Ok. You’ve put in the time to learn the routines, you’ve practiced for hours on end both with your partner and on your own, you’ve scheduled your hair and makeup appointments, your dresses are perfect and your shoes are ready to go. Why then are you so nervous??? You can’t sleep, you can’t eat because your stomach is queasy, and you’re snapping at people because you’re irritable. “Why am I doing this?” you ask over and over. The answer is,“Because it’s fun.” The dancing part is fun, the nervous part isn’t. So how do you overcome this incredible fear? You focus your mind. How do you do THAT?
Well, according to Timothy Gallwey and The Inner Game of Tennis, you need to focus the mind and allow Self 2 to take over. A better explanation of Self 2 focus comes from Phil Jackson in his book Sacred Hoops: “Basketball is a complex dance that requires shifting from one objective to another at lightning speed. To excel, you need to act with a clear mind and be totally focused on what everyone on the floor is doing. The secret is not thinking.That doesn’t mean being stupid; it means quieting the endless jabbering of thoughts so that your body can do instinctively what it’s been trained to do without the mind getting in the way. All of us have flashes of oneness… when we’re completely immersed in the moment, inseparable from what we’re doing.”
Why would someone tell me to read a book on tennis? Because everywhere the word tennis appeared, I was told to substitute the word dance. Even though many people do not consider dance to be a “sport” it requires just as much physical and mental skill as many other sports (according to ME). The book brings up many interesting points that I believe everyone who is a competitor should ponder if you wish to achieve any degree of success in your field. Unfortunately, no one is there supplying the information in a welcome packet! Some things we are left to discover on our own, most likely when we have hit a slump or suffered some devastating loss. Unfortunately for me, the advice came too late in my career. It made an incredible amount of sense and I just wish it had been pointed out to me a lot sooner!! Therefore, I am passing this along to anyone who wants to listen.
Think about it. Our bodies carry on all sorts of complex functions on a daily basis without us having to think about it – breathing, blood circulation, processing nutrients, disposing of waste and a host of other things that any doctor could ramble on about. So why do we think that we can’t learn and remember a few dance steps that we have rehearsed a few thousand times? We have established muscle memory after the first few times of repeating the action. The only thing getting in the way of our successful repetition is that voice in our head saying how we can’t do it because we messed it up once before and that we are too fat, too thin, too old, too young, too stupid, too clumsy, or look too silly to perform the action again and again without mistakes. We can all come up with reasons why we can’t do something, but can we come up with one good reason that says we can?
Studies have shown that the vast majority of us use only 10% of our brains. WOW! That leaves an awful lot of room to store those routines!! I had a receptionist at a studio I used to work for who, when asked why she did something that seemed so out of reach for her, said, “Because I was too stupid to know I couldn’t do it.” She stumbled upon something she thought was a good idea and didn’t think about it, just did it. She didn’t let BRAIN CHATTER deter her from her goal. She FOCUSED on the job at hand and accomplished what she had set out to do.
Next competition (lesson showcase) don’t TRY so hard. Take a mental walk and relax your mind. Don’t think, just do. Focus on the music – let your brain enjoy the sound and your body will do the work that it has been trained to do! All the hard work is done: this is your time to relax and enjoy the fruits or your labor! What have you got to lose?? If you’re relaxed, it won’t be your breakfast!!