Control issues

I have control issues.

When I feel in control of things, it makes me feel like I can help drive the results I want. And even if I fail, being in control means I can learn and improve next time.

It’s different when I feel out of control. Being out of control makes me feel like I don’t know what results I can expect. If I succeed, it feels lucky. If I fail, it feels unlucky. (I hate gambling.)

This week in Ultraspeaking Fundamentals, we were playing with the idea of letting go of control.

Usually when I speak in public, I don’t follow a strict script, but I do have a plan. I have an outline of were I intend to start, I know the list of key points I want to cover, and I can see how I intend to tie everything together at the end.

It’s all quite controlled.

One of the guest workshops this week was on Alexander Technique with Michael Ashcroft.

One of the topics covered by this workshop was the distinction between attention (ie. a focus on a single thing) and awareness (ie. one’s capacity to notice noticeable things).

Previously, when I would speak in public, I would be focused on my plan.

Unfortunately, there are side effects to maintaining an intense focus on something. When you hold your attention strongly on something, it tends to generate muscle tension in the body and it can impact your breathing.

Speaking is a creative activity and can require a lot of brain activity. Perhaps this is how the discomfort resulting from the muscle tension and the decreased oxygen delivered to the brain due to the changes in breathing may impact one’s speaking; perhaps being in this state is more likely to lead us towards rambling, going on tangents, ranting, second guessing ourselves, etc.

So one of the things I was playing with this week in Ultraspeaking was letting go of my plan.

To do this, every so often I would let my attention go. I’d try to bring myself back to my field of awareness. I waited there until I had let go of the attachment to my plan, and instead had some spark of inspiration to speak.

It was a very different approach to speaking, but I got some good feedback on the results from my classmates. And I’m guessing it’s one of those things that will get even better with consistent practice.

Related to this, I stumbled upon this quote while reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way this week:

Art is not about thinking something up. It is about the opposite—getting something down. The directions are important here.

If we are trying to think something up, we are straining to reach for something that’s just beyond our grasp, “up there, in the stratosphere, where art lives on high. …”

When we get something down, there is no strain. We’re not doing; we’re getting. Someone or something else is doing the doing. Instead of reaching for inventions, we are engaged in listening.

Our brains give us access to both conscious wisdom and unconscious wisdom.

We understand our conscious wisdom, and that gives us a feeling of control.

Our unconscious wisdom offers no explanation. It feels mysterious and out of control.

But our subconscious mind is continuously processing way more information than our conscious mind can handle.

We have the potential to surprise ourselves when we let go of our need to control things and tap into our unconscious wisdom.

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