A dress rehearsal isn’t just for the stage

Thumbnail for A dress rehearsal isn’t just for the stage—here’s what to do before a big change in your life

Thumbnail for A dress rehearsal isn’t just for the stage—here’s what to do before a big change in your life


In sixth grade, I begged my mom to buy me a laser pointer at Staples. Overnight, I become the best presenter among my peers. Not because the super-cool tool elevated my social status (it didn’t), but because the pointer made me want to rehearse my assignments beforehand. Middle school me was onto something. Recently, the The New York Times parenting section covered the anxiety-reducing results of giving a preschooler a dress rehearsal before the first day of school. But you don’t have to be between the ages of 5 and 13 to benefit from practicing major life moments. A career expert says the tactic works in every stage of life.

“Our brains are very capable of handling a lot, but if you want to enjoy and to be productive in the experience, it really helps you brain to have less to focus on,” says Maggie Mistal, a career coach in New York City. The less we humans prepare ahead of time for something, the more “attention residue” we carry with us from moment to moment, says Mistal. The name for the plight is pretty self-explanatory, but the coach describes it as what happens when we shift our attention to quickly from one moment to the next. The lack of transition means that whatever happened five minutes ago might still be holding onto your attention, which doesn’t exactly grant you “presence.” Rehearsing is the anecdote.

“Our brains are very capable of handling a lot, but if you want to enjoy and to be productive in the experience, it really helps you brain to have less to focus on.” —Maggie Mistal, career coach

When you walk through the steps of a job interview, date, or work presentation beforehand, your brain doesn’t have to trifle with the logistics once it’s time for the real, sold-out show. Instead, you can let your inner-HBIC slay the task before you. “I think we have this idea that if we’re busy and running from thing to thing, we’re more important,” says Mistal. “But the reality is, those people tend to be more stressed out, they tend to miss details. It just creates more challenges in our day that are really not necessary.”

Rehearsing will look a little bit different to everyone—and that’s totally okay. Mistal says that she often has clients who try on their interview blazer, quiz themselves on popular prospective-candidate questions, and make sure that their heels won’t deliver them to the job site with painful blisters that will throw them for a loop. For you, it may look like trying on a bunch of different sneakers before a first date, or running the 5K by yourself before sporting your bib to race day.

Cliché of not, life isn’t a dress rehearsal… but it helps to have one before life’s really big moments.

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