It’s been a while since I’ve checked in, and that is a tough thing to feel slipping. When the crunch periods are on, it’s hard to find the time or mental energy to think about subjects that I want to expand upon; when the crunch periods are off, it’s hard to motivate myself to do even more writing. As you can see, it can be a challenge trying to find a place to write creatively in there. When time is a scarce commodity, the best approach for me is usually to go back to the basics, so that’s how this post rolls. Just an update for you, and an opportunity to do some writing that isn’t schoolwork for me.
has been going really well.
This past week, I’ve had a few moments where I’ve felt like the material has been starting to sink in, and the landscape is a little bit more clear to me. We also got our first midterm grades back, which was a welcome piece of feedback that I think we were all ready for. I did better than my expectations, and so that made the pill a lot easier to swallow, but I think that most of us were really just happy for the opportunity to be given a benchmark. Our professor sagely commented “for those of you who did well.. Don’t fall in love with it”, and so I will be making an effort to remain vigilant as we continue onward. I don’t know what other option I really have.
After the last couple of weeks, the remembrance day holiday was a welcome reprieve, and even though one I had a make-up class scheduled on Friday, the workload has been a little bit lighter this week. I think that I’m also starting to gain a better understanding of how I can best absorb the material, which is making me a little more efficient. That’s the hope, anyway – I won’t be able to tell anything for sure until I have the means to test that: time passing and more data. So, we’ll see. If nothing else, I have certainly been trying out a number of different means for approaching this material. On that note…
Habits and productivity..
are a mandatory topic in any blog post.
This wouldn’t feel like a blog entry if I didn’t include some notes about productivity or habits of mine, as of late. In the process of training myself better moderation, I’ve had some minor epiphanies, which has been exciting. The opportunities in life for growth are really a significant aspect of what makes me tick, and so it’s always exciting when I’m lucky enough to reflect on one of those opportunities as it’s occurring.
The first thing I’ve noticed about my own habits, and I suspect, many others, is that training moderation is easier when we give ourselves the opportunity for flexibility. When it isn’t absolutely necessary (it rarely should be) to abstain from something, a flexible system with clear boundaries will provide you with a habit that has a greater chance of sticking for the longterm. Abstinence does not provide you with any opportunity to adapt to new circumstances, and is not really a practice in moderation at all. Some people may tell you that abstinence is a virtue, but my own belief will always be that life and happiness are about balance, and part of that balance is the skill of moderation.
The most significant thing about that has come out of this process has been my growing understanding and ability to articulate the concept that moderation is a skill. The significance of this discovery is that I can now begin to approach this skill with the wisdom and hindsight that I’ve gained in the past, trying to train other skills. Never mind that – the fact that moderation is a skill at all means that it’s not just some innate ability that someone is born with, but rather something that you can make better, over time, if you wish.
Some of my own thoughts as I’ve begun to think more about this notion are that:
A framework provides you with some kind of boundary. It gives you a benchmark from which to practice moderation. If you take away these boundaries or benchmarks, then you will fall into the trap of shifting baselines, a concept pioneered (I believe) by the thoughtful Randy Olsen (his movie Flock of Dodos is excellent). The longer you spend doing something a certain way, the more natural that way feels, and the more difficult it becomes to objectively assess where you sit. (Randy applied this concept to the Great Barrier Reef, I believe, noting that the baseline for what the reef looked like when it was healthy shifted dramatically between his time as a student, and when he took his own students to see it. The reef had shrunk and withered significantly, but to the class, this was the baseline that they would be acquainted with, and see as natural, dulling the sense of urgency to do something to maintain its health as an entity).
- Moderation works best in a framework
With a clear framework, you have an objective baseline to which you will always be able to look and ascertain if you’re moving in a positive direction toward your goals.
- Moderation and Willpower hang out together
The more you practice moderation, the greater your willpower becomes. Moderation, over time, means becoming adept at following through with something when you desire, but doing so in a manner that looks ahead to the future. It requires exercising a degree of restraint and willpower, but in a manner that leaves you with reserves.
Willpower, then, can be thought of as our energy to moderate. For your muscles, you have a finite amount of energy that you can expend before you need to back off and give them a rest. For the practice of moderation, you have willpower.
Make no doubt about it, willpower is a finite commodity. We all have some measure of willpower that we are able to exercise when we need to. But once that willpower is expended, it is like any other muscle or mental quality that can be trained; we need to give it time to recharge. The more that you practice and exercise moderation, the greater your reserves of willpower will become. When you practice abstinence, you make decisions rarely. You are not exercising moderation or your willpower, because you are rarely exposing yourself to the situations that would allow for it.
- Moderation works best with flexibility
By providing yourself with a flexible framework, you give yourself a clear, objective boundary within which to work, but allow yourself some flexibility within that boundary. Setting yourself up in this manner gives you the opportunity to adapt to circumstances as needed, and allows you to exercise an element of control at multiple points. Part of the key to moderation is actually providing yourself with the ability to make decisions at multiple tiers of willpower. When you practice abstinence, you train only one level of willpower – never doing something ever. However, what about if/when that level of willpower fails you (and let’s be honest here: nothing is truly failsafe; especially our willpower)? You haven’t trained any other aspect of your willpower. That one level fails, and you cave with no more defences.
Flexibility gives you the power to exercise your willpower on multiple levels, and on a continual basis. Doing so allows you to check in with yourself more frequently, and see how you’re doing. It gives you many small victories, which encourage the growth of your self-esteem, and a few small losses, or failures. But failure is an essential part of life; it’s better to have a small failure, with small victories surrounding it to ground your perspective, than one big failure, with the last success far enough of back in time to be fading from your memory.
Flexibility lends itself to iterative change and continual feedback, two qualities that lead to greater success in many of the endeavours that we choose to pursue.
- Moderation can be applied to anything (it is worth practicing)
Some people will think that talking about moderation means that I’m talking about either alcohol abuse or drug abuse. But moderation is a skill that we practice in everyday of our lives, though much of it is beneath our level of awareness. It isn’t until you start to think about moderation as an independent skill unto itself that you begin to see its presence constantly.
Injured yourself playing a sport, but want to keep playing? Want to stay up, but know that you should go to bed? Know that you should be working on an assignment, but procrastinating instead? All of these are examples of situations in which we are aware of what the correct decision is, but must exercise our willpower to overcome our short-term impulses. In most cases, we don’t even contemplate the reserves that we are or are not exercising, make a decision, and get on with our lives. Wouldn’t you like to have a little more willpower?
- Moderation itself requires moderation (it is reflexive!)
Moderation really does apply to everything, including itself. It’s important to find times when you allow yourself a little bit of excess. Remember, the act of practicing moderation is one that uses up willpower. The difference to be aware of is that the moments of excess you allow should be ones of which you are cognisant, rather than simple lapses in judgment. By mentally allow yourselves these breaks, you will ensure that you keep an eye on your baseline and prevent it from becoming a habit. You keep your goals in sight and stay true to them in the longterm.
Okay, I’ve covered off the productivity update, if that’s all you’re here for, see ya!
is made better by having awesome students.
Our studio has been doing well, and the classes continue to be enjoyable. My own growth has come in the form of improving my ability to choreograph, and working on technique when I can find the time (not as often as I’d like). My class’s progression has been rapid and fun, which is great – I’m enjoying the process of learning along with everyone.
I finished off the last term with some more work on popping and a little bit of waving. In order to do some work on gliding, I decided that we would work on a little bit of gliding at the start of two or three of our classes. Partially to warm the class up, and partially because gliding can be a very disheartening skill to learn when you first tackle it: the balance required is slow to build, and it can be painful on your calf muscles. Additionally, it’s just not a way that we’re normally geared to move, so there’s a reasonable amount of muscle memory that needs to be trained. We also added in some new fundamental techniques, some of which I’d just been shown this summer, like the popcorn.
Two of my friends from school came and checked out my first class of the new term, which was a lot of fun. Because we hadn’t done it much last term, and because I love it so much, I started the first term off with some locking. I went through some fundamentals with the class, and then began putting some choreography toward the end. We went considerably far back, starting with the Watergate, a social dance that Sugarpop taught me this Summer, and that ties in directly with the lock from which the dance gets its name. The fundamental movements that we went over this class included:
- The pace
- Uncle Sam point
- Giving yourself five
- The lock
- The pimp walk
- The scoobot
I have never taught some of these before, so it was a lot of fun figuring out how best to convey this information to the class, and seeing how people handled learning some of the new movements (some of them much better than I did when I was learning!)
The next class I reviewed the choreography that we had learned so far and we then moved to tutting. The class all groaned when I announced that this was what we would be doing next class, so I was happy to see that most people seemed to be enjoying themselves. Tutting can be a frustrating art to learn; it requires moves that demand a good deal of flexibility in your fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Though lots of people work on flexibility in their lower body, it is less-often exercised from the forearms down.
I was disappointed to see that one of the students that had shown considerable promise last term didn’t return, but I saw some other new students in his place, so things balance out, as they usually do.
But I’m not getting to play it as much as I’d like. I have been biking to school, and teaching dance classes, so my fitness and flexibility have not suffered to a great extent, but my touch is starting to fade as time goes on and I don’t have the opportunity to hit the ball as often as I’d like. I have been playing on the squash ladder at school, which is a lot of fun and a good way to meet new friends, but the level of play isn’t equivalent to that which you would find at a club that is dedicated to squash. Still, it does give me an opportunity to work on my length, and it’s a lot of fun. I’ll take squash wherever and whenever I can get it!
That’s the end of the update for now. Although my updates will continue to be sparse while I’m in school, I absolutely intend to continue writing. If I stopped doing this, I think that I would have lost a significant aid to my own growth and potential. Thanks for continuing to read, and stay tuned! Please leave me a comment if you have any questions related to the content I post, or the subjects I write about. I’m always looking for more inspiration to fuel writing, and if it comes from without, it saves me some of the mental energy required to come up with new ideas.