Cow Pie Failure
Imagine walking down a quiet country road in the summertime. You anticipate fresh air, beautiful scenery, and cows grazing picturesque in the pastures. You also anticipate seeing a cow pie or two in the road. When this happens, you might run over to the offending pile and groan and complain and tell everyone how stinky and disgusting it is and even poke it with a stick. Or you can simply step over it and keep on walking. No need to convince anyone, including yourself, that the manure is lovely and wonderful. It stinks, but it’s also behind you. Failure, loss and setbacks can be viewed in much the same way, as expected, natural, and at times unpleasant parts of any journey.
Missing the Mark
Goals give us forward motion in our lives. They make what could be aimless wandering into purposeful and intentional drive. In ballroom dance, goals set a standard for yourself, your partnership, and your team. They define the parameters around which you will work so you can be clear about where to direct your energy. Goals can also cause a lot of pain when they are not achieved according to your timeline and ambitions.
Just Out of Reach
Perhaps on the day of show or in the heat of competition, nerves get the better of you, and things don’t go quite as smoothly as you’d planned. Maybe it’s just an “off” day for the whole team. Or worse, and most easily remedied: a lack of preparation So many things can cause a setback or be perceived as a failure. It can take deliberate, intentional work to prevent these inevitable moments from devastating you and driving you from the pursuit of your goals and ambitions.
Finding the Teaching
No matter the situation, be gentle on yourself when missteps occur. Be aware that each and every performer in every discipline has fallen short of their dreams at one time or another. Everybody has to navigate the cow pies in the road. This is completely normal, and to be expected whether your aim is to enjoy a career as a dancer or to accomplish any other life goal that requires stretching and growth. If you are able to think of each moment as an opportunity to learn and sharpen your skills, you will win your own positive outlook, self-respect and confidence. This takes care and patience; be willing to learn.
Have you own back.
When you catch yourself thinking terrible thoughts about yourself after a failure, defend yourself, to yourself! Let’s say you have the thought, “I should never have stepped out onto that dance floor, I don’t even deserve to be competing with these amazing dancers.” That’s not very nice! Would you let someone else talk to you that way? No! Replace the thought with something gentler and kinder. You could try, “I didn’t meet my goal today and I’m really disappointed.” This kind of thought speaks truth and it doesn’t sweep the loss under the rug, but neither does it make the failure a condemnation or judgement. Find and nourish kindness in your internal dialogue
Pay attention. If we look closely at our failures, they can teach us exactly what we need to do to succeed. Keep going and set realistic and specific goals for the future. Break those lofty goals down into smaller, more manageable milestones. Take time to remember why it is you love to dance in the first place. Winning is likely only a small piece of that pie. Is it the joy of creative movement that keeps you dancing? The fellowship and friendship on the team? The roar of the crowd’s applause? Hold on to that joy and love and know it will return to you again after the sting of loss has faded. Failure is just about as certain as a cow pie on a country road, but it needn’t be a stopping point or a stall. Lift up you gaze and keep moving forward into the sunshine of a longer journey.