talk today. 

And in ways, I was already preparing to that: by starting with a “check-in” (where the residents will say what they want)

Okay, I’ve gotten what I need out of this blog post.  Gotta go to work and do some groups!

And I hope you’ve gotten something out of this, too – this thrown-together amalgam of Preparation and Spontaneity, which is this blog post.

At least you got a great Jerry Seinfeld quote, dear reader.

Thanks for reading — and doing this group with me!

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Day 52: Preparation and Spontaneity

  1. Pingback: Day 105: Everything makes sense on some level(s) | The Year of Living Non-Judgmentally

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