Are you dress-rehearsing life? In other words, are you playing a movie of how you expect things to go in your head? And further, are you getting frustrated when real life doesn’t go the way you rehearsed in your head (or don’t even move forward with your plans for fear of them not working out as you had envisioned)?
I can be guilty of this. As a QuickStart, I like to envision and then get into action in business, but with certain things in life, I tend to get wrapped up in the envision step and not move forward into action. Thoughts of it having to be “this” way consume me and I try to orchestrate every second of whatever the situation calls for.
Talk about a grasping, rigid way of looking at things!
If that’s you, these journal prompts will help you explore your thoughts and discover your desires so you can move past that need for dress rehearsing and live in the now.
But first, let me tell you a story to illustrate what it means to dress-rehearse life. A few years ago, a good friend of mine came to town. As one does when wanting to show someone a good time, I had a list of things I wanted us to do together. He also had planned a few get-togethers of his own while he is here to spend time with old friends, explore some of his passions, and to celebrate my birthday.
While we were talking on the phone about these plans, I was anything but excited. I wanted to be excited and bursting with the good kind of anxiousness about his arrival (you know that good kind of anxious, like a kid waiting eagerly to rip into birthday presents). Instead, I was stressed. Stressed about the details of everything – where we were going, what we were doing, what we were eating, who was coming, etc.
I’d say things like, “I don’t think that’s going to work, honey. Jane won’t come to this side of town, but I don’t think that Dick will go to that side.” It was clear I was all messed up in the logistics of it all and grasping to how it “had to be” and how it could only work a certain way.
I told myself these logistics were to create the ideal situation for each and every person attending – so everyone would be “happy” and no one would be disappointed. Yet, I’m sure you can spot the irony a mile away…. I wasn’t happy (and I wasn’t making the lives of those around me any easier or happier, either)!
At that time, though, it was how I rolled. (Which is to say right up into a stressed-out, crazed lunatic!) You’d think I was planning prom or my wedding. Nope! Just your average, every-day dinner out.
Thank goodness my friend was able to stop my stress in its tracks. He told me that he knew how much I care about people and how important it is for me to please others, but if I was going to remain sane, I was going to have to stop dress-rehearsing my life.
I just paused for a second, trying to remember where I had heard the term, as scenes from the night before my wedding appeared in my mind.
Ah, he means “dress-rehearsing” the way Brene Brown refers to it when she talks about “dress-rehearsing” possible tragedy in our minds while in the midst of perfectly joyful moments.
In my case, I was dress-rehearsing tragedy as disappointment and mis-matched expectations in order to prevent criticism from others. The perfectionist-pleaser disguised as a good party planner. Cue me smacking my forehead in one of those lightbulb moments!
“I’ve had to do this, too,” he said to me. “I realized that I was always consciously, or subconsciously, trying to make sure I had all the bases covered, and usually everyone else’s bases before my own, before I took any steps forward in my life. It was miserable, not to say, exhausting.
“I realized that I was never just living. I was relentlessly planning for, and often protecting myself or someone else from, eminent failure. I was almost never directly planning for mine or anyone else’s thriving. Now, I just live to thrive.”
His words hit hard and all of the dress-rehearsing that I did on a daily basis rushed into my awareness. As with all of our inner ego voices, we stop noticing they are talking – robbing us of the present moment and the joy before us — and assume they are actually our true thoughts.
So then, where in your life are you dress-rehearsing your next move? I encourage you to take a little inventory. You might be surprised how much time you spend trying to orchestrate happiness for others at the expense of your sanity.
Stop for a minute and notice how doing this makes you feel. Does it stress you out? Make you angry or sad? Or does it make you feel “in control,” yet resentful? Whatever it may be, you can notice whether or not it serves your greatest good. Or whether it is stealing your joy between now and the “big event.”
What does your ideal day look like if you were to please only yourself?
What fears do you feel when you anticipate disappointing someone or “failing” at a certain situation?
What would you do if you were living for only your own pleasure?
What is holding you back from fully embracing your life as it is right now?
What could you add into your day that would bring you more enjoyment and fulfillment?
If you were to live as your true self, what would you be doing?
What do you need more of in your day? What do you need less of? How could you bring more in or let go of those things?
How can you show yourself kindness and compassion right now, even if you disappointed someone or things didn’t go as you expected?
When was the last time things didn’t go as you had planned? What was the outcome?
If you had a free day to yourself and all of your needs were met (money, food, shelter, love), what would you do?
Since then, I made a pact with myself to minimize my “dress rehearsals”and it has opened up so much possibility for me (as in “What if it’s possible… that I accept a public speaking event and it goes well?”) As they say, don’t sweat the small stuff. When I was dress-rehearsing everything, I was sweating all the small stuff, which made me sweat the big stuff even more! And, as you just saw, I was certainly sweating pleasing others at the expense of my own joy.
As my “Mamaw” would often muse at the end of her days here on Earth, “My life just went by in a flash – poof!” Mamaw would tell us we are all wasting our time trying to dress-rehearse life. She’d tell us all to go out and LIVE while we can.
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