My Friend and dance teacher, Jennifer McDonald, tells me that every dancer falls down—she says that readiness to fall down is part of what makes you a dancer.
Even though falling down is not high on the list of things most of us look forward to doing, Jennifer will tell you that a great dancer knows how to fall gracefully and then pick herself right back up. She makes that fall just another part of her dance.
Recently I had the chance to try this out for myself. Remembering that dancing is a state of mind, I kept Jennifer’s advice in mind as I fell.
When I realized that I’d just taken a huge fall with a treasured client of mine, it was 2 AM. I was awake because my stomach hurt and there was simply no going back to sleep. Once awake, my brain kicked in—and I suddenly realized that I’d missed an important meeting that night. After feeling sick all day, I’d totally forgotten the meeting, gone to bed early and slept right through it!
Now here’s where things get interesting.
It would have been completely understandable to lots of people if I had chosen that moment to throw myself under the proverbial bus or kick myself to some emotional curb for having committed that giant screw-up.
Fortunately, I remembered Jennifer’s advice about falling.
Combined with the realization that acting on my destructive instincts would not remedy the situation (nor do any of us any good), her advice helped me to remember the storehouse of dancing strategies I have at my disposal. Since I make a living coaching my clients through situations just like this, I had a nourishing practice right at hand. All I had to do to access it was to stop the thoughts I was having about the proximity of that bus.
Here’s the strategy that helped me keep my cool and dance through that fall:
- Acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake. As soon as you realize what’s happened, admit it to yourself. Remember the quote, “to err is human…” and accept your humanity in the moment.
- BREATHE. Start with a big exhale and then just breathe in and out slowly. This will calm your heart rate and switch your brain back on. Just this one practice is your best defense against a complete emotional meltdown. Stay focused on your breathing until you’re ready for the next step.
- Connect with those you have let down as quickly as possible and take immediate action to move forward with them. Your own response to your mistake goes a long way to repairing the damage your actions—or lack of them—may have caused your relationship. Be prepared to go the extra mile to make amends.
The best part of this experience is that it demonstrated to all of us that my practice was becoming an instinct.
When I trusted the process and used exactly what I teach, the circumstances became a coaching moment for me as well as my clients. The situation helped all of us to see how powerful this strategy is in real time. None of us will ever face a fall-down situation again without remembering the absolute grace these circumstances made possible.
The grace we all experienced came out of three things:
- I trusted myself to accept my responsibility for my mistake; that trust helped me to quickly move through this strategy without wavering.
- I trusted the relationship that my clients and I had created—they responded with care for me when I called them to make amends.
- Our conversation opened up the space for all of us to handle any mistake we make in the future with kindness to ourselves and confidence in the power of this practice.
The gift of this particular obstacle was a deeper conversation among us than otherwise would have been possible without the experience of personal vulnerability it presented. It also gave us all an understanding that we could use as a reference the next time we make a mistake.
Now we believe that mistakes are just a part of our dance and we’re ready to move through them with grace.
What would be different for you if you made your next mistake just a part of your dance? How would your experience of someone else’s mistake be different if you just danced with it?
Post your comments below…and keep on dancing!