What are your Toastmasters goals?
In the past month, I have 3 evaluators mention my posture.
As a 60 year old woman, that’s a lot of notice. So I decide I need to do something about this.
What does my posture have to do with Toastmasters goals and the end of the calendar year? I was surprised.
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After hearing about 3 too many comments about how I stand during a speech, I realized that I can’t ignore this problem. It’s going to have a long term impact on my life if I don’t address it now.
Do you ever look at your life and think the same thing? In the US, it’s common to take stock at the end of the year at what we’ve accomplished and what we want to do next year. We make New Year’s Resolutions with every intention of keeping them.
This is the time of year when gym memberships are purchased. An investment in a class or a book to make my life different in 2020. I promise to save more money, lose more weight, finish that project. Been there and done that too? Most of us have.
When I recognized my slouching, I was ready to do something about it. And I started a multi-pronged attack on the problem with a full analysis… Oh, who am I kidding? I’m about as likely to do a multi-pronged analysis as I am to grow wings and fly.
The Lessons of Posture and Toastmasters Goals
Sitting up straight hurts. So I slouch. And it’s affecting me in a very negative way. I spoke to a physical trainer and he’s giving me exercises to strengthen my back. The first lesson I learned? I can hurt myself leaning against a wall. Yes, I did.
Lesson 1 Pain Points
My trainer gave me a ball to roll up a wall and when I got it as high as I could, I was to lean into the ball while keeping my shoulders down and back. I did what he told me – and my back, shoulders and upper arms started screaming.
I guess that’s proof I need to do something to change. It’s not just my ego about looking like a hunched over old lady.
Is there something in your life that hurts when you try it? Is the pain enough to make you stop? Or is your need – whether physical, mental, or emotional – going to make you push through it?
There’s a lesson in there about public speaking. Even if you’re afraid, get up and do it, right? Even if it looks as simple as leaning against a wall – you’re going to discover pain points and muscles you need to stretch and strengthen.
Lesson 2 Practice and Mindfulness
The second lesson I learned is that I have to be constantly aware of my posture. In a second, I can go from standing upright to slouching and I don’t even notice it. Sitting at dinner or standing at my computer – I don’t even notice yet when I start to slump. It’s going to take practice and mindfulness to overcome this habit.
I feel like a jack-in-the-box, down and up. And then my shoulders start edging up and I have to push them down.
There are a lot more parts to my posture than I ever guessed.
Trying to pay attention to all of the parts of public speaking takes a lot of work. If you’re new to Toastmasters, don’t expect to learn everything in a single week and just walk away. It’s about practice and awareness of what you’re doing well and when you’re not.
One of the things I love about Toastmasters is that I can try new things at the meetings. I can crash and burn. Or I could soar and fly. I get the same feedback from my evaluators as I do from my back when I’m sitting properly or hunched over – the warnings and the approvals.
Lesson 3 Over-correction
Lesson 3 surprised me – over-correction is a problem.
In an attempt to make progress with my posture, I’ve been over-extending. My back is supposed to have a natural curve – dancers and physical therapists call it a neutral back. Over-extending and standing ram-rod straight is not ideal, but I keep moving back there because I’ve forgotten what my back is supposed to feel like in its natural position. It’s like I think that I have to do more than what is necessary.
This causes its own set of complications. Other muscles start to hurt. I lose mobility. My knees and feet already have enough pressure on them naturally – this distortion makes it worse.
This posture problem didn’t get this bad in a day – and I’m not going to fix it in a day. I need to relax – literally.
If you’re not having fun at a Toastmasters meeting, I think you may be doing it wrong. Sure, it’s natural to be nervous as you’re learning new skills. It’s normal and necessary to learn how to overcome stage fright and find that natural, neutral spot where you can relax and be open to improvements. Experienced Toastmasters have gone through this too. But at the same time, we’re working to improve our skills too. There’s no such thing as a perfect speaker or a perfect speech. We have a lot to learn too.
I’ve been to a few not-fun Toastmasters club meetings. It’s a sign of significant problems. Maybe someone is worried that too much fun means that we aren’t taking Toastmasters seriously enough. I’ve had a few conversations – vocal and virtual – where “you’re not doing Toastmasters right” seems to be more important than helping our members achieve their goals.
Let’s everybody take a breath. Relax.
Lesson 4 Toastmasters Goals
Which leads me to Lesson 4.
Whoever designed the seats in my car doesn’t care about my posture. It’s almost – no, it is physically impossible to sit up straight in my driver’s seat. If I’m wearing a hat with any kind of brim on the back, I have to take it off to drive. Considering how much time I spend in my car, I have to wonder if the seat designers took into account that I’m a human, not a caterpillar in a cocoon.
This cocoon isn’t helping me. Have you ever heard that inside a cocoon is a worm that’s determined to fly? That crawly bug has a goal and it’s not going to let the cocoon stay in its way.
It’s the end of 2019. In fact, this is my last podcast for this year. I invite you to listen to some of my back catalog, but I also ask you to consider the usual end of the year reflections. Have you accomplished what you wanted in Toastmasters? I’m not talking about completing levels, or getting awards or badges, or taking on a club officer role or district role. I’m talking about why you joined Toastmasters.
I doubt you joined Toastmasters to get a badge. You probably never heard of the Distinguished Toastmaster Award before you walked through our doors.
Why did you join Toastmasters?
Maybe you have a personal goal or a professional one that you believed Toastmasters could help you achieve.
Goal Setting Techniques – do they work for you?
New Years Resolutions don’t do it for me, but I just talked to a fellow Toastmaster last night who made a list of 8 goals for the year: personal, professional, social. He posted them on his bathroom mirror and beside his computer screen so he sees them daily, even if he doesn’t look at them closely. As the end of the year approaches, he said he’s exceeded several of them and on track with the rest.
How might these apply to your public speaking goals?
Why did you join Toastmasters?
One woman came to Toastmasters because she was scheduled to give a report about an overseas trip she’d taken to provide medical care with a team. Another woman joined because her father told her she needed help with her public speaking. I joined because I was hired to be a speech and debate coach and I wanted to prove to my team that I was working like I expected them to work.
I can’t tell you how many people who have come through because of bosses. Some of you even stayed!
Setting a goal of being a better public speaker is vague.
You can’t measure it, not really. How would you? I think that may be a big goal, but it needs smaller parts that you can measure.
List the steps to improve and measure those? Ok, your first step might be to join Toastmasters.
Within Toastmasters, we have several metrics to help you work the program that may be specific and actionable and realistic, but are they measurable?
How do you judge when you’ve benefited from being in Toastmasters?
Toastmasters Changes Us
A few years before I joined Toastmasters, I was a member of a non-Toastmasters organization. The new leadership didn’t like me and had tagged me as someone they wanted to get rid of. I was accused of being a leader – when all I thought I was doing was inviting my friends to come along and do something fun with me. That moment when I read the HPL manual about servant leadership 3 years later and I began to understand that mindset that was against me – highly authoritarian and weirdly afraid of me – that was the moment when I realized that Toastmasters had given me the tool to respond to that jerk – ok – three years too late – but it was the first time I thought that Toastmasters had changed me. Made me better, given me a skill set that I would use when dealing with bullies in the future. And yes, I outlasted that leader – by about 8 years.
This wasn’t about public speaking, was it? But it was a defining moment to me. Was it measurable? Not at all.
I guess not all goals are measurable.
Toastmasters Program and Goals
What I can say is that when we make the effort with the Toastmasters program, we see improvement. Maybe small at first, but we do see our skills and comfort levels grow. What was so scary that we couldn’t imagine doing it becomes fun. We learn to love the challenge.
Since goals are supposed specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely, how do we judge Toastmasters goals in that metric?
I don’t think Toastmasters is a goal. It’s a tool to get you to your goals.
We’re giving you the training to become a public speaker. We’re giving you the stage to practice on – and fail. That’s priceless! We’re giving you the time to build those skills in a safe place so you can take them out into the other parts of your life and use them.
Maybe that’s what you measure!
Why did you join Toastmasters?
It probably wasn’t to earn awards and badges. But the positive value of metrics can’t be denied. And stickers. Who knew that stickers are so motivating? Ok, any 6 year old with a smart parent knows that. In Toastmasters, we’ve got Levels to pass and badges.
I’m working on my posture this year. What are your Toastmasters goals for 2020?
Leave me a message on the Facebook page Toastmasters101 podcast.
See you in 2020!