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Dancing for Discipline

Real improvement in any skill is not ultimately determined by how long we practice or how badly we want to improve. Rather, the skill acts as a mirror through which we can see our own flaws and baggage. In other words, any form of skill mastery must come from self-mastery.

But what is self-mastery? In a word: Discipline.

Discipline to delay gratification now for greater reward later. Discipline to practice now, so that we may see improvements later. Discipline to recognize our strength is not endless, and to find ways to rejuvenate along the way. And discipline to embrace our weaknesses, that we may clearly see where they don’t serve us.

Discipline then, means understanding our personal system. And this brings the freedom to pursue meaningful goals without risk of self-sabotage.

Dancing, as we’ve already mentioned, takes us out of our comfort zone. And as we face down that discomfort, the places where there is work still to be done within us will try to hold us back. BUT, this is also the best time to spot those internal demons and work out strategies to eliminate them.

But I’m already a self-disciplined person!

True discipline doesn’t just measure what you can presently handle – it carries forward into future activities too. Many of us feel comfortable in our chosen field; yet we fall apart when we try something we don’t excel at. It’s in these moments of frustration that we must pay attention to what the voices inside us are saying, for they unwittingly reveal how we might conquer them.

Here’s how dancing can develop your discipline to a razor’s edge:

  1. It teaches you to look inward. Most decisions, good or bad, are made unconsciously, on instinct. Dancing instills a sense of mind and body awareness, enabling us to spot gut reactions that would otherwise sabotage our desires. Once we start paying attention, most of those reactions simply melt away.
  2. It brings out your ego. All our negative thinking ultimately comes from our sense of pride, which seeks to keep us where we feel most comfortable, AKA, in a place of zero growth. As you dance, you will grow familiar with the arguments your ego makes to try and get you to quit, allowing you a chance to counter them.
  3. Weaknesses become more visible. We all learn to dance because there is something missing in our lives, but ego-driven habits – like watching TV instead of practicing – hold us back. Little by little, dance lessons ease us into unfamiliar territory, pushing back against those unhelpful habits, until they are forgotten.
  4. You see yourself through the eyes of others. We rarely know how we look and sound to the outside world, until an instructor points it out to us. Especially in private lessons, constructive criticism can keep us humble, so we don’t become used to easy success.
  5. You learn to take pride where it’s deserved. Good instructors don’t just hand out criticism – they also remind you where you’ve improved as well. Most of us are hardwired to only spot where we fall short, which can be demoralizing. Acknowledging little victories is the secret to keeping the momentum going.
  6. It trains you to adopt a routine. In order to become more than a mediocre dancer, you will need a practice routine. Setting up a regular practice time (just a little at first), teaches you what works for you, and what doesn’t.
  7. It builds your confidence. Psychology studies have confirmed that, if you believe you can do something, you’re much more likely to do it successfully. As you grow comfortable learning an unfamiliar skill like dance, this transforms into greater confidence handling yourself in other situations.
  8. You learn to forgive yourself. The road of dance is riddled with necessary mistakes that can be very uncomfortable for the perfectionist. The constant trying and trying again acts as a kind of “exposure therapy”, helping you shrug off the missteps and stay focused on your goal.

The greatest benefits dance has to offer cannot be easily quantified – you cannot look at a “before” and “after” image in a health ad and expect to see a difference. But discipline – along with grit and courage – makes the difference between wanting to be a great dancer (or anything else), and getting there.



About the Author

Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.

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