You, and everyone around you, have be trained since children to be unhappy. You've been taught it by your well-meaning parents, encouraged by your peers, had it presented in structured format by your schools.
They didn't mean to. They were simply trying to instil a desire to reach for bigger and better things. They taught us: This what success looks like, what wealth and abundance look like. This is what pleasure and happiness look like.
The problem is, they tied all those awesome feelings to some future ideal... And left none of it for the present. And now we live in a society caught in a rat-race, determined to be rich and successful, with a Mr./Ms. Right on one arm and the keys to a mansion in the other. Because everything before that point feels like failure.
What does this have to do with ballroom dancing? Let me explain:
Hi guys! My name is Ian Crewe. I'm an instructor at the joy of dance Centre in Toronto, Ontario, and the creator of Social Ballroom Dance: Where you can learn your dance, at your place, on your schedule.
In any undertaking we make - dancing included - 99% of that time is going to be spent learning; in other words, making mistakes and learning how to do better.
Yet, we've been trained since childhood to hyper-focus on the end result: The grades we get, the pay check we receive, and the ballroom dance competition that we win.
The problem with that is when we focus on the end goal, everything up until that point starts feeling like failure. So today we're going to look at how to learn to love the process of reaching towards those goals.
An important part of that, is coming to make peace with your situation right now, rather than resisting it.
Sometimes our life can feel a bit like we're being asked to dance to a song that we really hate, when deep down inside we're frustratedly saying "I don't like that song! I can't wait until the song that I do like comes on! When is that song I like going to come on?!"
Ironically, the more we put our attention into the future, the less joy we can take from the present.
So for example, a lot of the joy of ballroom dancing has nothing to do with the song that's playing at all. It comes from the thrill of the unknown: Not knowing how your partner's going to respond to you, and feeling the movement evolve in response to your unique dance styles.
It's also really awesome when you feel your dancing has improved from the previous dance, and the one before that.
Also, sometimes you're going to get bored - I mean, sometimes we get bored when we're drilling the same step over and over again. But that does not mean that the activity is boring. It just means that we have lost our focus with the parts of that activity which we might enjoy.
For example, if I am having trouble with a specific dance technique and I start to get bored, I might ask myself: "Why am I getting bored?" I may come to the conclusion that I don't feel like I'm progressing - I feel like I'm stuck in place. Or maybe I'm not progressing as fast as I want to.
So that allows me to start looking more closely in my body so I can start learning where I'm going wrong and maybe notice those incremental improvements so I can start to take pleasure in it again. Or I may need to get my expectations of how fast I'm going to improve out of the way.
When we ruminate about the past or worry about the future, these things both keep us from enjoying what's happening right now. Instead, we want to find ways to bring ourselves into what's happening right now, so that we can look at what's happening more objectively.
A good way to do that is by asking yourself the question: What at this very moment is lacking? When I ask myself that, the only thing that's really lacking right now, is it's a very warm day out and we don't have air-conditioning.
But if I think about what I have to do in a couple of hours, or throughout the rest of the day - I've got to put together choreography that I'm going to teach to seniors at Chester Village in a couple hours, I have some lessons to do, a social to go to in the evening...
There's lots of things that I could stress myself out about if I gave too much of my attention to those things; asking this question can remind us that 1) what's happening right now usually isn't that bad, and 2) there's only so much you can do about the past or future.
We can prepare for the future sure, but we still have to prepare by taking actions right now: Worrying about the future does not solve anything.
Also, when we are procrastinating or if we suffer from perfectionism, these are both opposite sides of the same coin - that is, fear of failing, or fear that the process is not going to give us the payoff that we want.
Procrastination says "I'm afraid of failure so I won't start", and perfectionism says "I'm afraid of failure, so if I start it's all got to be perfect from the beginning, and nothing can surprise me"
Since that's really unrealistic to expect, we have to learn to rephrase our mistakes as learning opportunities. I like to think of our goals as lying across a field: A field that is full of mistakes - literally every step we take through that field is a mistake. And that's a GOOD thing.
Because the mistakes are teaching you how to take the next step, and a step after that - it's part of the process, the shots are part of the program.
Also, sometimes when we make mistakes, we feel like it's our fault. You know when we mess up in front of our instructor, what's the first thing we often say? "I'm sorry."
Sometimes I let my students know, when they've been messing up a step that they're trying for the first time: "you don't need to apologize. You've never done this step before, and I know you didn't get this morning, saying 'hey! I think I'm going to mess with my instructors day' and then start screwing up on purpose."
This is not really something that's in your control; it's not about fault at all. It's part of the process.
Finally, it's worth remembering that when we reach our end goal, there's nowhere to go but reaching for the next. So be okay with setting some goals that you may never reach.
The important part is that when you're reaching for them, they help you develop and grow as a person; and that is where much of the joy of learning comes from.
So I hope you enjoyed this talk, and it gives you some interesting food for thought. If you have any questions or comments about it, please message me on my Facebook fan page Ballroom Dancers Anonymous, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week, we're going to be talking to a life coach, somebody who has been very helpful for me, and we're going to be looking at self-sabotage: How we end up holding ourselves back from achieving our full potential.
So happy dancing, and I will see you next time!