Are we thinking of trying a higher level tango class that we know will be challenging? Are we thinking of attending our first festival? Or going to a milonga in a different place? Or perhaps we’re thinking of going to our first milonga ever?
Moving our tango forward won’t always happen in small, incremental steps at a pace we’re comfortable with. Sometimes, we’ll have to think a little bigger and push ourselves a little harder. And even though we’re doing this for ourselves, it’s still scary.
But as we dive into those experiences, we not only improve, but we create momentum. And if we keep building on that momentum, the next personal challenges we accept become more fun than intimidating. Being a little more adventurous becomes more of a habit than a special occasion.
Let the desire to think big outweigh the fear of being in over your head.
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Another year of tango has gone by!
Think back to how you were dancing at the beginning of the year compared to now.
How much have you learned? How much have you improved? What challenges did you finally overcome? What are some things that stuck with you?
What are you eagerly anticipating in the new year?
Keep making progress – keep growing. Your tango journeys are full of surprises and fun moments. So long as you keep moving forward, there’s no limit to how good your dancing can be.
It’s been weeks, months, or maybe even a year!
But finally, we’ve figured out a particular tango step or sequence that’s been giving us trouble. Let’s take a few moments to catch our breath, and celebrate.
Because of the exhaustion that follows our achievement, it’s difficult to believe that we’ve gained insight, knowledge, and strength from our dancing ordeal. And at this moment, it’s tempting to succumb to another voice. It’s the voice which tries convincing us that, after accomplishing this huge milestone, we’ve tired ourselves out and there’s no point in going any further. It says we should just be comfortable where we are, and just coast because there’s no way we can survive putting ourselves through all that again.
That voice, of course, is lying.
If we choose to ignore the lie, we’ll soon realize that overcoming all the previous hardships becomes a source of confidence. It’s a call to keep moving forward, not a reason to stop. It’s true that we’ll encounter new difficulties and tests, and they can be frustrating. But the more we become mentally accustomed to achievement, the easier it will be to motivate ourselves, and the faster we’ll be able to conquer whatever new challenges that await.
So let’s not celebrate each victory for too long, because it’s never too early to ask the question: “What next?”
It takes a lot of drive to go from being a novice to an intermediate tango dancer. But once we get to a point where we’re competent, we need to put forth even more effort in order to keep improving. This can be hard, because it’s tempting to just coast along.
Here are 3 reasons why seeking new challenges is tough, but ultimately worth it:
1. It’s humbling: Intentionally making the effort to learn new stuff isn’t easy because it’s disruptive. Leaving our comfort zones feels scary, and the worst part is we might feel like beginners all over again! Who wants that?
Why it’s worth it: By moving up to the next level, we can catch and stop bad habits, hone technique, and in time, become stronger dancers. Although we might feel like beginners for a while, which isn’t so great, we’ll once again experience the confidence boost that comes after overcoming new challenges. Being able to say, “I did it” never gets old.
2. It can push us to our limits: There’s the possibility that going up to a new level feel so difficult, that we doubt our ability to be able to get through it. We may ask, “Should I even continue tango?”
Why it’s worth it: This has less to do with learning the new figure than it has to do with learning about ourselves. We find out pretty quickly whether or not we have a quitter mentality. And in the case of tango, the challenge at least occurs on our schedule. If we choose to keep pushing ourselves and moving forward, the experience results in greater mental fortitude. This can only prepare us for future, non-tango related challenges that don’t align with our timetables. Tango is an escape from life that also prepares us for life. Convenient, right?
3. It takes patience: The good news is, we’re highly motivated. But understanding a new figure conceptually is one thing, while working the information from our brains to our bodies is something else. And no matter what kind of body we have, that process simply takes time. And it’s difficult not to get angry or frustrated with ourselves.
Why it’s worth it: There aren’t too many circumstances where having patience is a negative quality. As far as tango goes, there’s no instant gratification and no overnight successes, so patience is crucial. Patience forces us to slow down and take things as they come. This is not meant to frustrate us. Patience gives us insight to discover why it’s important to communicate clearly with our partners. It gets us to appreciate the intricacies of the lead-follow dynamic, to gain better body awareness, and a chance to live for the moment while so much in our busy lives demand that we always be thinking ahead.
As we know, tango is relaxing and refreshing. But it’s counterproductive to get too comfortable with where we are. It’s worth it to push ourselves every now and then, because the more we move forward, the more we’ll have to look forward to.
We’ve all heard the saying that practice makes perfect (or permanent).
And you might have seen this motivational poster with a more clever message:
It’s good advice, of course. But in tango, when we do things wrong (which is part of the natural learning process), it’s important to know why.
Is correcting a mistake simply about addressing something technical within the dance? Or does the problem originate from somewhere inside our heads?
The dance floor is the most logical place to start when addressing our tango challenges, but there’s also a lot we can work on when we’re away from it.
Adjusting to the physical coordination needed for tango poses obvious challenges. But as mentioned briefly in earlier entries, overcoming mental obstacles is a huge component as well.
For instance, do our mistakes with learning new steps have to do with preconceived, but erroneous, notions of what that step looked and felt like in our heads?
Or do we see a figure or sequence that looks so complex we immediately assume it’s beyond our ability?
We need to let go of what we think the step looks like, how difficult it appears, and start understanding that tango is largely counterintuitive.
When we start accepting the idea that our preconceptions can be contradicted, the dance has a better chance of working. And then, we find out that what seemed impossible becomes possible. It’s a simple lesson that applies not only to tango, but our perception of reality as well.