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Destination vs Journey

I can’t recall how many students who came in telling me they “just wanted the basics”, “just wanted to get ready for their son’s/daughter’s wedding”, “just wanted to feel a little less awkward”. I wonder how many more of them would have stayed if instead they “just wanted to enjoy learning to dance”?

These were destination-based students: They reap the rewards after they put in the work, like a farmer harvesting his crops. The journey-based student on the other hand, sees the actual “harvest” as simply a bonus to the real enjoyment – the process of learning itself. That student will never get bored with dancing, so long as there is more to learn. And there always will be.

That’s not to say you’re “wrong” to have a destination. It’s what drives you after all. The problem is, it’s only a tiny part of the whole process – you hit your goal, and after that brief moment of elation, then what? 

Maybe that was really all you wanted, and if so, great! But for the rest of us (I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you fall into this category), there was a feeling of dissatisfaction. You find yourself saying “well, I got X, but it wasn’t good enough. But if I can get Y, that would be great!”

So what’s the problem? The problem is, you’re never happy right NOW, because you’re chasing all these destinations! But what if we could shift our focus to the journey, to the incremental benchmarks we meet with every practice? 

Part of the problem is that it’s hard for us to feel our own progress: We put in the hours, take the classes, practice at home, but it doesn’t feel any better, at least initially. We hear our instructor praise our accomplishments and think, “they’re just being nice.”

Your progress is like throwing stones into a lake, trying to break the surface with a pile of stones. Initially, the lake is muddy – you can’t see how close to the surface you are, so it’s easy to become discouraged. Over time however, the lake becomes clearer, and you start seeing the little improvements that move you towards your goal.

So how do you learn to spot these improvements? By becoming detail-oriented in our learning. Put your whole mind into your classes – you paid for them, didn’t you? – checking in with yourself with every run-through of a step to see what feels worse, what feels better.

Ask yourself: Where do I feel unbalanced? Where does something feel tight, strained, or otherwise uncomfortable? When do I feel ahead of, or behind the music? Shelve your ego – you will always have more to learn. But also, shelve your doubts – it will look good a long time before it feels good. And it WILL feel good.

Our destination seems like the “point” of it all, because it’s where we’ve placed our goals, yet the journey takes up 99% of the time we spend dancing. Why not enjoy that 99%? 

Whether we like it or not, we live in a dynamic, changing world, a world that doesn’t listen to our desire to find a place of static safety. We cannot learn so much and say, “there, now I can relax”. What we can do is learn to embrace the ups and downs in our lessons as part of the overall process of growth and improvement.

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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