Elevate Dance Center began 4 years ago, but most of our staff has been in the business of dance for longer than some of our dancers’ parents have been alive, and many of our staff members have worked together for a decade or two before EDC. When the dance studio I was working for in Westminster closed it’s doors in 2014, my sons still wanted to dance, so I went on the hunt for a great school for them close to home. I tried several, and I couldn’t find it. So, Elevate Dance Center was born. We were founded on the idea that what I wanted in a dance studio for my own children did not exist on our side of town. It was also founded on the idea that there are a lot of goofy- but sorta true- complaints about this industry, and we thought we could easily do business in a way that totally eradicated them. Now I mean absolutely no shade to any of my competitors, but the truth is, I saw certain norms being perpetuated in dance studios everywhere, and I wanted a change for the industry. I wanted to do it all differently. So, we did. Here are 8 things EDC does to revolutionize the studio experience:
- We are organized and communicative. You’ll notice it with your EDC handbook, your show handbook, the presentation and delivery of your children’s costumes, and our responses to your emails, calls, Band chats, social media messages and texts. You’ll also see it with how quickly our shows run, our dismissal procedure at shows, and more. Many schools run on chaos and prayers. We run on well-thought-through CONTROLLED chaos and prayers.
- We create a culture of love first, then dance and not the other way around. Our community is second to none. From parents, to teachers, to students, we care for each other. We lift each other up. This is why our name is Elevate.
- We perform in the best venue we can find, and we do not scrimp on staff or supervision.
- We select gorgeous costumes that are both classy and covered. Our rule is that we don’t show our midriff. There are many beautiful costumes out there that show midriffs, and crop tops are totally in right now, I get it, but it’s a slippery slope to dancing in a rhinestoned bra. I have judged dance competitions and taught classes from coast to coast, and it’s not just true but sadly it’s also the general standard. By keeping “no midriffs” as our rule, we never slide down that slope.
- We choose our music to tell stories that uplift and entertain. There are lots of ways to express emotions and process life through dance, but we choose to stay away from topics that are too serious or too mature. You won’t see our kids dancing about breakups, deep romantic love, or death. That type of art can certainly be beautiful, but it’s just not our jam. We stay in our lane of love, empowerment, and FUN. We believe in spreading positive vibes to build positive lives.
- Our ballet music is usually unconventional. Our ballet technique is absolutely traditional, but our music is often not classical or from a famous ballet. There is time for honoring tradition as the children grow in their appreciation of ballet, but for the moment, we just want them to love it.
- We are never in the wings dancing with your kids. Our youngest performers at shows are barely two years old. Our newest performers might perform after only dancing 6 weeks. We are confident in them, and we don’t care if what they produce on stage is perfection. What we care about is that they are brave and proud. Their technique will come with time.
- Our school is super boy friendly. A lot of dance studios are all pink glitter unicorns all the time. That doesn’t work for every girl, and it certainly doesn’t work for every boy. We work hard to welcome everyone at EDC, and I bet we are the only general dance studio in Colorado with a fluctuating percentage of boys of 10-20%. #boysdancetoo #heckyestheydo
If you grow up playing little league soccer and football, then the natural progression is to try out for your high school team when the time comes. If you’re good enough, you might even earn a scholarship to play in college, and an elite few will even turn pro! Dance is trickier though, and there are many paths to professional dancing. Oftentimes, joining the poms team isn’t the way forward in your dance dreams. That’s not true for every team, nor is it the only reason to join or not join Poms.
Dance can be an art form, a sport or a major in college. There are different opportunities to continue to pursue dance at a collegiate level if that’s your desire, so make sure your high school trajectory points towards your future goals- that might mean joining Poms, or it might not. Emma Goldberg, a 2021 high school graduate who spent four years on her poms team says, “Poms/dance team was something I never saw coming, in all honesty. But in hindsight, for my own high school experience, it was the best decision I ever made. The program introduced me to my lifelong friends and a healthy competitive environment, and I can safely say my coaches and teammates are the reason I’ve grown into the person I am today. I was on the varsity team for all four years of high school, and I was lucky enough to be a captain for my junior and senior years as well.” However, Presleigh Goodwin, a future graduate of the class of 2023 danced on the same team as Goldberg and chose not to audition again. “From game days and competitions to rehearsals and team bonding, Poms was extremely different from anything I experienced at the studio. I made some of my best friends and memories and learned so much from being on my pom team, but, I decided to leave after my 2nd year to return to studio dancing because eventually I understood the training I was receiving on my pom team does not correspond with the dance goals I want to achieve after high school, which for me are more ballet-based. Becoming a member of the poms team is not a choice that should be taken lightly. Not only will it consume a huge amount of your time, but it will also define your high school experience for better or worse.
Here are some things for both dancers and their parents to consider if you are thinking about whether or not to try out for the poms team in high school.
- Pay attention to the current team long before trying out. Discover:
- Are these the kids you want to spend 95% of your time with for the next few years? Collectively, how do they carry themselves?
- Do they get good grades? Participate in philanthropy? Respect their adults?
- Are they friends with everyone, or cliquey and exclusive? Are they perceived as kind, or are they “mean girls?”
- Is the current captain a strong leader or just the most popular person?
- Are the team members respected in the school community by the principal, teachers and other students?
- Take a good hard look at the coaching staff before trying out. Discover:
- Does this person work for the school? It doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker if they don’t, but working at the school makes communicating with the team members and holding them accountable much easier. If the coach has their finger on the school and team’s pulse, then they are more equipped to catch problems before they become catastrophes.
- Is the coaching staff loved by the team? The coaching staff is going to become a big part of your life. Are they people you want to look up to? Can you/will you respect them and their decision-making, even if you don’t agree with it?
- Does the coach promote a positive culture? Does the coach choose uniforms that are classy and flattering? Does the coach expect and require you to get good grades? Do they penalize you for D’s or is barely passing sufficient? Are the coaches involved in practices or are the kids doing everything on their own? What kinds of messages is the coach sending to the team? Is their approach positive or negative?
- Make sure you understand the expenses and how to pay for them.
- Dancing on a poms team is an expensive pursuit. The team will dress in uniform on most game days, so there are A LOT of clothes. Many teams have taken to wearing name-brands such as Lululemon. If there is a showcase, there might be additional costumes to purchase. The fashion is fun, but there is a hefty price tag attached.
- The team might also have to pay for choreography, studio time, dance classes at a specific studio, master classes, a trip to nationals and more.
- Absolutely all teams will cost at least $1,000 per year. Most teams will cost 3-7x more than that, so make sure you ask ALL the questions. How and when does the team pay these expenses? Do you pay up front, or are there monthly dues? Does the team fundraise and if so, for how much? What exactly is the dancer responsible for? Is that it, or do other expenses come up throughout the year, such as photos, dinners, team banquet, etc.?
Discern what your high school poms team is really about, and decide if that is representative of YOU and who you want to become.
- You can’t force a square peg into a round hole. Just because you watched some weird tween movies growing up and you have these big dreams of a fancy uniform, it does not mean THIS team is YOUR team. Be discerning and don’t go out for a team that isn’t your style. Be choosy, and choose wisely.
- Some teams are really good, and they are about WINNING. Winning is not something that comes without major design, so if you have a competitive nature, then this might be the place for you. Make sure you are prepared for a more-than-demanding practice schedule where you spend an enormous amount of time fine-tuning and perfecting one or two dances. EXPECT that you won’t participate in every routine. When the team is mostly about winning, it does not mean you will dance every routine or performance just because you made Varsity. It doesn’t even mean you will dance ANY routine or performance! Be prepared to sit the bench and cheer from the sidelines (even though you paid a lot of money to do it).
- Some teams aren’t very good at all, and that can be equally hard. Are you a great dancer and this team will be endlessly frustrating for you? Are you a mediocre dancer and you are not ready for the pressure of being yelled at to get it together? No matter the skill level of your poms team, it’s still “competitive,” meaning you will compete against everyone else at State, and you may even travel to a competition for a Nationals event. Whether anyone likes to admit it or not, competition adds an element of pressure to the individual dancers, the team unit, and the coaching staff- because frankly, nobody likes to lose. Pressure can make people behave differently. It’s okay to sign up for this, but make sure you’re aware of the dynamic and that this environment is right for you.
- Most teams fall somewhere in between, and they can be a lot of fun too. Here dance technique will likely hit its peak right as you join poms, and will not continue to improve. That might be okay with you! You will get to dance and perform for your school and you will cheer for all of the teams at their games. Just keep in mind that joining the dance team does not usually equate to more or better dancing. If continuing to grow in dance styles and technique is important to you, then make sure to stay involved in your studio as much as possible, especially in ballet and other tech. classes.
As you enter high school, and you and your family decide if joining the poms team is right for you, consider all the angles and ask all the questions. Think about your future goals, and whether or not becoming a member of this team will bring you closer or further away. Do your homework. Make sure the team is composed of the type of people you want to become. Make sure the coaching staff is one that will help you tap into your potential. Consider the expenses, how you will afford them, and if it’s worth it to you. And finally, make sure the team is representative of the type of experience you’re after. We are here to support you in achieving your dreams, so make the best decision for you and we’ll cheer you on along the way!
When I was two years old my mother put me in dance classes because my older cousin was taking lessons. I loved it, so my mom never looked back. She signed me up every single session until I could decide for myself, at which point I would beg her to take more and more classes and hand her paycheck to the front desk until I was practically living at the studio.
Today’s preschool parents are different than they were 40 years ago. When I was a little girl, there were pretty much three choices for tiny human activities- dance, swimming, and soccer. My mom picked one, and she was so happy I liked it, because that set the stage (pun intended) for what I would do to burn off energy for years to come. Dance it is! Check. When I was old enough, I was offered a job at my studio, and I earned money and danced all through high school living my best life while instead my friends used a long claw thingy to pick up trash at Water World in the summers. My dance friends were mostly separate from my school friends, and that proved to be a great thing for me through adolescence. I spent a lot of time with my dance teacher, and she guided and loved me like a second mom. If it takes a village to raise a child, then my dance studio was on its main street.
Today there is a menu of toddler activity options so extensive that a parent is made to feel like a failure if they don’t sign their babies up for a different extracurricular each day of the week. Being a good parent does not mean you must spend all your time ferrying your children from basketball to dance to French class to guitar and back again. In fact, many parents are starting to revolt against over-scheduling their kids, and we say Bravo! However, these same parents are choosing ONE activity at a time, and then switching them up every several weeks. The trend we see now is that parents don’t sign their kids up for the same thing over and over anymore like my mom did. They sign up for a session or a season and then immediately try something new, so the child can “discover themself” and decide what their passion is.
Call me old-fashioned, or just biased towards dancing and keeping my business full of repeat customers, but I see several flaws with this model. For one, we are kind of teaching our kids not to stick anything out. They aren’t really afforded the opportunity to face any adversity and overcome it, because there isn’t the time when participation in everything is just introductory. Also, when we hop from activity to activity, we are creating a short attention span for our kids. We are training them to get bored easier because they are always ready for the “next thing.” Additionally, we are robbing ourselves of community. We don’t give our kids (or us!) a chance to put down any roots to make enduring friendships, nor do we give the instructors/coaches enough time to mentor or make a lasting impact. In a world where we are constantly distracted and influenced by FOMO (fear of missing out) to consume more, try everything, and look perfect doing it all (thanks, Instagram and Pinterest), it’s positively countercultural to hang in there and grind for a bit. All we’re saying is, trust the process y-know?
So when is a good time to switch up activities? First, give it at least six weeks before you allow your child to decide it’s not for them. It can easily take that long for a kiddo to feel confident they know the class expectations and procedures, and make connections with the other people in the room. Also most big things start small, so your child might think the activity is slow at first. Give them a chance to get to know the class content and make a friend or two before deciding to pull out. However, we say all bets are off when the environment is toxic or your child HATES the activity. If you have any reservations about the safety of your child, whether physical or psychological, or you feel like the community opposes your family’s values, is negative and/or unwelcoming, then yeah- pull your child faster than you can say buh-bye! Likewise, if your life is made miserable every single week because your child throws a fit against going, then the timing isn’t right either in their life, or maybe just in their day. Coaches want your kids to love their activities above all else, so if that’s not happening for your child, then absolutely yes, you should explore until you find something that makes their heart sing. Avoid making your life miserable with all the coaxing, bribing and wrangling it takes to make an angry kid do what you want them to do.
Sports usually operate in seasons, but arts (music, dance, martial arts) are more of a practice. Getting good at either requires an investment of time and money. Most people are fine with the money- much more so than they were when I started dancing- but it’s the time investment where parents seem most restless these days. Our studio will always stay friendly to kids who want to come in and out of dance so they can play sports and do other activities. We’re not saying that’s not okay, however I want to encourage parents out there who are pulling their kids just because they think they should try the next new thing- kick back and stay awhile. Let your kids make friends, connect with their teacher and experience the magic and growth of performing in a few shows. Our advice is not new; if it ain’t broke, maybe don’t try to fix it so soon!
You are dying to sign your tiny dancer up for dance class, but how do you know if your little one is ready to go or if you should wait a bit longer? We ask several questions when we’re trying to assess dancer readiness. Here they are:
- Is your dancer expressing interest in dance class? Maybe they are begging you to dance, or they talk about being a ballerina all the time.
- Does your child watch television or movies and follow along with the movement? This is another way your dancer is expressing interest, but it also demonstrates an ability to pick up choreography and follow directions.
- Can your child follow three simple instructions in a row? For example, “Put your bag on the green line, find a colored star on the floor, and sit criss-cross-applesauce.” Participating in dance class requires a certain level of cognitive and physical development, and the ability to follow a series of instructions indicates a developmental milestone has been met.
- Can your child spend at least 10 minutes at a time doing an activity? This demonstrates an attention span that’s ready to absorb some dance. Does your child play with their cars or splash around at the water table for at least 10 minutes at a time, or is their attention span such that they constantly switch activities from one minute to the next?
- Can your dancer put on/take off their own shoes? Don’t worry, we’re going to help your dancer with their shoe changes, but an ability to put on/take off their own shoes demonstrates a level of physical coordination that can indicate dance readiness.
- Does your child use language to express themself? It’s pretty important that your dancer is able to communicate their needs and wants to their teacher. If your dancer uses words that are easily understood outside of your own family, then this can indicate dance readiness.
- Is your child comfortable without you? If your child spends time with grandparents, a babysitter, or in a daycare, then the answer here is yes. For many of our pre-primary students, dance class is their first adventure without mom or dad. It’s normal for a child to be clingy or even cry for several weeks before deciding dance class is a blast, but if your dancer is wrecked absolutely every time you leave without making any progress from week to week, then it might mean waiting for a few months and trying again.
These are the seven indicators we use to help assess whether or not a tiny dancer is ready for dance class. However, if your dancer didn’t ace them, it’s possible they’re still ready for dance- we’re looking for a majority here. Keep in mind that dance is a family activity, especially at the beginning. Once you’ve determined your dancer is ready for class, you must decide if YOU are ready. While your dancer doesn’t need a perfect score to join dance, everything on the following “parent readiness checklist” is non-negotiable, so make sure you can check each box below with 100% certainty. If not, consider waiting a little longer until you’re ready too; we want your dancer (and you!) to have the best possible experience in dance!
√ You are happy to bring them and commit time and finances to the cause.
√ You will encourage your dancer with music and movement in your home.
√ You are able to help your dancer get the right dress-code approved gear and get them ready every week, hairstyle and all.
√ You will make the time to park, take your dancer to the bathroom, help them into their first pair of shoes and calmly arrive 5 minutes EARLY to class. (Not 10, not 40, not 3 minutes late. Five minutes early is where the real magic happens. 🙂 )
√ You will read all communication and stay informed with the school by joining and checking the app as well as reading one email per week on Fridays.
√ You will trust the curriculum and you promise not to ask for a more advanced class placement for your child. If your child is 4 years old, you cannot tell us she’s “danced for years” and is “advanced.” We are experts, and we’ll get your dancer advancing, we cross our hearts.
√ You are happy to KISS AND GO. You are comfortable enough to walk away from the window so you do not distract your dancer, other dancers, or the teachers by waving and filming from outside.
Everyone ready? Let’s D-A-N-C-E! Call today.
It’s hard to be a new dance parent while helping your child navigate dance for the first time, right? Don’t worry, we got you. We are here to walk you through a few life hacks to make it seamless. Some of our top 5 tips are counter-intuitive, but trust us. We’re experts!
- Take your child to the potty before dance. “But I don’t have to go potty, Mommy!” Famous last words, right? Taking a trip to the bathroom to at least TRY to go, is non-negotiable before dance class. At the very least, it will offer your dancer to wash hands before entering the studio. We want our students to have an amazing experience at dance- peeing one’s pants isn’t the way there. A dancer cannot concentrate when they have to go to the bathroom. Stopping class to go to the bathroom for one student usually results in a disruption of the entire rhythm of class- we call it “starting a pee-pee party.” Suddenly, the whole world has to go and one-by-one our students are led on an unplanned field trip to the restroom. In a worst case scenario, the dancer has an accident before they can verbalize their need to the teacher, which results in gross cleanup, and physical- and maybe even emotional- discomfort for all involved. This whole scene is so easily avoided by arriving 10 minutes early, and making it routine to stop by the bathroom.
- Clean out the dance bag and label everything. Clothes, shoes, Barbie dolls, snacks, lip gloss… the list goes on. Your dancer feels confident when they can walk over to their bag, grab their next pair of shoes, and head right back to the group. You can help facilitate your dancer’s shoe transition by making sure the dance bag is easy to navigate and free from distractions. Also, if it comes to dance class, it should be labeled. Most of the shoes look EXACTLY alike, and many of the tiny dancers aren’t sure which gear actually belongs to them. You can help the teacher retrieve your dancer’s belongings by making sure everything is clearly labeled. An easy way to label shoes is to use an address label sticker on the inside sole of the shoe. Permanent marker also works, but make sure you don’t write anywhere it would show up during a performance- no shoe graffiti, please!
- Join the communication platforms. Read the weekly newsletter, join the app, check your parent portal. It might seem like a lot but it’s probably a total of five minutes a week, and it will make all the difference in whether you feel like part of the dance family or not. It feels good to understand policies, changes, important dates, and special events. You’ll never feel clueless or alone if you make the tiniest effort to stay informed at the studio. When it comes to performances, costumes, and the next session of dance, if you read the studio news each week then you and your dancer will always know what’s happening, and you’ll even avoid unwanted charges to your card and schedule!
- Untie shoes. If the dancer’s shoes have laces, it helps tremendously if you take them out of the bag, untie them and stretch them open so they’re ready that tiny little foot to slide right in. Often we find ourselves sifting through the cluttered bag only to find a shoe with a quadruple knot left behind. Multiply that times a dozen students, and we’ve unnecessarily wasted precious dance time wrestling with the footwear. Your dancer feels confident when they can put their own shoes on themselves. When shoes are harder to get into than a bank vault, they can’t do it alone!
- Make like a tree…and LEAVE. (No, do not grow roots and stand there strong as an oak!) We know, we KNOW! Your dancer is clinging. Your dancer is crying. Your dancer LOVES IT when you watch. How can you possibly leave them? But the hard truth is when you linger, the entire dynamic of the class has changed. Your dancer isn’t free to be their authentic class self, because they must perform-duh- there’s an audience! The other kids start wondering where their parents are, and the questions begin. Everyone is so busy looking backward at the windows and door, they have forgotten all about the teacher in front of them. If you think about it, you pay us to capture your child’s attention. So why then would you compete with us for it? It sounds harsh, but it’s so true. Boogie out of there and everyone’s better off for it, including you- because now you have a full 45 minutes to yourself! When the time comes for us to perform for you, we want you to see growth, progress and a confident, independent dancer. We won’t have anything to show you if you never go away long enough for us to teach it, so kiss your dancer, trust us with your precious cargo, and head out. You can do it!
I’m a 40 year old woman, I’ve been a dancer since I could walk, and I just finished my first month training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. While I am a “black belt” in dance, I am as novice as it gets in jiu-jitsu. I have learned so much in just a short time, and it’s exciting because it’s only the beginning. Every class brings a new surprise, but the biggest surprise so far has been how much I’ve learned about dance class during my jiu-jitsu training. Here are four of the biggest “new student dance class fears” and tips to overcome them, brought to you by my jiu-jitsu academy:
- FEAR: It is terrifying to walk into a new school, sport or activity for the first time. I’m so at home in dance studio life that I could eat sequins for breakfast. While every dance school is different, there is still a general understanding of the expectations, protocols and behaviors no matter where I’ve gone. I can walk into any school and pick up on their norms and fit in within seconds. Well, I’d never walked into a jiu-jitsu class before one month ago. I had forgotten that gut-wrenching nauseous feeling brought on by stepping into completely unknown territory for the first time. I had shaky hands, sweaty pits, and shallow breath. Even though I really wanted to try a class, I still stood at the front door and seriously considered backing out. I was paralyzed with fear.
- Tip To Overcome: Take a deep breath, drum up 20 seconds of courage like Matt Damon said to do, and walk through the door with a smile. Face your fear for just that moment, and you will survive to live another day.
- FEAR: It is terrifying to KEEP walking into that new school, sport or activity for at least the next several times. I thought walking into jiu-jitsu for the first time would be the hardest part. Turns out, walking into jiu-jitsu for the 2nd and 3rd times was the hardest part. The first time I walked in, I was afraid of the unknown. I was making up scary scenarios in my head. What if nobody will be my partner? What if I get hurt? What if the coaches don’t like me? What if I can’t do anything? Surprise! None of my worst fears came true. People were happy to partner with me. I did not get hurt. The coaches were all nice. But, it was super true that I didn’t know anything. I mean, duh. I had never done jiu-jitsu! So the second time I walked in, I was afraid of the known. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew some of it was going to hurt. I knew I was going to fail a lot in order to be successful. I was walking willingly into the fire and I knew it. It was scary all over again!
- Tip To Overcome: It’s human nature to want to be great at everything the first time we try it, but that’s not how the world works. Dance is likely not going to be life-changing fun in the first few classes. In fact, it will be grueling or tedious work most every time you go, but you will find joy in the journey and it gets better every time. Consistence is the key. Keep finding 20 seconds of courage and do not listen to the negative voice in your head trying to talk you out of the thing you say you want to do. You are not too old, too young, too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short, too ANYTHING. You are just right, and today’s the day. Just keep showing up and imagine how your future self will thank you.
- FEAR: Besides all the technique, there’s a whole dress code, language and etiquette to learn too. Hand me a pair of tights and a leotard and tell me to tombe, pas de bourree, glissade, saut de chat? No problem. Clap and curtsey at the end of class?Totally normal, and I do this in my sleep. But dress me up in a gi, tell me to sit in butterfly guard, and remind me to bow when I get on and off a mat? I might as well be in outer space; it all feels SO alien and uncomfortable.
- Tip To Overcome: First, do your homework. The studio website is going to give you a solid head start on how to prepare, what to wear and how to act. Look at the school’s pictures on social media. You’ve probably been sent an email or a newsletter. READ them. When you arrive, be a phenomenal noticer. Look around at the more experienced people in the room, and do what they do. Make a friend, and ask questions.
- FEAR: Everyone looks super mean and they’re all staring. The first time I walked into the jiu-jitsu academy, there was music playing and people were chatting and warming up. Then it was time to line up for class. As soon as I stepped on the mat, there was a loud record scratch followed by dead silence. You could hear a pin drop. 30 pairs of eyes- that’s 60 eyeballs- were suddenly glued to ME! There were no smiles on faces, just blank stares and scowls. Then somebody shouted, “Get to the back of the line, White Belt!” And they all threw their heads back and laughed and laughed. Then they went back to talking with each other and ignoring me.
- Tip To Overcome: Absolutely none of that actually happened. Truly, nobody but the teacher even cares you’re there the first day you go. Let that be a relief. How freeing! Don’t take yourself so seriously. Absolutely nobody is paying attention to what you’re wearing, how you look, or whether or not you know anything. They are way too preoccupied with themselves! As soon as you make eye contact and introduce yourself to someone, you will realize they are so nice and quite willing to help you. You make a friend, and pretty soon you make another. Your new friends start greeting you and fist bumping you when you walk in the door. They ask you why you missed class if you were absent one day. Suddenly you’re part of a community, and just like that, you’re home.
Take if from me, I know how daunting it can be to start something new. If you’re thinking about joining dance class, don’t wait any longer. It’s okay to be scared, but do it anyway. We’re here to answer your questions, help and support you at every stage. Your new dance family is just a class or two away, so show up and let’s d-a-n-c-e!
It’s the middle of February, and six weeks into 2021. How is your year going so far? Did you pledge to make a change or two on January 1st? Now is the perfect time to assess your progress. Making changes is not easy- in fact, it’s really, really hard. But in the words of Coach Jimmy in the movie A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” Coach Jimmy was talking about baseball, but I think it applies here too. When the hard parts becoming the best version of myself aren’t feeling so great, I go back and review the most impactful book I’ve ever read about change, Atomic Habits by James Clear.
The main idea of the book is that it’s the teeny-tiny atom-sized habits, added together over time, that stack up to build your life- for better or for worse. Clear says habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. Habits are not goals- they’re systems for attaining goals, and systems are my love language! At EDC we focus on creating systems all the time. Systems maximize efficiency, output and results, while minimizing wasted resources like time, money and energy. When you think of new habits as systems, they make more sense. Simply work the system to achieve your goal!
So if you’re not yet making the change you desire, then perhaps what you’re lacking is a great system. Clear suggests “habit stacking” as a way to make your new habit easier to systemize. So you’re used to brushing your teeth morning and night, but now you want to make flossing a habit? Well, stack them together. Make a rule for yourself that you’re only allowed to brush your teeth in the morning AFTER you’ve flossed. In other words, stack the two habits into one. Leave the floss out next to your toothbrush to make it easier on yourself in the morning, and voila! You’ve got a system in place, and suddenly flossing is a no-brainer.
Clear says, “time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.” For example, let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds, and you’ve been really good all week, but the scale hasn’t budged an ounce. Where’s the reward for your hard work? It’s frustrating, you’re annoyed, and you’re wondering if it even matters or not if you blow off today’s workout. Clear has a system for that too: focus on who you want to become, not what you’re trying to achieve. Losing 20 pounds means you are a fit person. That’s who you want to become. So, when deciding whether or not to skip that workout, you need to cast your vote with an action. Will you “vote” in favor of the woman who skips workouts and needs to lose 20 pounds by not hitting the gym today? Or will you “vote” for the fittest version of yourself by showing up even when it’s unappealing? These tiny daily votes are what create our trajectory in life. According to Clear, “you should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.” In essence, what we do repeatedly over time is who we become. So ask yourself, is your current trajectory taking you closer to who you want to become?
And lastly, my favorite idea in this book is about the Plateau of Latent Potential. Most of us understand that progress is not linear. However, we still most often quit the new habit we’re trying on because we’ve failed to see a tangible result… yet. It’s the YET, that matters, and the reason why we should keep chipping away. There’s a quote by Jacob Riis that always comes to mind when I find myself hanging out in a plateau: “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it — but all that had gone before.” Clear says, when you finally break through, people will call you an overnight success. So if you find yourself struggling to reach your goal, remember it is not because you have lost your ability to improve. It is most often because you have not yet crossed the Plateau of Latent Potential. Your “overnight success” could be just a day away. Keep calm and keep chipping away!
In this final installment of this three-part series with Elizabeth Benton, we discuss health and wellness. Besides being the author of Chasing Cupcakes, a mindset coach, founder of The Dagny Foundation, and host of the Primal Potential podcast, EB has also radically transformed her life by losing over 200lbs. If you enjoy the wisdom she dispenses here, make sure you wish yourself a Happy New Year by treating yourself to a copy of her book or listening to the Primal Potential podcast. If you missed Part I or Part II, make sure you catch up!
A lot of our dancers are starting to train more and dance longer hours. What is your current favorite portable snack for sustained energy?
I’ll absolutely share my favorite portable snack ideas, with the caveat that I’m not a dancer or an endurance athlete. I also have to say: I’m not much of a snacker. I prefer meals that strategically satisfy my energy and hunger until the next meal. In a pinch, I like EPIC bars (the turkey one is my favorite) or macadamia nuts.
What did you eat for breakfast today? Why?
This morning I had a plant-based protein shake (chocolate) with probiotics, greens, frozen cauliflower rice, unsweetened almond milk and cashew butter. It’s quick and easy, it’s a great way to pack in tons of nutrients and it keeps me full until lunch.
What have you done really well lately?
I’m proud of the way I have prioritized sleep. Grief, trauma and now a second pregnancy have demanded a lot from me and I’ve been very consistent about getting more sleep.
“Leaders are readers.” What are you reading right now? Why?
I’m not! I love to read, but I also am sensitive to when I need less input (and often, more output). So, I’m spending a lot of time writing my next book, but I’m not reading anything.
You often talk about gratitude and focusing on solutions rather than problems. I call this focusing on the good– how do you routinely practice it?
I’d say I probably focus on solutions and being a creative, energetic problem solver. In terms of how I practice focusing on the good, it’s usually via questions. If I feel stressed, overwhelmed or like something is wrong or unfair, I’ll often ask myself, “What’s good?”
In Part II of this three-part series with Elizabeth Benton, author of Chasing Cupcakes, mindset coach, founder of The Dagny Foundation, and host of the Primal Potential podcast, we talk about good mindset mantras, surviving failure, avoiding drama and superpowers. If you enjoy the wisdom she dispenses here, make sure you wish yourself a Happy New Year by treating yourself to a copy of her book or listening to the Primal Potential podcast. If you missed Part I, make sure you catch up!
Practice makes confident. Love first, then dance. Clear is kind. Changing lives for the better through dancing. Always rising. We have a lot of mantras we use at EDC to keep our goals, values and culture top of mind for everyone in our organization. What are some of the mantras you find yourself using the most to do the same?
Every choice is a chance.
I’m wildly curious about my potential and fiercely determined to create it.
Ditch the drama.
The ‘how’ can always be figured out.
Failing is hard and typically it’s not everyone’s favorite. Have you failed at anything lately? Was it worth it? Why?
Failing is part of growth. I see it as an important part of life (if you aren’t failing, you likely aren’t trying new things, growing and expanding). If I learn from it (and that’s a personal choice), it’s always worth it. I fail every day. I try something new and it doesn’t work, or I work on a new skill and make lots of mistakes. Success has nothing to do with avoiding failure. Success hinges on how you respond to failure.
You often talk about making decisions that avoid drama. This has become especially challenging during the pandemic, where we are bombarded with messages that even just meeting a friend for dinner in a restaurant is a life-or-death choice. You talk a lot about asking better questions as a means to making better decisions and avoiding drama. What are your go-to questions you ask yourself when you are feeling insecure, indecisive, unclear or just plain dramatic?
What have I added to the facts?
What’s the difference between what’s actually happening and how I feel about what’s happening?
What is your superpower?
I’d have to say that maybe it’s being intentional and consistent about questioning my own thoughts and assumptions instead of rolling with the same old way I’ve always thought. It helps me grow, learn and overcome obstacles while helping others do the same.
Have you ever heard of Elizabeth Benton? If not, it’s time you did. EB is the author of Chasing Cupcakes, a mindset coach, founder of The Dagny Foundation, and host of the Primal Potential podcast. Phew! I need a nap just writing all of that. I found EB several years ago when I was searching for a great health and wellness podcast, and I’ve been a fan ever since. As I was reflecting on 2020, I thought about how we could probably all benefit from a mindset upgrade, which immediately made me think of EB’s work. So what the heck- I took a chance and emailed her to ask for an interview…
Holy smokes, you guys, she said YES! It was unbelievably difficult to narrow down what to ask! I’m so grateful she took time out of her busy schedule to spend with our dance family. If you enjoy the wisdom she dispenses in this three-part series, make sure you wish yourself a Happy New Year by immediately picking up a copy of her book or listening to the Primal Potential podcast- she is so good!
What was your goal when you started Primal Potential and how has that evolved to today? When Primal Potential first started in 2014, I wanted to help people with their chronic weight challenges. As I worked with more and more clients, it became increasingly obvious that weight issues weren’t food issues, they were thinking issues. Creating change, whether it’s related to health, weight, money, relationships, career or anything else, comes down to the way you think. If you continue to think the way you’ve always thought, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got. So, Primal Potential gradually became more and more (and then exclusively) about upgrading the way you think.
This is likely your first encounter with the families of Elevate Dance Center, and they might not be familiar with you or the important work you do. What is the core message or the one thing you want to share so they get to experience the essence of Primal Potential? If I had to pick one thing and generalize, I’d say none of us needs to remain behind the struggle. It doesn’t matter if it’s a struggle you’ve had for decades or it’s a struggle you believe you’ll always have. We can make progress and improvements. Our pasts are only patterns, they aren’t prisons. The key to creating change isn’t motivation, discipline, willpower or the perfect plan. The key to creating any and all change is the practice of thinking differently, and that’s the practice I take my listeners through day to day.
In one way or another we have all experienced loss and grief in 2020. You have experienced a unique kind of grief as you suffered the passing of your baby daughter, Dagny. It would be very easy for you to give up for a good long while, and everyone would understand. Instead, you keep working at your life and inspiring others to live better. What are some of the strategies you employ to continue developing the best version of yourself as you simultaneously experience extreme suffering and deep grief? I remind myself that with every choice I make, I’m either contributing to my healing or I’m not. I constantly say to myself that the grief can ride with me, but it cannot drive. I am still Dagny’s mom, even though she isn’t here with us, and I want to be an amazing mom. I can be devastated, depressed and in despair and still make the choice to take care of myself, to take care of my clients and to take a step forward, even if that step is as small as brushing my teeth. This is something I’ll explore very deeply in my next book.
Can you share a favorite strategy or two, a “starter kit” if you will, for folks who are feeling down on themselves or stuck and are perhaps new to this whole self-reflection thing? It’s as simple as focusing on your next great choice. Sure, you can choose to focus on the problem, but that’s not where the solution is. I encourage people to ask themselves, “What’s the right thing, right now?” Focus on the moment you’re in and the next great choice you can make. We’re always a choice or two away from feeling better.