Toastmasters Reclaims Motivation

How does one go from feeling overwhelmed with a mind full of chaos, to a sense of calmness with empowering motivation?  Step outside your comfort zone, play the game of life and allow Toastmasters back into your busy schedule.

My mind was feeling like a complete mess with so many work activities and commitments.  I was starting to feel like that image of the calm looking duck upon the lake… with those webbed feet madly paddling beneath.  At what point do we say enough is enough?

How many times in life do we question our direction and our choices?  We allow ourselves to be dragged along, ensuring that we do everything that we must and somehow try to saviour a little time for yourself.

I had been crossing off events from my calendar and any activity that was not work-related got scratched.  Trying to free up some space in my daily schedule.  But was I crossing out the correct choices for me?

Tonight I made that decision, without planning, stepped outside my comfort zone once again.  I had not attended a Toastmasters meeting for months.  Thinking I needed a break and I wouldn’t miss it for a while.  But what I noticed was that I was losing my confidence.  That confidence that was starting to develop when speaking to a group… had started to be lost.

Nervously I jumped into Tamworth Toastmasters again tonight and I am loving the outcome.  Feeling full of motivation with a feeling of complete support and friendship, I have realised that Toastmasters is what is missing in my life.  I am keen to work on my next speech already.

From a morning with back pain and lacking the enthusiasm to do anything more than office work… to a vibrant and interesting evening.  Have you ever felt the need to pike out and push something aside?

After nearly 12 months of no real haircuts because farming finances became far too important to be spending it upon me.  I finally went back to my hairdresser, feeling guilty that I wasn’t able to support her business when the drought had impacted farther afield.  Almost like magic, a simple haircut… no colour, no style… just a haircut, lifted my spirits.  It felt like a load off.  A fringe that had grown out.  A good tidy up, far exceeded expectations.

Then the doctor visit for the dreaded pap smear.  Ladies, I know you understand!  Say no more.  The anxiety and stress around this visit clearly subsided.  Then to review my health care plan.  NOOOO!  I have put on 2kg.  Feeling sorry for myself again about now.

Waiting at the pharmacy for medication, one brief phone call was to change my thought process and how I might react.  A lady cared enough to phone to see how I was going and to make sure everything was OK.  Truthfully no not OK, but I was reminded of what Toastmasters could do for me.

A simple phone call encouraged me to come along tonight.  Without any paperwork, no plans, no badge… I rocked up to the meeting.  Within minutes I felt almost at ease, was speaking on an impromptu task and took on the task of evaluating a speech.

It absolutely amazes me how I can be so nervous yet so calm and excited, all at the same time.  I am so very shy when it comes to speaking, but something ignites within me and I share my passion verbally.

The highlight of the Toastmasters evening for me, was being told that my impromptu speech comes straight from the heart and is spoken with complete honesty.  That is exactly what I want to be able to do when I speak to inspire people.

I think we all have more ability than what we realise.  Every time I hear somebody speak, whether it is a newcomer or a more experienced speaker… we under-estimate our own ability yet think everyone else speaks wonderfully.

Toastmasters gives you the opportunity to improve your communication skills, build confidence and leadership skills, all within a fun supportive learning environment.  We all share our experiences, share stories and help each other.  We laugh and enjoy the evening, and we listen to interesting speakers.  Some of us share knowledge and educate, some share inspiration and uplift us and some share their unique passions in life.

I would like to extend a formal invitation to you if you live in the Tamworth area to attend our next Tamworth Toastmasters meeting, as a Guest.  It will be held on 9th September at West Tamworth League Club, Phillip Street, West Tamworth, 6:45 for 7pm start.  Come and see for yourself what Toastmasters can offer you.

If you live outside this area, I invite you to seek out your closest Toastmasters club and encourage you to challenge yourself and see how your life will improve.  You will be more confident, will have better communication skills and life just becomes more interesting.

Be the best person you can be and with Toastmasters you may just discover that person hiding within.  If I can do it… so can you!

Take care, Karen.

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“The Three C’s of Life:

Choices, Chances, Changes.

You must make a Choice

to take a Chance

or your life will never Change.”

~ Zig Ziglar

How Ironclad Organisations Empower You With a Sense of Pride?

What a jam-packed but empowering week!  From business meetings and training forums, personal growth events and social outings, I am feeling mentally exhausted yet strong and uplifted.  Involvement with renowned voluntary organisations and business training has released empowerment upon my own life and allowed my authenticity to flow.

MONDAY:

Excitement with prize-winners at Wanthella Group CWA Cookery and Handicraft Day at Kootingal.  An interesting day where the elite cooking skills are tested in competition by entering delicious baking at Group level, as per the state cooking schedule of the Country Women’s Association of NSW.

Our CWA branch, Tamworth Evening branch, had 22 cooking entries with 14 place-getters on the day and 5 winning entries to go to CWA State Conference in May.  I received a First Prize for my Chocolate Sponge.  Our branch also took home several trophies.

The Handicraft Competition displayed intricate work handmade by some very clever ladies.  My friend entered her gorgeous crotchet dragonfly baby blanket and a 3-piece crochet baby set.  I admire the handicraft skills of these women.

Whilst judging occurred, CWA members had the opportunity to listen to a talk about bees and honey production.  The bee-keeping industry was fascinating, very informative and an interesting discussion was presented.  Honey is the primary product studied by CWA this year.

My involvement with CWA makes me feel enthusiastic and passionate, as their aims resonate with me personally.  I am proud to be part of a well-renowned organisation that makes a difference by improving the lives of women and their families.  Personally, I also like the friendships I have developed, the knowledge I have gained and the forum provided giving women a voice to make positive changes.

Later that night, I attended a Toastmasters meeting, another renowned organisation aimed at developing confidence, leadership and public speaking skills.  I delivered my second heartfelt speech reflecting upon my personal experience with this heartbreaking drought, the emotional challenges and the community support.  I was awarded the “Best Speaker” award on the night, so after sharing my heart-wrenching thoughts, I felt pride that my audience was able to resonate with my words.

After I shared my personal experience, many people thanked me for allowing my vulnerability to show in an effort to connect with people.  What I found… was that there are so many kind people in this world, compassionate and understanding people.  Tamworth Toastmasters is a wonderful club, with a group of individuals that encourage personal development with public speaking skills, in a very supportive environment.

TUESDAY:

My husband and I attended a Southern Beef Technology Services (SBTS) Breedplan Regional Forum in Armidale NSW.  Breedplan is a cattle industry based genetic evaluation of stud stock.  As a seedstock producer, producing Hereford stud bulls, this day was very informative and provided an update and useful information for Breedplan Fundamentals.  Sometimes a reminder on why we measure the traits on our cattle and how it all comes together is very intriguing.  I believe we are never to old to learn and we have the ability to continue learning throughout our entire lives.

On the way back home, later that night, we attended a NSW Farmers’ Association meeting at Tamworth.  An ironclad organisation that brings farmers and agricultural enthusiasts together to discuss the challenges faced and identify issues within the agricultural industry.  I am proud to be a supporter of this renowned organisation making a difference in securing the future of our primary industries in Australia.

At the AGM, I ended up taking on the role of Treasurer, for an organisation I believe whole-heartedly in.  In a voluntary capacity, individuals accept executive roles within prominent organisations, as a sense of pride empowers the connection to their distinguished aims and objectives.

WEDNESDAY:

Back to Armidale for Day 2 of Breedplan Fundamentals, to learn more about the role of genomics and DNA of our stud stock.  Producing bulls is no longer just a business, it is a scientific progression of producing better livestock through DNA advancements.  Over the last few years, I have found breeding cattle very interesting, as we have accepted the new technological opportunities presented to us and put it into action.

Our business is Swanvale Herefords and we focus on breeding cattle with a quiet temperament, good weight for age, carcase and maternal traits.  Our fundamental aim is to produce soft easy-doing cattle with structural soundness and long deep-bodied cattle with plenty of thickness that perform well on grass.  With the adoption of DNA and genomics, we have a greater opportunity to meet the needs of our clients in the livestock industry.

THURSDAY:

Drought feeding livestock eventuated at a more reasonable hour today… in the daylight hours and not quite as rushed.  But then followed by personal dentist appointments and health appointment, necessary to retain our personal health and well-being.

Later that night, I enjoyed a Flavourista social event, hosted by a new friend with deliciously cooked dishes by Sarah.  An organisation that blends flavours and cultures… with tantalising spices, balsamic vinegars, unique oils, flavoursome syrups and dessert sauces.  I already have a few favourites and am enjoying cooking new dishes with the ease of these new items in my pantry.

Friendships and connecting with other women is empowering in itself.  But sharing stories and conversation over the dinner table, brings a powerful element to enjoying the fresh food that our agricultural industry provides us every day.

FRIDAY:

A few hours in the office whilst hubby feeds the hungry livestock, before heading to Willow Tree for a Practical Systems information field day.  An organisation that provides computer programs for livestock manageability, farm mapping and financial management of our businesses.  The objective for the day was utilising Stockbook functionality, a herd recording software program, that can collect data, analyse reports and improve herd productivity.

With a presentation and information provided by Practical Systems, we were able to discuss issues that we would like added to the program and were able to see the program being used at the stockyards with Live Data Entry.  I was able to see the opportunity we could have by making a few changes to better utilise this program at the stockyards when scanning, weighing, drafting and preg-testing livestock.  The possibilities enlightened me and I look forward to better time-management with this incredible technology on the farm.

I am a satisfied user of Practical Systems software for many years and am grateful that technology has provided our business with the programs to better manage our business over the years.  Stockbook is a database of all livestock that we own and have owned, that has all historical records available at the touch of a button.  I use Cashbook for the financial management of our business, budgeting and accountant-based livestock trading accounts.  We also use FarmMap for property mapping, paddock management, crop allocation and proposed on-farm planning.  Technological advancement has provided the agricultural industry with the software to better manage our farming enterprises.

SATURDAY:

After an exhausting and mentally advanced week, I lay in bed this morning listening to the much-needed rain that finally opened upon us in the early hours this morning.  The best rain we have seen on our farm for over 2 years… uplifted our spirits… giving us hope again.

The organisations in our lives that provide us with connection, training, knowledge, friendships or personal development… all have a place in our hearts and minds.  These organisations do give us a sense of belonging and empowerment in many aspects of our lives.

We all need to find those organisations and businesses that meet our aspirations and grant us opportunities to improve our lives and our well-being.

Take care, Karen.

“We cannot do great things on this earth – only small things with great love.”

~ Mother Teresa

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Farming: A Passion or a Burden

What a challenge to be farming in Australia… with the current heartbreaking drought and then the recent Queensland flood crisis.  It is with heartfelt empathy, understanding and support of strangers that farmers value the care within the community.

This week I have been speaking about farming, the challenges with extreme weather events and the kind generosity within the community.  I had my first speech assignment at Tamworth ToastMasters on Monday night, and then on Wednesday at C.W.A Wanthella Group Council Meeting at Uralla.  Two organisations and two speeches later… agriculture and the environment has been the topic and is still at the forefront of my mind.  Now I shall share my thoughts with you too.

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Agriculture is all around us and a part of everybody’s lives… from the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the water we wash with.  The agricultural industry is an industry worth sustaining for the future food security of our beautiful and clean nation.

Drought is nothing new, but a normal challenge that farmers experience over certain years.  But this is the worst drought in 100 years.  Not only the severity of the dry spell, but the length of time that farmers have endured to date.  The problem is that this drought is so widespread across our country, that farmers options have become far too limited, so their structured “Drought Management Plans” fail to deliver.  Agistment is not an option in this drought, due to the widespread effect, so farmers are forced to sell their livestock or feed the remaining core breeders.

Sadly the ongoing drought is devastating for Australian farmers, as they struggle daily to keep up with the physical demands of feeding their remaining livestock and carting water.  Farmers are working 7 days a week, are feeling exhausted and families are suffering.  Farming has temporarily become a burden, rather than a passion.

The financial strain is consuming our farmers, with increasing farm loans to purchase feed (which has more than doubled in price), the cost of updating or maintaining water infrastructure, machinery maintenance, livestock husbandry costs… let alone the general living expenses and medical bills of their families.  All with no income.

When farmers do not have the money to spend in town, the drought then impacts the local businesses.  The devastating effects of drought, may first consume the farmer… but like a domino effect… everyone is suffering.

The mental anguish torments farmers… as they worry about keeping their stock, not only alive, but productive.  Stressing about how they will pay that next feed bill without any income.  Wondering how to keep strong for their families sake.  Of course mental health is going to be a concern.  Farmers are mostly resilient and somehow manage to cope… but there are organisations that are available to farmers when needed.

One of the main things keeping farmers sane… is seeing the kind support of the Australian community.  The empathy and compassion shown to farmers, has been incredibly uplifting.

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The Australian culture is to naturally help people in need.  Our community spirit and generosity has emerged during this prolonged drought crisis… and it is this that gives farmers the strength and motivation to survive.  We have seen community groups, businesses and individuals… rally for our farmers and support the future of the agricultural industry.

It is the emotional support through these action, that motivate farmers to stay focused despite their livelihood and future being so uncertain.  The monetary donations have assisted farmers financially or the few bales of hay may feed some livestock for a few days.  But the real value is multiplied… knowing that people care about farming… care about our future food security and care about the industry as a whole.  It is just knowing that people do care and want to help.  Farmers are sincerely thankful for this.

Everyone sees photos of hungry stock, parched farmland and stressed farmers in the media…  but the farmer lives it every day, still putting on a brave face.  Farming is a gamble that does rely heavily on the weather.

My heart goes out to the Queensland farmers with the recent flood crisis.  Struggling with drought for many years… then the devastation of flooding.  Nobody could have prepared for this.  More than 500,000 cattle were killed as a result of the Queensland flood and another 150,000 struggling to survive.  With the flood, the cold weather, the mud and no feed… many cattle faced their last moments filled with fear and panic.  Farmers care about the welfare of their livestock… so this has been an incredibly emotional time for them.

Nobody expected the onset of the much-needed rain… to turn into a major disaster.  As the water dried up… just imagine the catastrophe that unfolded.  Farmers feeling helpless as their livestock are washed away due to weakness.  Fences washed away completely or needing major repairs.  Scattered livestock, bogged in mud and dying.  Farmers having to put down some of their livestock to be humane.  Dead animals everywhere.  The emotional task of cleaning up is enormous and overwhelming.

Rain does not normally produce sadness, it is usually welcomed by farmers.  But not in excess causing such devastation.  Once again, Australians rally together to support our farming communities in dire need.  Their compassion, assistance and kind support come unconditionally.  Sometimes the farmer’s gratitude remains unspoken, due to embarrassment or strength of character.  But farmers are truly thankful to the community for their true Aussie compassion and support.

Farmers do have an underlying passion for farming and a commitment to secure the future of the Australian agricultural industry.  We are all connected through agriculture and we are all in this together.  It is the community trust and support, that has become the real saviour.

Farmers are finding the strength and determination to continue to feed and clothe our nation into the future.  One day their resilience will allow for the burden to lift and the passion to be restored.

Take care, Karen

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“A kind gesture can reach a wound

that only compassion can heal.”

~ Steve Maraboli

 

Toastmasters Proves To Be Life-Changing

Who cringes at the mere thought of public speaking?  ME for one!  It is Toastmasters International Week.  The week to reflect upon and promote the intense personal improvements that are waiting to be unveiled for all.

Toastmasters is a self-development group of people that are aimed at helping members improve their communication and leadership skills.  Toastmasters was established in 1924 and now operates in 52 countries with more than 200,000 members in over 8,000 clubs.

Only a few months ago, I joined Toastmasters International and ever so quickly… my life has improved, in confidence and my public speaking skills are starting to emerge.  Despite feeling anxious and somewhat overwhelmed at speaking publically, Toastmasters has incredibly helped me overcome my initial fears and is helping me develop some insight into the art of speaking.

I wouldn’t say miracles have happened in this very short time, but my involvement at Toastmasters has certainly improved my confidence levels and ability to not “run away” at the mere thought of speaking to an audience.  I like the structure and opportunities presented at each meeting.  I also like the supportive members that assist and guide with their friendly natures and mutual desire for personal improvement.

Our level of confidence improves with our ability to control our nerves and overcome the fear.  Toastmasters helps you to overcome that fear, control your nerves and increase your confidence.  Leadership skills are the great underlying strength in Toastmasters with their structure, organisation and operation.  Toastmasters can help you improve your ability to think more quickly, learn meeting procedures and have an evening of fun and enjoyment.

For me, I like to speak from the heart and give an emotional authentic style of speech.  My problem is I like to write, so of course, I can prepare an engaging speech of some sort.  But presenting a speech is my struggle.  When I stand up, I lose the words, I don’t know what to say.  This is my challenge to overcome and I have enjoyed the journey to date.

I attended my first meeting to check it out and observe as a guest.  Then I joined up on the spot, despite thinking that “I am way out of my depth here”.  I believed I could never speak in front of people like this, even though it was only a small audience of about 12 people.

But I was on a recent mission to challenge myself and gain personal growth.  Nevertheless, I joined up because I knew that would make me return and I would not give up without even trying.  I am really a scrooge and money is very valuable in farming… so in my mind… if I paid the membership, I would have to return to get my money’s worth.  I know… I am a little eccentric… but it worked for me.

Toastmasters has produced a new program called Pathways that allows members to choose their own unique path, subject to their own aims and desired outcomes.  I find this very personalised and more dedicated to the individual.  I also enjoy the online opportunity of my pathway.

The new program Pathways was introduced in 2010 with 5 core competencies:

  • Public Speaking
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Management
  • Strategic Leadership
  • Confidence

There are 11 different Pathways to choose from, based on your own objectives and to develop those skills as you embark on this new experience and journey.  Through answering questions about my aims and purpose, several Pathways were suggested.  I chose “Innovative Planning” and was guided to the tasks and their purpose.

So I was keen, although nervous, at the next meeting to present my first 5-minute speech the “Ice Breaker” which is all about introducing yourself and learning the basic structure of a public speech.  I would normally have quit before I even started… because I feared public speaking so much that I would even refrain from asking questions for the lack of words.  I have recently managed to shift my mindset, so I was very nervous yet very eager to begin and get it over with.  Surprisingly under the nerves, I actually enjoyed presenting my speech and my passion in life to the small audience.

As part of my new challenge for self-improvement, I elected to take on the assignment of the “Inspiration” segment at the next meeting.  My short speech entailed Christmas and the festive season and an inspiring poem.  I also enjoyed doing this, despite the nervous energy within me.  I am still amazed by how a supportive group of people with a mutual interest in improving speaking skills can encourage me to be so involved.

At following meetings, I have continued to take on an assignment role where needed, in an attempt to make myself step outside my comfort zone.  This has lifted my confidence and improved my ability to speak and find those words somewhere within.  I do feel empowered to explore and enjoy what Toastmasters offers in developing my communication skills.

My next big speech will be in a few weeks, so I have been thinking about where to begin.  The topic can be about anything of my choosing.  I would like to talk about drought in Australia, the mental health of farmers, the empathy of strangers with drought support and the unspoken yet heartfelt gratitude of farmers.  As a farmer, this is quite an emotional topic, so I am not sure how it will come together and be presented.  I would like to try presenting a speech without having it written on paper, word for word.  But I am fearful that my true message will get lost when I forget all the words and I will feel disappointed.  I must talk to some more experienced fellow Toastmasters to get some advice.

Toastmasters really is a supportive and positive learning environment with opportunities for members to develop communication and leadership skills.  This leads to self-confidence and personal growth.

Anyone over the age of 18 can join Toastmasters… male or female… from any career or background.  I encourage you to make enquiries at your local Toastmasters Club as you will be amazed by this incredible life-changing experience that will improve all areas of your life.

Take care, Karen.

“The thing you fear most has no power.

Your fear of it is what has the power.

Facing the truth really will set you free”.

~ Oprah Winfrey

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How To Have Courage In Public Speaking and Succeed

Courage is the commitment to begin something without any guarantee of a successful result.  But courage also allows you to fail and learn a powerful lesson… therefore you don’t really fail at all.  If you never courageously take a risk you will never accomplish anything in life.  It is my time to challenge myself and to confidently learn public speaking skills with my local Toastmasters International club.

I took a risk tonight and stepped way out of my comfort zone, delivering my first structured speech at Toastmasters.  I was nervous but excited… ready for the challenge and looked forward to suggestions and improvements from my fellow Toastmasters.

I joined up only last meeting and was keen to step up and give it a go tonight. Courageously I stepped up to the lectern, delivered a 5 minute “Ice Breaker” introductory speech about myself and what I am passionate about.  I felt relieved when finished, but I also felt a sense of satisfaction, that I was courageous enough to speak in front of a small audience.  This was an achievement in itself.

Proudly I accepted an Award for being voted the Best Speaker on the night.  Secretly I thought I may have got a few sympathy or encouragement votes for being a “virgin” speaker.  But I did feel my passion and words were from the heart, and was very content with my first speech.

The beauty is other members give you feedback with an evaluation of your speech.  This includes detailed commendations and a recommendation for improvement.  I still have so much to learn, skills to develop and confidence to be formed.  But I am on the right track and have found the right place.

My favourite part is the support and guidance that fellow Toastmasters give you.  It is with their positive reinforcement that I have been able to have faith in myself and believe that I can do it.  There is no such thing as failure, it is all a learning curve.

Success is having the courage, determination and perseverance to see something through.  If you have the courage to begin, you will certainly have the courage to succeed.  Believe in yourself!

Take care, Karen.

“Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you’re scared to death.”

~ Earl Wilson

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