Placeholder SERENITY UNDER DURESS - Time Of Your Life


January 07, 2023


 Here’s something that you might not know about me.

I completed perhaps one of the most useless degrees possible after my A levels. I am one of the few people in the UK to have a degree in Dance.

The qualification has been of no help whatsoever in any job that I have ever applied for (except when I was asked to choreograph some of the Miss Lovely Legs and Glamourous Gran finals for Pontins, which was one of the best jobs I ever had but we’ll go into that another time). It is also why I’ve probably had so few “real” jobs meaning that I’ve spent most of my life self-employed. No potential employer was impressed beyond curiosity of what that kind of degree looked like.

I remember the first day I arrived on the course. We got a lecture from the head of the college informing us that although sixty were starting the course that day only thirty of us would graduate in three year’s time, such was the toughness of the regime. Not only did the course want to produce performers who could actually do a half decent job, we had all the academic work of a degree piled on top.

When my sons went to university in recent years they had around 10-15 hours of lectures each week. Back in the day we started at 8.30am, 45 mins for lunch and finished at 6pm. Then there were rehearsals and homework before doing it all again. It wasn’t for everyone.

The three years I was there were very hard. It was relentless and (if I’m honest) not an enjoyable experience but I was reminded of a phrase this week that summed up that time and reminded me what it had brought out in me, why I can do what I do now.

These days I have a daily exercise programme of which two sessions every week are yoga. If you’ve tried it you’ll know that yoga is both kind (do what feels right for your body) but exceptionally challenging in some of the poses. I’m really mindful of this when holding a pose as every bit of your body is screaming “please, let’s stop this now”. This is when the instructor came out with “serenity under duress” as the mindset we were aiming for.

This is actually something that takes a great deal of practise. Ballet dancing looks effortless but there are many backstage pictures where ballerinas have to be carried to their dressing rooms, exhausted after performance.  We don’t even have to look that far. Our daily lives give us moments when we are under duress and it’s very hard to be serene. Defence mechanisms often flare up when we perceive we are under duress or attack but, if you can supress your raised heart rate, serenity is actually quite a nice route to go.

I managed it when I was a dancer and now I try to apply the same in my business life. By choosing this route (and I am by no means always successful), it gives a tremendously different perspective on any given situation, usually leading to a calmer and better outcome.

It also evens out my mood and I’m sure that there’s a quote (possibly from Buddah, apologies if I have this wrong) that goes along the lines of “pain is caused by wanting the pain to go away".

However, if you stop wanting the pain to go away and sit with it instead, the whole thing becomes a lot calmer.  It’s something like that, we looked at it in O-Level Religious Studies so it’s a fair few years ago and I may well have got the quote and source completely wrong.

In more recent times, it’s something that the highly-respected motivational speaker Glennon Doyle advocates. Instead of dulling the pain of life with alcohol or recreational drugs (clearly, we're not talking about prescribed medication), she suggests that we sit with it and feel it all – in her opinion it’s the best way to experience all of what life has to offer.

Now, I’m not saying that I want you to feel pain, far from it, but if you find yourself under duress during an exercise class, at work, or in family dynamics in 2023 try serenity. Deep breaths, really listening to what people are saying, really feeling what your body is doing rather than just wishing it away. For me, it’s been life-changing.

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