When I was 16 or 17 and facing one of those teenage crises in which the world seems to be ending but you aren’t quite sure why, my dad gave me the best advice I’ve ever received: Life is a marathon, not a 100 yard dash.
This advice has stuck with me, although living by it has not always been easy. I so often get caught up in the minute details of the day to day, losing sight of the bigger picture when the little things of life start to feel overwhelming. In my teenage years they were break-ups and bad dance classes, now it’s sleepless nights with the baby and blog posts that get put off day after day. These little things can cause big stress, but it is important to keep perspective, in life and in dance. High school boys will come and go, an occasional bad class doesn’t make you a bad dancer; as my son grows I’ll have much more time to sleep and write but I’ll long for sweet baby cuddles and playtime. Life is a marathon, and we have to be in it for the long haul.
As dancers, I think we are particularly prone to get caught up in the sprint. We know that our careers are short, and we want to succeed in the here and now. There is always pressure to be better, sharper, stronger, to push ourselves beyond our limits today, regardless of the long-term implications. Even in my current (mostly) post-performance life as a choreographer, teacher, and writer, I feel that same stress. Take the gig, write the post, share another video on Instagram, get your name out, and do it now. But when we give into the pressure of the sprint, more often than not we set ourselves up for frustration, disappointment, and burnout. Life, even in the dance studio, is a marathon, and we need to be in it for the long haul.
With that in mind, I’m re-committing to some simple self-care practices, and I invite you to join me. Here is how I am setting myself up to be in it for the marathon:
1.) Set realistic goals. Hence, the #MondayMessage has now become the #MonthlyMessage. I would love to come at you all with a bit of wit and wisdom every week, but it’s just not practical right now. Scaling back to one such post a month frees up time for me to focus on my other writing, as well as bigger professional goals.
- How can you scale your goals to be realistic, but still fulfilling?
2.) Say no (occasionally). Many years ago I learned the power of yes. I still believe it is important to take on new challenges, even if they scare you, but it is also important to do so in a way that allows you to “be in it for the marathon.” I’ve come to a point in my life in which I no longer want to run the professional sprint; it is impossible for me to accomplish my long-term goals while also saying yes to every little opportunity that comes along just to boost my ego or pad my resume. I have to be sure that I am spending my time in a way that is most practical, productive, and profitable for both myself and my family in the long term.
- What do you say yes to out of habit, ego, or guilt? What would want to say yes to if you had more time, energy, and focus? How can you shift away from the commitments that are no longer serving you and make space and time for your bigger goals and dreams?
3.) Take breaks. Since becoming a parent, I’ve come to savor my morning shower. Those few minutes of quiet solitude offer a break from the demands of motherhood that helps me to reflect, refocus, and rejuvenate. Breaks – whether they are 5 minutes at the start of the day or 5 months in the middle of a career – can often help us step back from the sprint of life and focus ourselves back on the bigger picture.
- What do you need to take a break from? What steps can you take – big or small -to make more time in your everyday life to reflect, refocus, and rejuvenate?
4.) Take care of yourself. When you focus on the marathon of life, rather than the sprint, you realize that your well-being (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual), is most important. The sprint of life tells us that it’s okay to live on coffee and Luna bars and to sacrifice sleep for short-term success. The marathon tells us we’ll never finish the race if that’s how we run it.
- How can you be better at prioritizing your well-being? What is one simple change you can make to improve your long-term physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health?