I’ve signed up for tap dance lessons! Yeah me. It is part of my plan to add more fun and fitness to my life. What does tap dancing have to do with gymnastics, you ask? Let me explain. If you are anything like me, whenever you set out to do something new; anything…taking a class, applying for a job, going to a social event, or especially an interview or a meeting, you do what I call mental gymnastics. I somehow think that if I can anticipate every thing that I may encounter, even anything another person might say, and if I can possibly prepare for all of them, then I, I … I don’t know? I win, I guess? What I really get is tied up in knots and tired.
My mental gymnastics have served to talk me out of trying things many times because I assume I can predict how the event/encounter is going to go, because that one time in that one place with that one person, it didn’t go so well, so why bother. If you do this too, it is a tragedy.
We think we can know and anticipate ahead of time, what is needed in circumstances before they occur because our brain is wired to apply what we’ve learned from our past experience and apply them to future experiences because it wants to ensure our survival. It doesn’t want us experiencing any kind of pain because pain may mean our survival is being threatened. If it can just remind us what happened that one time! Then maybe we won’t suffer pain. The part of the brain that does this does not register that we are no longer on the open prairie and in caves completely vulnerable to the elements and attack of all sorts. The pain that registers now a days is less physical, more emotional, but the brain still registers it as pain and suffering.
While it is true our experiences are our education, keeping an open mind and heart is the key to moving forward into an expanded life. I have taken tap dance lessons before. I haven’t taken THIS class, with this teacher, with these people who are going to be there, before. If we consistently do nothing new, our lives don’t just stay the same they actually become smaller. Instead of worrying about how to anticipate everything before it happens, it helps to remember that you probably won’t die. (unless you are actually doing something physically risky! But that is a whole other issue.) If I mess up badly, fall or, I don’t know, accidentally pass gas in class! I know from experience that I can recover from embarrassment.
It helps to tell ourselves that we are a highly 'experienced-in-life' people who can reasonably respond to whatever may come our way, in the moment. I always, always, coach my clients that we can never know what another person is thinking and that another person response is their responsibility, not ours. We can’t know how something is going to turn out before we try it. When I go to my first class this weekend, I will skip the mental gymnastics routine and instead trust that I will respond automatically with my own unique life-experience moves in every moment.