I’m reading Flourish by Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology seeks answers to the question, “What makes life worth living?” As opposed to diagnosing psychological dysfunctions, Positive Psych looks at how we can improve well-being in our lives. What is this “well-being,” you ask? Seligman maintains that it is a construct comprised of five measurable elements, for which he’s created a catchy acronym—PERMA:
- Positive emotion (that includes happiness and life satisfaction)
- Engagement (which means being so involved in an activity that you don’t notice time passing, and you lose self-consciousness in doing it)
- Positive Relationships
- Meaning (which means being part of something that is larger than oneself)
- Accomplishment (for its own sake, rather than for what it will bring, like more money)
Seligman goes into great detail and depth on each one, and offers a number of exercises to increase these various elements that will in turn, increase your well-being and enable you to flourish in your life. (I use many of these exercises with my clients in my coaching practice to help them be happier and flourish in their lives and careers.) It occurs to me as I’m reading this book that dance very much helps to enable flourishing by increasing well-being, especially among those who dance regularly. Over the next few weeks, I’ll look at each element in turn, starting this week with Positive Emotion.
When I’m on the social dance floor, I notice people seeming to be various states of happiness: Some are smiling, some look serious, and some look downright unhappy! I always wonder what’s going through their minds that – especially for the serious and unhappy ones – is so troubling about being with another person moving together to music. I certainly understand those who might be nervous because of lack of experience (in which case, I would suggest that it becomes incumbent on the partner to help ease the nerves). It may be that the unhappy soul is sitting in “judger” mindset, and that precludes finding joy and enjoyment in dance.
If, for example, you are constantly judging your partner’s ability, or thinking that “they’re doing it wrong,” or feeling a sense of superiority (that is, the other person is inadequate or unworthy of your partnership), you’re in judger mindset. If you fear being criticized on your own dance, or that you’re doing it wrong, or that you’re not wearing the right outfit, you’re likely in judger mindset. And this state of mind will indeed interfere with your enjoyment and happiness.
Instead, accept your partner as they are and think, “what can I learn about leading/following from this person where they’re at?” Think about how you can be this person’s “best dance of the night”—not necessarily from a technical perspective (unless they themselves are a high-level technical dancer), but rather by creating a wonderful experience with them. Think about how you can elevate your partner to feel like they’re the best partner ever. Connect with your partner, not merely through great technique and frame, but even more importantly, on a human level of sharing the joy of dance. Bring a smile to your own face, and chances are you’ll bring a smile to theirs, and in doing so, you both will create the positive emotion essential for well-being.
I’ll continue this series next week, and in the meantime,
See you on the dance floor!