I had a memory come up on my Facebook page yesterday. It was something I wrote a few years ago that I thought must have been a quote from someone else; but when I searched it on Google, I couldn’t find it. So I guess I get to claim credit for it. I do recall it coming from a conversation I had with a friend.
The smartest people in the world realize that it is only temporary; as long as you want it to be.”
That last line, “as long as you want it to be”. In my opinion, it’s the most important part of the whole quote. It implies the ability to make change.
I’ve felt a lot of pain in my life; much of it self-inflicted. I’ve made many poor decisions which have put me in places in my life that were less than desirable. In the moment, it felt like life was over; that there was no way out. This was where I was and where I’d be for eternity. It’s hard not to give in to that feeling. To get up each day and act to change your condition. But when things are hard, we must make some honest and difficult realizations so that we can get beyond it.
- We have either contributed to, or are directly responsible for, the place we are in right now. My grandfather always used to say, “We are the product of our decision-making.” That’s hard to hear sometimes. Sometimes you may feel as though the world, that person at work, your boss, your teacher…they did it to you; and in some cases, they may have absolutely acted against you. But by removing responsibility from yourself, you are also removing your power to change it. I read once, “Whether life is good or bad, live and act as if you have chosen this life for yourself. In doing so you can act to change it if you so choose” That choice is at the center of it. The POWER to choose versus being the victim of others or the universe acting upon us. We must take ownership of our circumstances in order to change them.
- We can live in the Valley or seek the next Peak. Spencer Johnson, the author of “Who Moved My Cheese”, wrote another book called Peaks and Valleys. It’s a story of a young man who lives in a valley and yearns to reach the peak of the mountain at the edge of the valley. The inference, I believe is fairly obvious so I won’t go into detail. I’ll leave you to read the book yourself. What I found intriguing was the idea of choice of permanence in ones situation. Meaning, you can choose to stay in the darkness of the Valley (the hard and sad times in life) or you can work to reach the next Peak (times of joy, light, ease and success). You also have the ability to influence how long you linger in these places. It is all within your power to choose.
- You can never go home. Quite often in life we seek to return to a period in our lives when we were happy. When things were simple and without pain and fear. You can never return to THAT place again; but you can find a new one that exists with the knowledge and experience you now have. If you have accepted the truths in the previous two sections, you have learned something about yourself and you can find or create a new space where you can be at peace with yourself. You may live with the pain of past mistakes; you may live with heartache and loss, but you can choose whether or not you allow those feelings to paralyze you. You can choose whether or not you will continue to relive that experience by the choices you make. You can choose to sulk in your loss, or use the energy that pain creates to create something good. You can look inside and seek your power and act to impact your community in ways that help you see yourself in a new way. Not that you will (or should) ever forget your transgressions, but you can know those things and know that it doesn’t determine who you are for the rest of your life. You are a result of your learning from the consequences of your choices; you are not the choices themselves unless you don’t learn, or don’t care.
- Your habits and your awareness of them will contribute to your happiness. We are who we are…right? “People don’t change.” Not if they don’t want to or are unwilling to try. Our image of ourselves is, to some degree, tied to how others see us. How we actually behave towards others and how they receive it may not be in alignment with how we see ourselves or how we feel we behaved towards them. Being able to receive that information openly, respond to it maturely, and work to create new habits and behaviors directly contributes to a self-image and public image that are in sync. This is something I have struggled with quite a bit. I have an amazing wife, and I had some particular personal habits that were causing her pain. She asked me to correct them. I wanted to very much but I struggled with it. As a result, we came very close to separating. It was only when our discussions made me realize I had to do something with finality, to remove the possibility of me engaging in this behavior, in order to do the right thing; and so I did. It’s been very successful and has created other beautiful results in our relationship. Habits are huge. They play a huge role in our lives and relationships. To this end, I recommend two books that I feel can help with this issue; The Four Agreements written by Don Miguel Ruiz and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Both are very personal contracts you make with yourself that help you establish standards for yourself; both in how you interact with yourself AND the world around you. They have exercises and anecdotes that connect the dots in unique and powerful ways.
As I mentioned in the opening of this blog, I’ve had a good deal of pain in my life; and I take responsibility for almost all of it. Choices I have made have ended relationships, lost me friends, and left me without certain jobs that I let define my career and value. They took me out of a place where I felt happy, strong, confident, able, powerful even in some ways. But none of it was real because none of it came from me. It was all based on something temporary, impermanent. I think, in some ways I’ve been trying to get back to that feeling I had then, but I can never go back to that place. That bridge is gone so now I’m having to redefine my mission; create value in myself that comes from me; not some place I worked. It was in one of these dark times that I created MPower Dance Workshops. I’m now using the medium of dance to help kids not fall into that place by teaching them thought processes that will help them to make strong choices; to let their decision making be based on a moral compass and focused goal setting so they can get where they want without having to fall to the depths that I have.
Don’t misunderstand me. I needed to experience those things to be where and who I am today. I needed to feel that pain and everyone needs the pain they feel in life to prepare them for something greater in their lives. But I believe in learning from the mistakes of others as much as learning from our own; and while I may not share the intimate details of my life, I can help young dancers create powerful and life affirming thought processes that lead to good, strong choices to lead them in the right direction. Part of that journey is learning to redefine what feelings and criteria are an indication of success. My wife is a wonderful source of that for me. She helps me to see the good I do and value I bring to other people’s lives. While it’s a slow acceptance of this new joy, I’m finding it a little more each day.
P.S. While I may mention books in my blog, I receive no benefit from doing so. They are simply texts I have read and found value in. I do not recommend taking any one book and making it your life “Bible”. I believe it is important to read as much as you can and absorb and incorporate the elements of each theory to the degree it serves you. There is no one recipe for success and happiness. Those two aspirations can only come through a careful curating of knowledge from multiple sources and then applying that knowledge so that you can live your best life, day in and day out. But remember, helping our kids to learn these concepts is the ultimate goal. Translating these messages into learnable moments for them so they can retain and live them.
This blog is an extension of the work I do with MPower Dance Workshops. MPower is an in-studio convention, regional convention and week long national intensive designed to show young dancers how their training is preparing them for success in life. We use carefully curated themes for every event to give students a lens through which to view their training. We provide them with tools and techniques that will grow their technique and artistry, but also their mind and their relationship with themselves. We have even created an annual goals journal that is designed to break down the process of goal setting into manageable steps so that they can focus on tasks rather than be overwhelmed by the enormity of a goal. If you’d like more information, please visit our website at http://www.mpowerdance.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to share this blog with your dance family, or any family at all.