The US Open Swing Dance Championships: a training ground for the mind

After a full week of being completely immersed in the fear and anxiety of anticipation for this week’s US Open Swing Dance Championships… I’ve come to realize that this state of mind will not help me in any fashion. This entire week, I’ve felt so scared, I’ve put so much pressure on myself to do well, feeling already disappointed in myself for not losing enough weight for this event, feeling hopeless, and silly for even thinking that I could belong on the floor with the likes of my fellow amazingly talented competitors—even to the point of not wanting to go compete at all anymore; fearful that this will define me; fearful that it won’t—and it’ll be just another one of those things that I did once… even crying while gluing on rhinestones to our costumes yesterday (note to self: tears obstruct view for detailed costume work. I do not recommend this.).

But tonight, I meekly turn towards gratitude. During lunch yesterday, a good friend of mine reminded me that this performance/competition is actually all about love: love of the dance, love of expression, love for the audience, and sharing this gift with them.

Another friend of mine brought up the idea that this isn’t even about what “place” we get. “There is no place to attain,” he said. How is that even possible, I wondered? Because, he explained, it’s all about expressing this love for and through the dance.

As I sit here tonight journaling out my gratitude, I’m overwhelmed with how much there truly is to be thankful for:

  •  I’m grateful to be able to go out there well-practiced and well-dressed.
  • I’d much rather be the “man in the arena,” than the man on the sidelines—no matter how the results turn out: unlike so many others, at least I’m doing it…starting somewhere—as low as I may feel on the totem pole.
  • I’m grateful for the opportunity to dance out on the US Open floor, for my talented partner, for the support from all my family and friends along the way, for the means to travel and do this in the first place, for a body that functions and with which I can rejoice and express my exploding joy for life and this dance.
  • I’m also grateful for the (almost-debilitating) fear that has been trying to stop me all week: for the chance to see (1) how much I really do care about this, (2) for the chance to overcome it, move through it, and to continue on despite its attempts to impede my progress, (3) for the growth it’s caused in me, (4) for the chance it’s allowed me in sharing my fears, to become vulnerable and ask for support, (5) and to feel ALIVE!! I see now that the fear, sadness, and frustration are all the dark moments that make those stars of good moments shine even brighter.

the_man_in_the_arenaI have no idea how this weekend will pan out. None of us do. But instead of worrying so much about how I’ll do competitively, I’m deciding now to flood my heart, my intentions, and my week ahead with gratitude, and to celebrate this amazing event that I’ve looked forward to and been preparing directly and indirectly for, over the last five years.

My commitment to myself for this next week is that whenever I feel the fear or anxiety of anticipation seeping in… to stop. Take a deep breath. And reconnect with this solid state of gratitude.

Gratitude is a muscle. And this event—or any chance I have to travel outside my comfort zone—is just another opportunity to build up my mental fortitude. And I have a feeling that I’ll get a good mental workout this upcoming week. :) I’ve learned that a mind filled with gratitude can’t also dwell simultaneously in fear. So I get to choose now. Do I choose fear or gratitude?

And a closing note to my fellow competitors this weekend: My vision is that we go out there as cheerleaders for each other—each of us bringing our best game in order to call out a higher level of excellence in each other. As John Wooden says,

We don’t have to be superstars or win championships…All we have to do is learn to rise to every occasion, give our best effort, and make those around us better as we do it.

And then, as we each leave the floor after our event(s), we can individually know that we’ve already “won,” not by the placement we do or do not receive. But by the knowledge that we “left it all out on the field.” And that’s truly all any of us can hope to accomplish out there.

Success is piece of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. -John Wooden _______________________________________________________________________


All the best to each of us! May our every step on that floor be infused with the fruits of our labor, our joy, and our love for the dance. Cheers to a truly successful weekend at the US Open!