Expect the freak-out.

This week I coached several people on the theme of expecting the “freak-out” when they were about to jump into a “high stakes” life event. One client was preparing to take her GRE. Someone else was two days away from a long-awaited medical procedure. Another person contemplated her ability to handle the responsibilities of a recent promotion. What about you? When did you last experience a “freak-out?” (For the record, I felt it yesterday).

Did you lose a job or start a new one?

Has your health or the health of someone you love changed?

Did you speak up?

Invest money and time in your dream?

Start a family?


Human instinct wants to eliminate the discomfort that freaking our creates in our bodies. We often interpret these physical sensations as evidence that something has gone wrong and that we are in big trouble. This leads to fighting against, pushing through, or ignoring the signals that our body is sending us. None of that brings relief because we are arguing with reality. Our brain’s job is to alert us to an upcoming risk so that we can assess the situation. Of course, we are going to feel a nervous system activation when something big happens.

What if instead of resisting the feelings that accompany our freak-out, we expect to feel it when we are about to shift to something new in life? Following our conditioning has kept us feeling safe, depending on how we define that safety. Taking an exam, making a financial investment, sharing our truth, changing a relationship, or stepping into the spotlight feel unsafe because we are doing something unfamiliar.

I offer an alternative approach. What if your freak-out shines a light on your courage to try something new. What if it is evidence that you are in the midst of a transformation? What if it is a measure of how deeply you are disrupting the norms that kept you in line for all these years? What if freaking-out comes with the territory and you learn how to calm it instead of trying to banish it? That’s a whole new world.

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