Cultivating Happiness

When I was thinking of starting to blog again and playing with names for this blog, I knew I wanted to somehow incorporate the idea of the pursuit of happiness. However, over the past few months I’ve really been focusing on the idea of intentionally creating or cultivating happiness, as seriously as a lifestyle choice. With that idea in mind, I also knew I wanted to talk about what I know in a professional sense and in practice, which is dance and education. So that’s how I arrived at the blog title of The Happy Dance for this little section of mine on the interwebz.

Every now and then, I’d like to step away from my voice as an “expert” (We are all always learning and forever students of this thing called LIFE, aren’t we?) in dance education, or startup entrepreneurship, or online marketing and talk about regular life things. Being the hardcore Gen-Yer that I am, I’m completely aware that everything I share on the internet (And, oh boy, am I all over the internet… Good thing I love Google!) is completely public and potentially accessible by anyone, including the very words I’m typing in this blog…. So I want to talk about things with which I’m comfortable sharing and that are hopefully still helpful to whomever is reading these words of mine. So, I want to talk about what I’m doing to create happiness! I want to share the tiny moments of my life that are causing me to do a Happy Dance. Presently, that’s travel.

I remember this quote that I came across several years ago:

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
– Henry David Thoreau

That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling about my life lately. I’ve been feeling like I want to stand up to LIVE each day in the ways that bring me the most joy. I want to take all the risks. (But don’t worry, I’m a really safe [read: paranoid/anxious] person, so all my risks are super calculated.) I want to experience all the things.

So sometime last year, I set the intention of traveling. And, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to commit to and live out that intention. Today is the first day of May of 2019, and, since November of 2018, I’ve traveled to 8 different cities, 2 different states, and 3 different countries. (The featured photo from this post was taken in Heidelberg, Germany!) In fact, in the past 6 months, I’ve been fortunate to take a little vacation 5 times.

For me, traveling is causing me to do a little Happy Dance because it both humbles and inspires me. It makes me feel simultaneously small in a super grand world and enormously large in being gifted with the opportunity to create the reality of my dreams. (Truer entrepreneur words were never spoken, right? Hashtag live yo’ dreams.)

What are you currently cultivating in your life that’s causing you to do a Happy Dance?

Avoiding Dance-Teacher Burnout

Have you ever gotten to a point with your dance classes where everything just sort of feels BLAH? Maybe you’ve been working on the same piece for several weeks or months and the moves have lost their air of newness. Perhaps students are beginning to master some combinations and your classes are running smoothly, but you haven’t brought in anything that excites you or makes you uncomfortable for a while. Maybe the butterflies that you normally get before each class you teach (that happens for you too, right?) haven’t been there for a while. If any of the above is true, you might be experiencing dance-teacher burnout.

I will admit that I’ve been fortunate with my work as a dance teacher. Even when I’ve taught dance at the same school for a year or longer, every class feels fresh for me. Every hour and each different group of students is an experience unto itself, and I am grateful for the feeling of utter exuberance I have felt at some point during every single dance class I’ve taught. While I may not always feel like making the drive or lugging the props, I absolutely love creating lifelong, positive experiences for my students through the art of dance.  I love shaping moments, learning from what works and what doesn’t work in my classes, seeing my choreography performed, feeling the music I’ve chosen change an environment, and more.

However, as a classroom teacher, I know the feeling of teacher burnout very, very well. I’m not sure of the best way to describe it, but I think it would not be inaccurate to say that it feels something like situational depression or acute hopelessness.

So how can that be avoided? My first advice would be, of course, to change things up. Trying something new (One day I’ll tell you about the hip hop curriculum I was working on several years ago, and how I tried to teach popping and locking….) and being open to the experiences that can come with that can often break up the monotony during a spell of boring-ness in teaching. But, my real advice, my from experience advice would be this: Schedule happiness.

In the same way that you make time to go grocery shopping or to shower, you have to schedule time for the things in life that bring you joy. I’ve calendared different things at different times in my life to make sure I get to them. I’m currently working on scheduling in social activities a few times per month.

One of the things that causes me to do a happy dance (Hey blog & creative project title! I knew I’d squeeze you in!) is creating and being part of community. In fact, community is my word for the year. (I don’t really do “New Year Resolutions” — I’m more of a mantra kind of person. And I don’t have space in my brain to remember tons of words, so a single word or phrase works really well for me.) So since I want to create and share moments with an awesome community, I don’t simply hope that it happens. Like everything I truly want in my life, I create it. I go for it. I just do it. (One of my favorite sayings is: “Where you truly wish to go, there your feet will manage to take you.”)

I think that we get to a point in life where we know ourselves well enough to recognize some of our triggers for either sadness or happiness. And I think that in order to break out of sadness or just BLAH-ness, sometimes we have to trigger our own happiness. So, my advice on how to trigger it is to schedule it. Plan time to do the things that will relax you, inspire you, mix it up for you, and bring the joy back into your life so that you can bring all of that goodness back into your dance classes.

We’re artists. We’re creators. We’re the crazy ones. We are the ones who dream in color and with our eyes open. But we’re human too (some days). So we have to remember to nurture the human parts of ourselves. And to do it with the same gusto and flair with which we do everything else in our life. (So yeah, when I schedule happiness, you better believe I do it in gold Sharpie on all 5 of my calendars.)