In a Rut? Shock Your System!

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about neuroscience and specifically its practical applications in personal and professional realms. It’s got me reflecting on many things, such as how people (adults) learn, how habits form, the nature of creativity, why some people think “outside of the box” but most people don’t, why some people embrace change but most do not, and so much  more.

One key take-away from my reading so far is this: to achieve a new goal, overcome a challenge (physical, mental or interpersonal), or change something in your personal life, work or hobby – you have to change your perception. And changing perception is an incredibly difficult task for the brain, which is essentially “a lazy piece of meat” as one neuroscientist, Gergory Berns, so eleoquently puts it. If the human brain can make an assumption, take a known path, or find a short cut, it will.

One way try to make a perception change happen in your own life is to shock your system – to put your brain/body into a situation for which it has few or no previously learned navigation skills. The vast majority of humans are creatures of habit and routine. In fact, routines are important for the brain to conserve energy for really important tasks. To really challenge ourselves requires a great effort. You won’t, for example, achieve a breakthrough in your dancing by continuing to do the same things in the same way.

If you are struggling with a barrier in your life, work or passion, think about how you could shock your system to trigger a change in perception. Try something that is way outside of your comfort zone and pay attention to how your brain responds and what new neural pathways open up!

Here a few dance-related ideas for you to try to trigger a perception change:

  • You know that dancer you think is SO amazing that they intimidate you? Ask him or her to dance.
  • Try a competition even if (especially if) it scares you
  • If you regularly compete, attend an event and do NOT compete
  • Take a lesson from someone who intimidates you
  • Try a different dance style that you don’t understand or think you don’t  like


If you’re game, try this assignment on your own:

  1. On a piece of paper (must be paper, not an electronic device), write down one aspect of your dancing that you want to change. Describe how you want to change it and be specific as possible.
  2. Next, write down something you can do that would force you to go way outside of your comfort zone in terms of dancing. Note that this does not have to be related to #1.
  3. Post your completed assignment on your bathroom mirror, fridge, cubicle wall or another place where you will see it almost daily. Leave it there for at least 3 months.

And that’s it.