Is "Ultimate Fulfillment" suffocating us?
Jan 15, 2020
Thank you for letting me know there was an issue with the link to our Stretch Handbook. My apologies. You can get the handbook here.
Also-- a quick reminder that I will be going Live tomorrow, Thursday the 15th on our FB and IG pages. I am doing a 5-7minute lowdown on my own personal time management system. I've been using the same one for years now, and frankly, it's the reason I accomplish anything at all and don't often deal with time-related stress. Tune in :)
I want to talk to you about how often I see dancers suffocate under the weight of chasing fulfillment through dance.
*if you prefer to listen, rather than read, click here. This is the text version of my podcast.
One of my own favorite podcasts is called Hidden Brain
. In it, Shankar Vedantam helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science & storytelling they reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior.
Every episode is completely different, but all are compelling. There's an episode called "when did marriage become so hard"? The entire thing is worth a listen, but there's one particular point that stuck with me, will stick with me, permanently.
For context, the episode explores the evolution of marriage from an equal and domestic partnership for very practical reasons to the Jane Austin-Esque era of marriage for love and love alone and into the more current notion of love, the one that says your partner should be everything: your best friend, your love, your advocate, pushing you into a better version of yourself, into your greatest self-actualization. That your partner should be all the things.
This notion-- looking to our one true love to be our one true everything, it feels like it represents human nature as a whole.
Consider the resolution to lose weight and what that plan so often entails:
find a plan
make a list
get rid of bad food in the kitchen
get a new recipe list
buy a bunch of new foods and ingredients
change the time and way you eat
don't eat out with friends or order salads when you do
find a new fitness plan or gym
commit to going daily..,
Just one-- one of these-- takes acclimation, but we dive into the deep, deep end, having never swum before, with no floaties, and soon we drown ourselves in change.
Then we feel like we're weak for it, and rebound. Hard.
This all or nothing approach is often how we do anything-- committing to big life changes without a real thoughtful look into what's sustainable, and more importantly- what is really necessary. Maybe we just want more results quicker, maybe we think if we don't go big it'll fail, maybe we just like the binary structure and lack of ambiguity...whatever the case, in dancers this often manifests in an angsty career/goals crisis.
Over the years, dancers regularly want to chat with me. "Can we talk?" they say... "I just need some guidance". The talk ends up being a very desperate foray into the murky waters of unnecessary dance goals.
They want to teach, they want to start a company, they want a studio, they want to be a backup dancer, they want, they fear, they want, they question...
Here's the tricky thing about these conversations-- so many times, they've not allowed the journey to unfold. They haven't stopped and asked themselves:
"What purpose does dance really serve for me?"
They don't know what place dance holds for them, only that it's important, and important, in our culture, means money and career. As we discussed a few episodes back, we've linked passion and work in a most toxic way-- so, of course, that's where they will take it. Everything about our society is designed to lecture us into taking anything we love to the furthest extremes.
The pressure to link accomplishment to our source of joy is intense. It's compelling and sometimes exciting and a little daunting and ultimately, oftentimes, sorrowful.
Let me share a secret with you-- if I ever move on from owning a studio, I most likely will not continue to build a career in dance.
Let me share another secret with you, if I ever move on from owning a studio, I don't care if I ever get paid in connection with dance again.
That's the truth. Do I think that dance teachers deserve to get paid? Yes. Do I pay my own dance teachers fairly? Yes. But having worked the last ten years making a living this way I wouldn't do it again. What compels me forward in the hard times is how deeply I love the community my team has built. Deeply love them (you). It has nothing to do with dance, really.
Dance is the how...that's it. My why can go anywhere. And while I love dance, in fact, I couldn't' thrive without it, I don't need all of the pressure, responsibility, and stress that has enveloped my own dance journey and creativity. I'm glad I've done this, I'm proud, I love it, and I don't want to leave, but if I had to move on, I wouldn't do it again. Instead, I'd use my own "why" to guide me to work at a company or start my own, non-dance related company, and then I would start a dance project or teach a class where the money was a footnote but I could step in, create, and move, with no second thought about how this impacts growth or profitability. The why can go anywhere.
That's because I know what purpose dance serves in my own personal life. I know that the purpose of dance is to connect with me with all parts of myself. Sort of like a Mr potato head, I seem to lose pieces of me often. Coming to dance class is like putting everything back in its rightful place. It engages my problem solving and creative side. It makes me dream in color.
Nothing. but nothing about this is rooted in money. Nothing is rooted in needing to be the best technician or have the most Youtube followers.
You may be destined to be an extraordinary teacher or open a studio or dance behind Janet, but the first question has to be-- what purpose does dance serve for you?
Like a spouse, it can be an irreplaceable, intimate, sacred, beloved thing, but it doesn't need to check all boxes.
Before you start putting unnecessary pressure on yourself, begin with understanding the real purpose dance serves for you followed by what will amplify and what will weaken that purpose.
Let's say the purpose is freedom. When you dance, all walls come down. You are free.
How does teaching a class- preparing it, breaking it down, coming up with something new each week, taking care of a class, weaken or amplify your freedom?
How does being a professional commercial dancer- networking, headshots, auditions, training, agents, commutes, weaken or amplify your freedom?
How does owning a studio- sales metrics, bookkeeping, scheduling, marketing, HR issues, insurance and taxes, events planning, weaken or amplify your freedom?
There are fantastic and poopy aspects of every career, and I root for whatever you choose, but if you want to dance, just dance, and have the quiet wisdom to leave at that, to let it be your own personal journey despite external pressure, I'm rooting for you, too.