“Be patient” - the (way too) long road from zero to hero (Part 1)

“I’ve been going to zouk classes already for one year, why are the teachers still not doing any head movements?”

“Last week I was having many great dances in the salsa party but now it seems I don’t know anything, I feel like quitting.”

“I’m never going to get to that level.”

Sound familiar?

To be honest, I’m not the most patient person in the world. When I start to do something, I want to be ready now - in fact, I want it done yesterday. Even if I’ve grown to be more and more patient and more relaxed over the years, it’s hard to maintain your patience in the hectically buzzing world.

Patience is a skill we can develop - we’re certainly not born with it (think of any child you know). And, as I’ve noticed, it’s a valuable skill for dancing too! In social dancing patience is connected with being perseverant with your dance training and being forgiving to yourself. It also goes along with being present in the moment, being connected to your dance partner, being conscious about what is happening now and not feeling anxious about the future.



Am I impatient?

In other words, what is patience? Wikipedia tells us: "Patience (or forbearing) is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on negative annoyance/anger; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity."

I see patience working in two dimensions: short and long term. In this post we are looking at the long term effects of (im)patience.

When you’re learning something new and doing something with a passion, it’s easy to get impatient. Do you notice yourself asking these questions:

  • When can I start to take advanced classes?
  • Why is that other dancer developing faster than I am?
  • I want to learn that cool advanced move / pattern, why is my teacher still doing the basic steps?
  • Why am I struggling with social dancing?
  • Why aren’t there enough good leaders / followers in our scene?

There are no single correct answer to those questions. But one thing they do have in common: patience, and the lack thereof.

What can we benefit from developing patience?

When you see advanced dancers shine on the dance floor and other dancers progress while you seem to stall, it’s hard to be patient. It’s hard to remember that everybody develops in their own pace. There’s three things to note here:

First of all we all should know how pointless it is to compare yourself to others to measure your own development. We’re all different, period.

Secondly it’s easy to forget where you started and how far you’ve come.

Thirdly, it’s impossible to know what lies ahead of us. So it serves no purpose to worry about it.

When somebody says, “Don’t worry, be patient”, it seems like a pointless piece of advice. But it’s true. Some things just take time. And when I say time, I don’t even mean “number of hours spent practicing”. Yes, I mean that too, but not only that. Our bodies and minds are also learning, adjusting and recalibrating while we are not inside the dance studio. Have you ever noticed that some moves just click in over time?

To master the more difficult moves our bodies need a longer time to get ready. Also for those hard-to-learn moves, we need to have a solid foundation - and a solid foundation is more than doing the basic step 100 times; it’s more like doing the basic step 10.000 times, with a hundred dance partners with multiple variations and at various speeds. We need time for our minds & bodies to be ready to absorb the information that is needed for the advanced move without compromising the integrity of the foundation.



On the road to patience: Realigning your focus

Developing long-term patience is not something that can be done at the click of the button. It’s a mindset that can be hard to master, but some adjustments in your focus can help to get along. Take a look at the big picture and align your goals, you’ll feel less impatient when you have something specific to focus on and when you divide your long-term goal into smaller projects, it’s also easier to see the results.

Here’s one way to do it - feel free to make notes along the process, you’ll be surprised to see how you progress:

  1. What are your long term goals? Take a look at you’d like to learn and think what are the most important things.
  2. How do you feel you can get to where you want? Make a list of specific things you want to improve / things that you feel will get to where you want.
  3. Split your list into small segments. Focus on one thing at a time; e.g. today I will work on my balance. You’ll be more like to see results when you have clear project to work on.

There's no one way to Success - Give yourself a break!

It’s common to lose sight of your development and get anxious. Don’t let impatience get the better of you; if you want to get good at something there are no short cuts. Whatever you’ve learned up until this point is yours to use and to build upon, be proud of where you’ve come - even if it’s a small step forward!

Now one important thing to note here is that you shouldn’t make things too hard for you. Remember to add on your list some time to practice also the simple things - these are the things that you can build more advanced things on.

And the most important of it all: Enjoy the journey. It’s always not about the goal. Some days you go forward, some backwards. All experiences can teach you something - and even if there’s nothing to be learned, remember to find the fun in what you do! If what you’re doing is boring the hell out of you, change what you’re doing; it’s ok to change your goal along the way.



Patience Part 2

In the second part we’ll look at what are the short-term challenges that test the social dancers' patience and how to get past them!