Content Advisory: This is (another) pole dance heavy post, centered around my personal journey.
I am approaching the final competition in my season (Pole Theatre USA in Atlanta!), and upon reflection, I was struck by the fact that the delicious lessons I’ve learned from my eagle are majorly applicable to coaching. Hence, blog post.
To clarify, when I say “Eagle,” I’m not talking about the feathery one. It’s this one, where the Instagram hashtag is #pdeagle. (“pd” is for “pole dancing” for the uninitiated.) This is my very first one, and my teacher (taking this photo in the background) had to sort of shove my foot into my hands.
I had unconsciously applied this formula in a few previous competition seasons with great success, and I am inspired to share what I’ve taken away from that.
Lesson #1: Decide you want it, and believe it’s possible.
Not always the easiest part, but I certainly think it’s the most important part. In Think and Grow Rich, which I’m reading with my book club right now, this is the equivalent to the part where you “fix in your mind a burning desire.” I definitely decided what technical skill I wanted to present this season, and so I created the structure I would need to make it so. Deciding to have something is the beginning of making it yours. Would my husband and I have created 2 months of 2018 in Costa Rica if we hadn’t determined we would do it? Certainly not the same way. It got to be ours because we chose it on purpose.
Lesson #2: Ask for (and receive) help & support.
This is where a coach of any kind could come in. I definitely had to ask for specific instruction and assistance for the very first execution of the shape, as well as several future iterations. I got great feedback from pro dancers and instructors (Lara Michaels at Body and Pole and David C. Owen at Catalyst Movement Arts, my home studio, among others. This is especially useful after Lesson #1 because otherwise, I might not know what to ask for. When someone knows what you’re working on, they can give more direct and specific feedback. I had the opportunity to practice being open to instruction and growth, and also discovering what works for me (because, spoiler alert: not everything works for everyone).
Lesson #3: Balance patience and determination.
(In other words, be careful…but not too careful.)
Growth of many kinds takes time. In the physical realm of my art and sport, one aspect I’ve focused on a lot is the time and attention to training flexibility – time for the muscles to open, time for the tissues to expand. This takes Patience. This is applicable in the microcosm of a single moment, and over a whole season, even a whole lifetime. Staying in a stretched shape beyond your “norm” for even a single breath might be your limit one day. Enter Determination, so that you do more and more reps of moving into that stretched shape until you can take two breaths…until such point as you are sufficiently comfy there that it’s simply part of your body’s vocabulary. You need to spend time in a position to gain comfort there. Not that you won’t be uncomfortable in the process… How similar to any other Comfort Zone! You might only step out once, feel a little ping of discomfort, and venture back inside where it’s safe. But what could be possible if you push yourself to go there again? Anyone who has ever seriously trained in anything has gained awareness about how much discomfort is required to make changes. Growth is literally going beyond where you were before, occupying a new space. It’s going to feel different. And you need to listen and trust yourself so that you are consistent with the application of your efforts, but don’t overdo it to the point of your detriment. Acknowledge the thoughts and sensations that you experience, and decide where to put your trust. This goes back to Lesson #2: Do you need a kick in the pants, and so need someone else to provide some incentive to get the job done (like a coach or a trainer)? Would that person push you farther than you would push yourself? Do you trust that person NOT to push you TOO far? Or, do you tend to be overzealous for yourself and need help to slow down? Could you use some support in taking time off, or to be patient and gentle with yourself? Everything has its place and time.
As one of my pole idols, Heidi Coker, taught me at the final North American Pole Dance Championships this year, there are three kinds of discomfort.
1. Pain – this is hurting me and causing me damage,
2. Discomfort – this doesn’t feel super great, but is not harming me, and
3. New – this is a sensation I have not felt before, and I am unaccustomed to it.
As another one of my pole idols, Natasha Wang, put it in her workshop at the same event, “Soreness is not an injury.” It is, however, a state of being that requires attention and care so that you can not only avoid undesirable effects (injury) and create the changes you want to see (improvement in functionality, strength, mobility, balance, etc. – see Lesson #1).
Lesson #4: Do the work.
There is no substitute. Whether it’s the discipline to form a new shape or a new habit, to own something, you have to be willing to be responsible for it. Only you will be able to say what process you will choose…but any new product will take a new process. If your results matter to you (see Lesson #1), then this part doesn’t have to be hard.
Lesson #5: Celebrate!
Did you get to create the results you were after? BETTER CELEBRATE THAT! Even (and especially) if the end looks different than how you might have first imagined it. Can you come to yourself with appreciation and gratitude for your learning? Can you see yourself as the magnificent creature you are, growing and shifting and evolving? Can you be complete with how it went this time (however it went), and exercise the courage to powerfully choose what’s next for you, again? I assert that it’s a practice, and it’s worth it.
What lessons or gifts have you taken away from a long journey?
What next goals thrill you?
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