The ballroom was full of energy and excitement! Music filled the air, and people dressed in their best gowns and suits, filled the dance floor. The last dance ended, and the announcer called our heat; it was time to report to the floor.
We stood in place, facing one another as the Waltz began; I moved into the dance frame and counted aloud, “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3”.
I expected my student to begin his steps on the next phrase of the music as we had practiced. Instead, we stood still.
The other couples began to dance and move around us. Again, I counted, cueing the student to begin the dance, but there was no movement.
We had a minute and a half to perform the dance. Twenty seconds had passed, and we were still standing still.
Realizing the student was not able to take action, I acted. I pulled the student into the first dance step and from that point on, we did great..completing the dance just fine.
This scenario has happened to me more than once when I have taken a new student to a ballroom dance competition.
No one intends to freeze in those moments, but that is what fear can do to you.
It can paralyze you into a state of inaction.
This is the fight, flight, freeze mechanism of the nervous system taking over, and it is completely normal. This part of the nervous system is great when there is a real threat, but it often interprets events and actions that you consciously want to do, like competing in a dance competition, as a threat to your well-being.
It can be really upsetting and confusing when this happens. One of the biggest questions I get from clients is:
“Why does my nervous system freak out when I try to take action on something I want to do, or make a change that I know is good for me?”
The simple answer….. FEAR.
In the example above, the student was shocked and surprised that he froze. In fact, after the dance, he said, “Why did I freeze? I was so ready to do this!?”
He didn’t feel he was stressed about the competition; he expressed more excitement than anything else. It was only when the music started, that the fear showed up, and he froze.
One of the reasons it’s hard to identify fears is because they often don’t show up feeling like a fear. They show up masked behind avoidance behaviors and rational sounding excuses like:
c. Lack of Time
d. Lack of Knowledge
e. Lack of Money
f. Arrogance - “I already know what I need to know.”
g. Indifference – “I don’t care, I’m fine.” ( Hint: This was the students attitude)
In fact, when I wanted to change my business model years back, I told myself I didn’t have the time. It was actually just my nervous system not wanting to go through the discomfort of figuring it out.
Take a moment and think about an action you want to take but keep avoiding. What do you say to yourself about your state of inaction? Do you use one of the excuses I identified above, or do you have a different one?
Keep in mind, taking action will be uncomfortable. Many times, the most difficult part of goal setting is finding the courage to take actions when it does not “feel right”.
You need a strategy to manage your nervous system when you plan to take an action.
Below are the things I do to manage my nervous system when I’m moving into the action phase of my goals.
Know the emotions of both fear and excitement will come to the surface during the process.
Remember, these emotions are evidence you are operating outside your comfort zone, and that is exactly where you need to be.
Recognize that big learning occurs outside your comfort zones.
Exercise conscious choice daily as to where you place your focus. Do you choose to focus on feeling: 1) energized, excited, and grateful or 2) apprehensive and burdened?
Talk to people who support what you’re doing.