Hope, excitement, dread, and curiosity swirled around us. Eli and Isaac, who had spent the last year on the Junior and Preteen Premier teams, weren’t as nervous as Eve who was hoping to be placed on the Preteen Premier team for the first time. It was Luke, my little seven-year-old who took me by surprise. First Eli’s, than Isaac’s, than Eve’s name appeared on their desired team lists. We high-fived and congratulated. Then it got a little quiet. We scrolled further and saw his name. “Well look Luke,” I said, trying to keep it positive, “there’s your name on Preteen Show! Congratulations buddy!”
He burst into tears.
At seven years old and just going into second grade, I had never anticipated that he would even be considered for a team where everyone else is in 4th grade at least. He was just trying out because, well, everyone else was doing it and for the good experience it would give him. I had spent some time trying to manage his expectations, but it hadn’t gone well. “Geez mom,” all four of my kids would say. “Why do you have to be so discouraging?”
>So there we sat, looking at the heartbroken tear streaked face of the little man we all loved so completely. And our hearts broke too, for this person who dared to hope and to try for a big goal. In truth, Luke had only been dancing at PBD for a little over three months, a brand new addition to the Preteen Show team and the smallest little figure out there at the spring concert. But in that moment I felt empathy bloom inside of me and I did not say any of the following things, even though I believe all of them are true:
“Don’t worry, you have lots of years of dancing ahead of you.”
“You really shouldn’t be upset, nobody else your age made the team.”
“You really shouldn’t have expected to make the team when you just barely started dancing.”
“Preteen Show is just as great as Premier.”
Instead, we all gathered together and sat in that sad place with him for a time, put our arms around him, and didn’t say much at all. I was using the things I have learned about having a healthy emotional life. There are no emotions that we need be ashamed to feel, and if we allow ourselves and those around us space to move through negative emotions instead of around them, we can move more quickly towards joy and peace.
I do believe, however, that there are beliefs and thought patterns I can help Luke develop within himself to face this disappointment and all others in his life going forward.
Abundance mindset over scarcity mindset.
A scarcity mindset tells us that there is a limited amount of opportunity, fun, and success to be had in the world. At first glance, this idea seems supported by the fact that there really is a limited number of spots available on the premier teams. But an abundance mindset informs us there are unlimited opportunities for positive growth and development. I have seen that every single team at PBD offers each student equal amounts of opportunity for growth, fun, and success. A scarcity mindset may have us believing that the only way to become a great ballroom dancer is by being on a premier team. However, an abundance mindset informs us that there are many paths and timelines for learning, and all are good and joyful. Scarcity mindset tells us that all of the best friends we could ever make are on that other team. Abundance mindset tells us that there are great friendships to be had all around us.
My experience with Luke has been like a window into the experiences of each of the students and their parents who auditioned and didn’t get the result they wanted, whose disappointment and despair was multiplied many times over by the many hours and years of preparation and dedication to ballroom dance that Luke has barely begun. I begin to understand. Yet I can see a clear path that is emotionally healthy, vibrant, and light for Luke and for all of us without avoiding the pain of failure along the way. Emotional and social intelligence, growth and abundance mindset: these are key concepts at the studio. The staff is trained and mentored in them. If we all join together to develop the emotional lives of our students both at home and at the studio, we can help our children grow in powerful ways no matter what happens when the results come in.