Aging with grace. Isn’t that what all dancers want?
There are different approaches that dancers—and non-dancers—can employ to successfully navigate the seasons of life. But in all cases, it’s important to know yourself and understand how you perform to your highest potential. What do you expect of yourself when you reach your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond?
For the dance studio owner, the seasons may be defined by the academic year: summer enrollment or intensives, the new fall season, preparations for spring productions or special events, and so on. But beyond this business calendar is the calendar of your life. Preparing for the decades to come may seem impractical when we are in our 20s or 30s. But eventually, we realize aging is inevitable.
What if we advanced through life with a healthy perspective of the possibilities of what’s to come, instead of dread and anxiety? Open yourself now to what’s possible. And if you are like me and did not hold this mindset until later in life, I assure you—it’s never too late! Whatever your age, let’s all move forward with a healthy perspective.
Through the decades
To illustrate how a healthy perspective can grow, let me share with you a picture of how my own life seasons have developed.
In my 20s: Dancing professionally, I had completed my BFA and MFA in dance. I got married and had my first child.
In my 30s: I continued to perform and choreograph; founded and operated a dance company. I had two more children and traveled internationally with my husband and three children as a dancer, dance educator, and advocate for the integration of the arts in faith.
In my 40s and 50s: I embraced an administrative role as the chair of a university dance department while continuing to choreograph. I remained in global leadership in the arena of faith in the arts, obtained certifications and licensure as a wellness coach/consultant and minister, and became a grandparent to six beautiful children.
Obviously, there are many details, other hats, and responsibilities not mentioned above including my roles as daughter, sister, friend, community advocate, advisory panelist, and board member.
The purpose of sharing my story is to show you the big picture of my journey. Often, my professional background and experience in one season led me to the next. Yet sometimes, I was not mentally or emotionally prepared with a positive mindset.
Prior to, during, and after each transition, I was met with grace. But meeting with grace can be like meeting someone or something new: you don’t automatically become besties. I admit that I did not always engage with “Grace.” I was too determined, driven, stubborn, and obstinate. I was impelled to serve and not receive.
Pridefulness and Grace are not good friends.
Now, I want you to know that I am a greater student at heart than educator. I, like you, can take notes and set my ego aside as I apply them. So, in my maturing and discerning relationship with Grace, I’ve learned some valuable lessons.
Self-awareness and motivation
As your seasons turn, you’ll benefit if you learn how to define your daily success.
For example, what motivates you? Internal motivation is inspired by the desire of an outcome because you have a set personal standard—wanting to excel at a hobby or sport, for instance. External motivation is driven by obligation to someone or something outside of yourself—like an employee working hard for a raise.
Both are fueled by a sense of achievement. Understand that your ambitions will shift through time and that you must adjust accordingly. Consider these questions: “Am I motivated for others to recognize my studio’s achievements and performance?” “Am I determined to provide the best education and artistic environment possible?”
The key to what stimulates you lies in your answers.
Aging with a growth mindset
You can find joy and rekindle your purpose for life by developing new interests or leaning into your personal gifts. Identify your “other than dance” passions—do you long to spend time biking, kayaking, or candle-making? Acquiring new skills in videography, graphic design, or costuming could benefit both yourself and your business. Simply watching a funny movie will allow you to loosen up and laugh. These and other newfound joys can have a positive impact on your life.
Acknowledge where you are today in your body. Assess your abilities reasonably. Perhaps the 20-plus hours a week you used to spend training your body is now dedicated to teaching class. Realize that training and teaching are often two different modes of physical activity.
What are your goals? Do you want to be physically stronger? Aging brings weakened muscles unless we intentionally engage in strengthening exercises, and the phrase “move it or lose it” often becomes a harsh reality. To counter the impacts of aging—less balance and coordination, reduced flexibility, poor posture, pain and stiffness—set aside time at least three days a week to engage in strengthening and stretching exercises.
Your role as an influential teacher does not diminish if you can no longer kick to a 6 o’clock position. An old saying states that children will do what you do rather than what you tell them to do. Dance is an environment where students can benefit more from what we say (technical corrections; support and encouragement) than from what we do (demonstrating).
For example, in your 20s, you might have used your own technical prowess to encourage your students to reach their own technical heights. However, in your 60s, you hold the same passion for your students’ achievements but have learned alternate coaching techniques that achieve the same outcome.
Effective and efficient
I grew up with the motto “proper planning prevents poor performance,” which still rings in my ears. Learning to work effectively and efficiently will aid you in your daily success. Here are a few tips.
- Set and maintain a routine. Know your most productive times of the day.
- Limit your task list to the essentials.
- Each night, emotionally prepare for the day ahead by creating a plan.
- Use a schedule to ensure maximum time management.
- Assess your to-do list by prioritizing the most valuable tasks first.
Remember to make space for yourself on that list. Do not forget to pencil in your own workout, time to prepare nutritious food, and important “de-stress” activities. And, of course, maintain that positive perspective by practicing gratitude.
Remember, it is much easier to engage in self-care than to find a cure. Think of self-care as a costume of resiliency that serves your own long-term healthy perspective. Like any costume designed for optimal performance, this “personal care costume” must be properly fitted to your own unique shape and size. Consider strengths and needs within your own physical, emotional, and mental health landscape as you weave a garment that will clothe and protect you through all the seasons of life.
We can age with grace if we learn how to be present, find humor and laugh a lot, stay teachable and flexible (emotionally and physically), forgive ourselves and others, and be grateful. With balanced priorities and “Grace” as our companion, we’ll be prepared for all the harsh winters, warm summers, changing falls, and eternal springs.