Was ‘dancing more’ part of you New Year’s Resolutions?
Great! …how’s that coming along?
It’s already February! That means that about 10% of 2016 is gone already. If you are like me, or like many dancers around the world, last year we made a list with our “New Year’s Resolutions”. Perhaps we are trying to loose weight, or save money to attend a new dance festival in a cool city, or we have decided to improve our dancing skills. Maybe we plan to take more advanced lessons, or going out social dancing more often. Maybe we decided to take a private with a kick-ass instructor, or finally learn Kizomba and Semba. Whatever our goals are… we now got less than 11 months to do it!
So how’s that going? Good? Then congratulations, you are a very dedicated and tenacious person who doesn’t need to read this article. Thanks for stopping by and good day to you!
Now, for the rest of us who having a hard time, I have discovered a new strategy that can help us stick to our resolutions, and make 2016 the year that we’ve succeeded! Whether your resolutions have anything to do with dancing or not, if you would like to stay on track of them then I have something to share with you.
We don’t stick to our resolutions because they are hard…
The inspiration to write this article came after I realized that I didn’t stick to my own 2015 resolutions at all. I remember back in December of 2014, my friend Emile told me that he didn’t make any resolutions because he didn’t believe in it. “It’s just foolish”, he said. “Any time is a good time to improve, not just New Year’s.” His statement made me think about some people’s reasons for not making resolutions. Do people honestly believe that any day is a good day to improve ourselves? Or do people believe that they will fail without doubt, and therefore it is pointless to even try? “Statistically we are doomed.” says John Oliver in this video made at the beginning of the year. Listen to what he says, it’s pretty funny. (Especially the part about the Crock-pot.)
Managing expectations… brilliant! Thank you very much, Mr. Oliver. I don’t feel like a looser any more. You see… nobody stays on track of their resolutions! Surprised? Not at all! They are just too hard, or maybe we set the bar too high. Maybe…
This time, however, I felt that I needed to get to the root of the problem, and find a way to not fail, particularly after not sticking to my previous resolutions.
I started looking at other bloggers’ posts on the internet to see if they had any advice on the subject. I found a few very good articles and I have included links to all of them below. The one with the best advice, in my opinion, was written by Neil Strauss
, a best-selling author based in Los Angeles, who has written many books and news articles about self-improvement.
Yes, we are our own worst enemy. 😈
Neil says that every time we try to improve ourselves there is a war taking place in our brains. On one hand, we know that we want to better ourselves, and that we have much to gain from it. On the other hand, our mind starts to play tricks on us, and looks for any excuse to get an immediate reward that will make us feel good.
For example… let’s pretend that a well intended dancer named Lucy made plans to attend a new intermediate bachata class at the studio this evening. Class starts at 7:00 PM, that’s great because she wants improve her skills and gets off work at 5:30 PM. Right about 5:20, Andrea and Ron, two friends from work ask her if she wants to join them for drinks and dinner at a new restaurant they’ve been wanting to try for a while.
This is where the war begins, Lucy has already paid for her lesson, she knew she was going to the studio straight from work so she even packed snacks and water so she wouldn’t get hungry. She is all set! But the idea of a nice, delicious chilled Appletini sounds good… very good indeed; especially after a stressful day at work today. Her boss needed a last minute report, so she had a quick lunch and is now very hungry. A nice dinner also sounds good now. But what about the lesson? It’s paid for! Sure, but maybe she can ask the nice lady at the front desk to apply that credit for another time. And what about her snacks and water? Well, maybe she can have those for lunch tomorrow. Besides, there’s another lesson taking place next week, and she’s gonna make that one for sure! No excuses! (right?) Lucy’s brain abandons her long term plans to improve her skills, and chooses to have an immediate reward instead, and to make matters worse, she ends up having three Appletinis and spends over $30 on dinner (plus the tip).
Perhaps Lucy does go to class next week, but the week after that Andrea and Ron want her to go to the movies, or she feels too tired, or there’s something good on TV, and every class missed is a lost opportunity to improve. Strauss explains that because improving ourselves is a long-term proposition that yields rewards in the future, to our brains it seems uncertain. Going for the quick reward is easy because we get it right away and there is no risk! Moreover, we lie to ourselves, and promise to make it up somehow but we almost never do.
It’s time for a new strategy! 😀
It’s time to do things differently! If we keep using the same strategy we’ve used so far we’ll keep getting the same results. Here’s how we can work smarter towards our goals this year.
We need to start by making our resolutions more specific and measurable. Most of the articles I read recommend this. Instead of saying that “we are going to dance more this year” or “practice more frequently”, how about saying that we are “going to spend at least one hour a week practicing” or “learn at least one new dance pattern” every week, or every two weeks if we really don’t have much time. This makes it easy to count the times we have worked towards our goal.
Once we have modified our resolutions, it’s time to apply what Neil calls “The Ulysses Strategy”.
Let’s take a moment to remember high school literature…
In The Odyssey
and his men travel back from Troy
to their hometown of Ithaca
by sea. They are told that they will pass the land of The Sea Sirens
. The Sirens sing beautiful enchanting songs, so beautiful that all the sailors who hear them get distracted and wreck their ships on the rocks. Or they jump out of their boats and drown. Ulysses wants to hear the beautiful singing of the Sea Sirens, but at the same time he doesn’t want him or his men to die. So what does he do? He plans for failure.
First he tells his crew to tie him up to the mast of the ship, and orders not to release him, regardless of how much he begs and pleads. Then he orders his men to stuff their ears with wax to prevent them from hearing the Sirens.
The Sirens and Ulysses by William Etty (1837) Manchester Art Gallery.
Neil Strauss suggests that like Ulysses, we have to plan for failure. We need to assume that we will not resist the sweet song of the Sirens, so we need to ask our friends and family to tie us up. In our case, we can ask our more dedicated dancer friends if they can keep us accountable. Let’s tell them that for every dance practice we miss we are going to pay them $20. Or better yet, how about we give them our cell phone or tablets and ask them not to give them back until after practice! Or maybe we can give them our favorite book or any other favorite item and ask them not to return them until we complete our goal.
I suggest that we pay cash in advance for as many dance lessons and privates as we can afford, and ask our instructors not to issue us any refunds for any missed practice.
If we are saving up to go to a cool festival in a new city, how about putting the money in a secret account that we cannot access. If we plan to go social dancing every week, how about asking the regular dancers to carpool with us, and buy them a drink or lunch for every time we flake.
Whatever our resolutions might be, by creating a Ulysses strategy are relying on something other than just will power. Neil Strauss suggests that in this instance it is perfectly fine to underestimate ourselves. Why? Because resolutions are hard, and the sound of the sweet song of the Sirens will tempt us. This was the best strategy I found online to stay on track of our resolutions, whether they are dance related or not.
Yes, practice makes perfect, and practice takes time! 💡
Now that we know how to use our Ulysses strategy it’s time to put it to good use with our dancing. We cannot forget that we need to dedicate time and effort to our dancing in oder to improve. If anyone is looking for a little inspiration or ideas on how to become a great dancer, Latin Dance Community
has some very good articles on this subject. Just click on any of the links below to read some of my colleague’s articles: on how to improve:
In my article “I can’t find the time to go social dancing”
I cover two very important factors that influence our dance practice: Time management
. If we wish to improve as dancers we have to make it a priority, and to allocate the necessary time to practice we need to manage it well.
So what are your dance resolutions for this year and how well are they going? How have you stuck to your resolutions in the past? Feel free to leave your stories, comments and questions below and don’t forget to subscribe to LDC to get the best information of the Latin Dance Scene.
Whatever your goals are, don’t give up! Plan for failure, succeed and improve.