|About the presenter: Alan Badmington is a former police officer and lifelong stutterer from Wales, UK. An active public speaker, he regularly addresses diverse community organisations in an attempt to increase public awareness about stuttering. His media involvement has further brought the subject to the fore. Alan appeared as a finalist in the Association of Speakers Clubs UK national public speaking championships in 2005 and 2008. He was a keynote speaker at the 2004 World Congress for People Who Stutter, in Australia, where he also won the Oratory Contest. (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
On May 6, 1954, British medical student Roger Bannister became the first person to run the mile in less than four minutes. For so many years, it had been considered impossible - many had tried and failed. Yet, the moment he overcame that mystical barrier, the mindset of athletes worldwide changed overnight. They now had evidence that it could be achieved. Before long, others were regularly fulfilling the same feat. Such is the power of belief.
Fast forward 45 years to April 1, 2000 when I witnessed a PWS recounting how he had won several public speaking trophies in formal competition with 'fluent' contestants. It was such a defining moment that the date is indelibly imprinted upon my memory. Prior to hearing his story, I was convinced that such a role lay outside the scope of someone who stuttered. A catalogue of painful experiences fuelled my belief that I could never successfully undertake that task. My whole outlook changed.
The man that I heard speaking so enthusiastically about how he had successfully embraced public speaking effectively became MY Roger Bannister. He opened my eyes to possibilities that I could never have dared imagine. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to entertain the thought (and hope) that I might be able to do something similar. That fortuitous encounter sowed the seeds of an empowering belief that was to subsequently change the course of my life.
Inspired by his example, I joined the UK-based Association of Speakers Clubs that has its origins in Toastmasters International. Membership afforded me frequent opportunities to speak in a variety of situations. I gained progressively in confidence and stature. My extensive vocabulary (swelled by a lifetime of word substitution) proved invaluable when I prepared my own speeches. Very soon, I too was 'walking away with the silverware.'
My newly-acquired oratory prowess motivated me to challenge myself in other areas. During the past 10 years, I have undertaken an extensive series of talks aimed at increasing public awareness about stuttering. In addition, I have addressed speech-language pathologist students at several US universities; participated in radio programmes about communication skills; hosted a charity concert; provided after-dinner entertainment; and fulfilled engagements on three different continents. Public speaking now occupies a prominent and exciting place in my life.
Our beliefs and self-concept create the script by which we act out our lives - they set the boundaries to our accomplishments. The moment I relinquished my old self-image, I discovered incredible opportunities for growth. However, if we fail to confront our limiting beliefs, they will continue to restrict us.
We need to take risks if we are to advance in any aspect of life - not just in relation to our speech. Progress is achieved when we are willing to expose ourselves to uncertainty by treading the paths that generate fear. Like the turtle, we can only move forward when we stick our neck out. Unless we place ourselves in more demanding situations, we will remain ignorant of our true capabilities.
Fear and self-doubt can sabotage our hopes and aspirations. It is important that we do not exclude ourselves from participating widely on life's stage. We are not always presented with a level playing field - some of us may encounter more hurdles than others along the way. We cannot all emulate Roger Bannister and break a world record, but we owe it to ourselves to strive to realise our maximum potential and achieve a personal best.