Sunday, April 05, 2009

Toastmasters Speech No. 6: "Listening to Your Voice"

By Christopher Siena, TM

If there is one big thing I learned in the course of life, it’s that I’ve learned to listen to my inner voice. Everyone has one. We call it different things: our moral compass, our instincts, and our conscience. Whatever we name it, we should always pay attention and listen to it. It makes us who we are.

Several years ago when I was in school, I came under intense pressure to from my teachers and fellow classmates to join the chorale. I was even “bribed” extra credits for joining the team. Another benefit was a chance to be excused in attending some classes. I badly need credits so I said “yes.” And in that moment, I knew I should have said “no.”

Deep down, I knew I didn’t want to join the chorale. I’m bad at singing. I hate the songs they sing. I hate the costume. I hate everything about it. My inner voice was nagging me loud and clear, “Chris, don’t do it. You’re not a singer. You don’t like the chorale.”

I didn’t listen.

It was only after a few practice sessions, when I realized I couldn’t fool myself anymore. So, I left the chorale. I dodged awkward glances from my classmates and received reprimands from the teachers who recommended me. And I must say, those were not the best days of my academic life but it reaffirmed my belief in following my inner voice.

A far more personal moment came when my inner voice told me to do something and I didn’t listen. It was the day my brother was about to undergo a brain surgery. After some light talk and a few minutes, it was time for me to leave. As I saw him lying in his hospital bed I had an overwhelming urge to give him a hug and wish him well.

My inner voice was telling me, “Chris, do it. Hug him. This could be the last.”

“But, that kind of emotional display was out of character for us and we’re not really that close even though he’s my brother. So, I didn’t do it.

He didn’t survive the surgery. He died the next day. I could remember his last words, “See you on Monday.” Now, I will be waiting for that “Monday” the rest of my life…

My inner voice was telling me loud and clear, “Chris, do it.” Why didn’t I listen?

As I look back I realized that most of the mistakes came when I didn’t listen to myself, when I didn’t trust my instincts. If you think about it, there are many voices coming at us every day and from different directions. Sometimes Internal – Voices inside your mind telling you to become someone else. This should not be mistaken to your inner voice because your inner voice upholds your values and not be guilty or ashamed of your own values. Sometimes External – People are telling you what to do, what to like or what not to like.

With all these voices, life can be very confusing. But, as I believe, there is only one person who really knows who you are and what you want, and that is you.

Sometimes we stop listening. I believe we should. And we should listen very carefully. Only then will you be able to hear our inner voice. And after that – do what it says. Just do it.

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