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Drive in NYC? What, Are You Crazy?

I have to tell on myself.

I’m pretty scared to drive around big cities.

So, when I booked a speech on Long Island, New York, I faced a dilemma. I couldn’t get out to where I needed to go and back without paying a small fortune to a limo company or attempting a series of really problematic connections via train and taxi. And I sure didn’t want to drive.

Rent a car and drive in New York City, coming out of LaGuardia and onto the Long Island Expressway? Oooooh baby, no thanks!

And yet, I did it!!! And I’d like to share what I learned from the experience, because I think it might help you deal more effectively with the things that scare you.

But first, please just stop for a moment and appreciate the absurdity of my situation.

Most people are afraid to stand in front of an audience and talk. Public speaking is the number one fear out there. More people fear public speaking than fear death!

Heck, talking to folks doesn’t bother me at all. Put in me in front of 100 people right now and I’m fine. I love it.

What makes me nervous is driving to the venue! How screwball is that?

And I’ve gotta tell ya, I have some justification for not wanting to take on fast moving roadways I’m not familiar with. I was speaking in Rockville, Maryland a while back and I got caught in a major rainstorm on the DC beltway in the dark in a dinky Chevy Aveo with trucks whizzing by me. THAT was dicey and I was so nerved up and the visibility was so bad by the time I got to the hotel that I kinda jumped the curb to keep from shooting past the entrance to the place. I felt like a stunt driver. Way too much excitement.

So, I’d pretty much talked myself into never putting myself in that position again.

But I did.

And you know why? Because I’d never coach someone to avoid the things they’re afraid of. Instead, I’d suggest they look at the way they were thinking about the experience and come up with ways to change the nature of the experience by approaching it differently. So, by golly, that’s what I did! And it turns out that it’s pretty good advice.

All my thoughts around driving in metro areas were making the problem bigger. Instead of visualizing a safe and trouble-free trip, I found myself “awfulizing” … imagining all the things that could go wrong. I was fixated on what I didn’t want rather than what I did want. And guess what happens when you focus on what you don’t want? You get more of what you don’t want!

So, I turned things around by doing a couple of simple things. First, I started envisioning everything going well. I used my imagination to “pre-pave” a positive outcome. I saw myself being successful.

How’s that for a metaphor? You’re on the road of life and in order to get where you want to go, you have to envision yourself already there, having enjoyed the trip. Bingo.

The other thing is … I looked at a map before I ever left home. I actually studied it to get a basic mental picture of where I wanted to go rather than just rely on the GPS.

Yeah, I know, most people would hardly list this as an innovative use of navigational technology, but for me, we really were breaking new ground! I don’t do maps … ‘til now.

I took some responsibility for determining the outcome, rather than just hoping my GPS would do the work for me.

Lastly, I planned the flights to arrive at 1:30, so I’d be on the expressway and to the hotel way before rush hour. As it turned out, there was clearly some lingering vibration of trepidation there, because wouldn’t you know it, my flight was delayed and I got on the road right at rush hour.

But hey, I flowed with it. It was fine, and I got there with no trouble.

It may seem silly, but I was pumped! That was, for me, as big an achievement as someone who fears public speaking standing in front of a big room of people and nailing it.

So, what did I do? After all, it was just getting from point A to point B. Did I minimize the achievement? No. I celebrated it.

Give yourself some credit. Celebrate your successes. It’s how you reinforce the new positive vibe you get when you think about this thing that used to scare you.

So, there it is. Nothing complicated.

Imagine what you want to happen actually happening, and do things to enhance the experience and minimize the stress. Let it flow, and celebrate when things go well.

Do these things and there isn’t much you can’t handle in life … even the scary stuff.



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Meet Denise: Denise Hedges is a Business Development Coach and Speaker Coach for small business owners who want to be more comfortable, confident, and successful with their sales and marketing efforts. She specializes in helping them use speaking as a way to dramatically improve their results!