I know that many of us have sat slouched in a sesat in the classroom, muting the instructor's voice down to a Charlie Brown-like drone, watching the clock slowly tick by.
At a point in our work together when things aren't progressing easily, I sometimes see a client's face glaze over, as they will themselves into numbness or surreptitiously check the clock, counting down the moments until class will end.
These are the "make or break" moments, when my client can choose to wake up and fully engage with the work or to try and sleepwalk their way through it.
Which option will benefit you and enrich your life? What do you have to give up in order to gain from your efforts?
- Self judgment? (Other people might think this is stupid)
- Egotism? (I don't need to practice, I could just wing it)
- Impatience? (I should be better at doing this by now)
Instead of fighting against feelings of discomfort or being unsettled, I invite clients to name these feelings, to sit with the questions that these bring up.
Steps in The Process of Change
Change requires that you become self-aware, an active participant in your life.
1. Conscious Awareness
Notice what you are doing now - before we can change our habits these habits must become conscious. I often tell my clients about the four stages of learning (also known as Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill or Four Stages of Competence, initially developed by Noel Burch):
- Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence
- I describe this to my clients as "I don't know what I don't know or that I am it doing incorrectly"
- Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence
- This is the frustration stage, which feels like "I am doing this wrong"/"everything is awful"
- Stage 3 – Conscious Competence
- This is the feeling of coming through the frustration "I know what to do but it takes effort and energy"
- Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence
- This is the victory, "I know what to do and it comes automatically to me"
What you are doing you are doing for a reason. In a world where we are fundamentally designed to survive, if you are still breathing, your strategies have served you well within this limited aim. Compensation or an adequate execution of a task may require your to acknowledge an aspect of yourself. Often, adults will tell me about an incident in their adolescent years that set them up for this compensation:
- "I was called on to read in class and my words got so jumbled up I realised that I was bad at speaking in front of people"
- "I wasn't paying attention and the teacher called on me. I had no idea of the answer and I felt like an idiot"
- "The first time I went to a group for lesbians we had to go around the circle and say our name. I hate this, I hated being there, I opened my mouth and this weird, gruff voice that I didn't recognise came out of me"
- "When I moved here, no one could understand what I was saying because of my accent"
Whatever it is, it is time to accept and integrate this part of yourself in order for change to occur.
3. Know What You Are Striving For With A Clear Intent
Setting a clear goal will set a concrete pattern in your brain, preparing it to learn and achieve. Send a clear message to your body. This can take many forms:
- Use Imagery by visualising yourself executing the actions perfectly or create a visual metaphor aiding you in acessing the technique (eg. your lungs are big bellows, deeply drawing in air on the inhale and emptying out completely on the exhale without strain or tension).
- Start from sound principals of movement, voice, anatomy, psychology. You don't need to re-create the wheel or stumble through this on your own. This is why an experienced teacher who can work with you, your body, your learning style, your habits, your goals will save you from wasting time, feeling lost, and getting frustrated. There are no magic fixes but there are principals underlying the how and why of charismatic speakers, successful leaders, effective communicators, creative thinkers - strategies and skills that work.
- Engage your whole body in the process. Breathing doesn't just require your lungs to move, breathing is the activation of centre. It requires your whole body to be part of the action. Feel the trachea and shoulders relax as the lungs expand the diaphragm swinging down and out. Feel the ribs and back expand. Feel your hip, knee, and ankle joints shift as your weight rebalances (forward-backward, left-right, upward-downward). Notice where your gaze falls, where your tongue sits in your mouth.
- Tune-in to your emotions as you set this new pattern down. Using our bodies in new ways will stir up more than physical sensations, it will bring forward emotions. Instead of ignoring them, witness what you are experiencing. Sadness, joy, power, anger, frustration - these are all likely to come up in voice work.
- Be aware of the space around you and work with it - where is your body in the room? Feel your feet pressing on the floor. Feel your spine stretch toward the floor and the ceiling. Notice the light in the room. Can you gauge how much volume you need to use in order to be heard by hearing the "feedback" of your voice off the walls?
Practice in your session. Practice at home. Practice in the car. Practice at work. Practice at the store. Practice in the spaces through which you move each day. When you practice in different settings, you make the skills generalised (as opposed to only accessible in a specific context). Learning diaphragmatic breathing when you are relaxed on the floor with a teacher coaching you through the process will successfully aid you in finding the sensation, strengthening your muscles, and setting down the neural patterns. However, once diaphragmatic breathing it must be practiced in different contexts when sitting, standing, at rest, and at stress.
5. Understand that Change is Process
Change is ongoing. Allow it to be subtle. Allow it to be sudden. Allow it to be incremental. Allow it to be shocking. Releasing tension can create abrupt and significant shifts in our voices! Once you start putting the skills you learn to use, be prepared for change. Suddenly your voice sounds different. Suddenly you are connecting your voice to your message. Suddenly you are requiring that people listen to you. Be prepared to change how you enter a room or a situation. Suddenly you realise how exhilarating it is to speak in front of others. Be prepared to change how you see yourself and for others to react to you differently. Visualise how you will cope with change. Even success can scare us if we aren't prepared for it.
Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us.