Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about how dance connects with each of the five aspects of well-being as identified in Martin Seligman’s great book on Positive Psychology, Flourish. We’ve looked at the first three in his acronym, PERMA, namely, Positive emotion, Engagement, and Relationship. I’m going to skip over Meaning until next week, and examine Accomplishment today.
Seligman identifies that accomplishment is the product of one’s skills and one’s effort. But how can we break that down to understand from whence these arise? (Holy archaic and pedantic language, Batman!) He suggests that people who achieve great accomplishments in their lives possess fast thinking and recall, slow and deliberate processes, an ability to learn quickly, and time-on-task which translates to a combination of self-discipline, persistence, and passion for the goal or intention. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
There is, in each of us at any level of accomplishment, an underlying set of skills that are transferable to the new or next task. In dance, knowing one style to some reasonable degree of skill often enables a person to pick up a new style because they can adapt and map skills from one style to another. If a dancer has great recall and a breadth of underlying knowledge, less mental processing is required to achieve even greater skill. When acquiring that skill, it takes deliberate thinking and attention to add specific training. These are slow processes that build more easily on top of fast recall. The ability to learn and assimilate new ideas quickly again complements the slow processes required to lock in the new concepts. Finally, nothing replaces practice, and repeating the new skill until it enters one’s personal repertoire, available in the blink of an eye, and that requires discipline, focus, persistence, and passion.
In these attributes, there is nothing particularly unique about dance that cannot be present for people enamoured by genomics, astrophysics, skiing, sky-diving, gourmet cooking, animal husbandry, baseball statistics, or yo-yo tricks. And among many of these fields of human endeavour, my Facebook news feed is packed daily with many of my friends sharing their passion and their accomplishments in their respective domains of endeavour, including some I’ve just named. Dance seems to have a particularly interesting and particularly powerful connection between accomplishment and well-being. I’ve observed many friends who have raised themselves from what I might describe as “high-functioning depression” into joyous experience through the rejuvenating power of dance, and more particularly, through their personal accomplishment victories in dance.
So, if you are among the many people who seek well-being, and choose dance as the realm through which you’ll bolster well-being, here’s my suggestion: Take some lessons. Build upon what you know. Focus deliberate attention on particular skills you’re seeking to hone. Become adept at learning by relating past learning to new learning. And stay with it. Nothing is better than discipline, persistence, and passion to ensure your accomplishment.
See you on the dance floor!