When we are preparing for a big talk, presentation or interview, how often do we tell ourselves that it needs to be great? How often do we have a picture in our minds of what that greatness would look like? (Usually thunderous applause, instant validation of our worth, or an immediate job offer.)
And how often are we stymied when we sit down to write that talk or prepare for that interview? How many of us are filled with a sinking sense of inadequacy as we try to take the steps that hopefully will deliver on that vision of success?
As far as I can tell, there is no way to train for a marathon by practicing crossing the finish line. When we fall in love with the result (usually some form of validation), we become overly-analytical about our process. By this I mean that we try to reverse-engineer the result that we want and imagine that there is one right way to arrive there.
And here lies the problem. There is no “there” there.
As Keith Johnstone, a famous teacher of improvisation, says,
Then as now, when I’m inspired, everything is fine, but when I try to get things right it’s a disaster.
The same could be said for swimming. There is something so counter-intuitive about giving ourselves up to the water when we swim. When we learn how to swim, we are less concerned with how it looks because we are just trying to stay afloat. “Swimming” is not a place, it is a process.
The same can be said for public speaking, job interviews or any creative endeavor that we undertake. If we become overly focused on the idea that we will arrive somewhere, we will begin to forget the process that moves us forward. We will most likely tighten up and begin to feel like we are sinking.
Know what you want to accomplish (share my great idea, communicate the value I bring, articulate a new way of looking at the world, swim the length of the pool) and work your way forward. Let go of the result and trust that the process will take care of itself. If we do the work, know what we are offering and let go of the need to be in control of how it looks, chances are pretty good that we will create something great.