Last night, I did something I’ve never done before. I didn’t want to. It certainly wasn’t on my bucket list or anything.
But I went Swing Dancing anyway.
Visiting my family in Albuquerque, I tagged along with my sister and her husband on their date night. My partner was a strapping, six foot three inch tower of football bulked muscle. His name is Jonathan, and he’s my fifteen year old nephew. My niece, Bianca, came along for moral support. (Frankly, she showed us up. My sister and her husband were the only ones who’d Swing Danced before, but Bianca picked it up in her easy-breezy fashion, and looked like a pro in five minutes flat.)
Neither Jonathan or I felt comfortable, so I cracked jokes, while he reacted in red-faced sullenness. In the tense atmosphere of feeling like idiots, our personalities shone through.
I narrowed my vision on the instructor’s feet, as he demonstrated various steps. I focused on following his directions precisely, with each new, complicated move. And I jabbered like a Bluejay, making jokes about how bad I was, explaining to each new partner, that this was my first time. (They forced us to switch partners repeatedly, so we wouldn’t condition ourselves into bad habits, by repeating mistakes with one person.)
I glanced over at Jonathan. His body language and facial expressions said it all. With each new partner, he became quieter and his legs stiffer.
But by the end of the lesson, all of us, including Jonathan, were loosening up, and as we relaxed, our movements took on a more graceful appearance. Granted some, like Bianca, looked like they’d been Swinging all their lives, while a few of us, were still hindered by embarrassed rigidity.
However, there was one thing we all had in common, much smiling, and heads thrown back in laughter. As we grew comfortable in knowing what we were doing, we enjoyed it more, did it better, and wasted less time.
Then, when the lesson was over, we entered the main hall. The final strains of Sinatra enveloped the room, before Elvis took over. In an atmosphere taken straight from World War II America, dozens of couples began to swing across the oak laid floor. In ages ranging from seventies to twenties, advanced dancers flipped, stomped, spun, and swayed.
When Jim Dandy replaced Elvis, the whole room vibrated with energy. For some of us, it was nervous energy. One of the young men from our dance class, timidly asked if I’d like to practice. The thought of joining the experienced, threw me into near panic. I respectfully declined. Then a woman who appeared to be in her mid to late seventies approached Jonathan. She insisted, and I watched my fifteen year old nephew blush his way through the rest of the song.
Before the night was over, I braved my nerves and danced twice in the main hall. Once with my nephew, and once with my brother-in-law, (who is quite good.) And as I walked with my sister to get a cup of water, I realized what this experience did for me. Swinging past a learning curve has its benefits.
- Forces you to learn something new, and makes you notice things you often overlook.
- Doing something foreign to your nature, causes your mind to think creatively.
- Taking on a new task, role, or project, is a good reminder to help you understand what others go through, when they’re nervous.
- Different personalities react differently when under pressure. Noting those variances, and accepting someone in spite of their nervous energy, helps them relax more quickly.
- A new experience can expose you to new groups of people, new ways of approaching a challenge, and can teach unique ways to persevere.
- Making one small change, such as our partner switch, can protect you from repeated mistakes, patterned habits, and help you solve a problem.
- As hard as it is to make yourself vulnerable, forcing yourself to face fears, offers a sense of accomplishment that money can’t buy.
- Doing something different may be hard at first, but fun in the end.
I hope I never quit daring to try something new. My own discomfort has taught me many lessons, making the reward well worth the risk.
How do you swing past learning curves? Have you tried something that terrified you, only to discover a new passion?
Anita Fresh Faith
Anita Agers-Brooks is a Business and Inspirational Coach, Certified Personality Trainer, Productivity Expert, Certified Training Facilitator, Communications Specialist, national speaker, and author of the soon-to-be released book, First Hired, Last Fired — How to Become Irreplaceable in Any Job Market.
She’s a partner in The Zenith Zone, a business coaching firm. Member of the Christian Writer’s Guild, client of WordServe Literary Group, graduate of CLASSeminars for Leaders, Speakers, and Authors, a co-founder of The StoryWriting Studio, and speaker on circuit for Stonecroft International Ministries.
Anita’s passionate about business with integrity, healthy relationships, and issues of identity. She travels the country teaching others from her personal experiences and research. She believes it’s never too late for a fresh start with fresh faith. Anita lives in Missouri with her husband Ricky.