Episode 87: Controllables in Life
Chelsea: Hi, it’s Dr. Chelsea. Today, we’re gonna talk about what to do when we need a mental reset. As dancers or dance educators, we can get stuck in a negative mindset sometimes, and we need a way to kick us back into a more productive mood. I’ve talked with lots of dancers lately who have these big goals and dreams for the year, but when it comes to actually putting in the work and practice, they feel stuck. It’s just too hard. They're too tired. They can't find the motivation to push through.
You know what? That got me thinking about how this happens to all of us in our everyday lives. We have big goals and plans for the day, but then we get stuck in that negative mindset, and it takes us away from our goals. Like, when you go to bed on a Sunday night with these big intentions of how on top of it you’ll be on Monday, only to have Monday morning roll around, and the last thing you want to do is get out of bed and tackle your big project.
So, in this episode, I’m gonna share some ideas about how my favorite old mantra “control the controllables” isn't just about competition and those big events in our life. It’s about all the small things, too, and that mantra can help us find the motivation we want to get it all done or even just to show up at rehearsal tonight in a better mental space. Let’s get to it!
[Motivational Intro Music]
Welcome to The Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and a dance team coach turned sports psychologist. This podcast focuses on four main pillars: motivation, resilience, mindset, and community. Each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies, mindsets, and tips to teach your dancers more than good technique. This is a podcast where we can all make a lasting impact and share our passion for dance. Let’s do this!
Relevé – 1:49
For all my dance coaches out there, this episode is brought to you by The Dance Coach Membership, Relevé. It’s my membership that’s all about building a community for dance coaches on the rise. It’s open for new members, and it’s designed to help you create a team of committed and hard-working dancers that are a true pleasure to coach everyday. I’ve learned a lot by coaching other coaches over the years, and one thing I know is that we need clear action plans and a support network around us.
So, I created this membership to help all of the dance coaches out there who want to rise up and make a difference for their team and help them through the new challenges that we’ve all been facing lately. Head over to chelseapierotti.com/membership to learn more about how to join us inside this dance coaches membership where you get the support and the guidance to find that new level of joy and success in coaching.
“Control the Controllables” – 2:38
All right, I know I’m a little bit of a broken record when it comes to “control the controllables.” I say it a lot, but it’s my go-to for competition days, for reading judges’ feedback, for dealing with those rude parent emails. But, lately, I’ve been thinking about how much it helps me reset during my normal daily activities. Truly, anytime in life, if you feel like you need that mental reset, that mantra helps.
Like when my daughter asks me to play when I just sat down (parents, I know you understand this mood), or when I have to go teach but I’m just tired and I’m not feeling it today, or I know I said I really wanted to work out, but I’m just not excited about it today, maybe even those night when I just wish dinner would make itself. The little daily things, sometimes we need help with that reset to focus our mind where we really want to be and moving towards the goals and the values that matter to us.
What’s happening when we have an immediate negative thought is that thought starts to impact our mood and then it’s really hard to turn it around, but our dancers do the same thing when we say, “One more time,” and they groan and immediately think about how tired they are and that they don’t want to do it. I know we want them to be all excited and attack this fullout but, in reality, they probably move though molasses to take that first formation, and it’s really hard to find the positive energy even if they have those big competition goals this year and they know, “Okay, if I dig down and do this fullout, I know it’ll help me,” but in the moment, it’s really hard to flip that mental switch.
Getting Caught Up in the Negative Thoughts – 4:10
So, notice when you might do the same thing. We get caught up in the negative thoughts too, and those thoughts are moving us away from our goals and our desires. I have some personal, kind of, general values in my life that really matter to me. I want to live in those values every day. Of course, it’s not perfect, but when I have those thoughts of, “I don’t want to,” “I can’t right now,” I know they are just thoughts carrying me further from what I truly want.
I want to be the mom who is present and wants to play the board game tonight. I want to be the teacher who’s on her A-game every time. I want to be the woman who never misses a workout. To be clear, there are days I give in to the negative mindset. I skip the workout. I order dinner in. I don’t always force it. Perfect isn’t the goal. But I do want to move into positive action as much as I can. So, most days, I try to stay in line with my vision for myself and live in those values. But how do you kick yourself into gear? How do you make it happen when you're really not feeling it?
That’s what our dancers are dealing with, they have to find another gear after school when they don’t want to or, again, when you say, “Last time,” and they know you probably don’t mean it, they get caught up in the negative “I can’t. I don’t want to. I’m too tired,” and those thoughts are pulling them away from their goals and their dreams.
How to Flip the Mental Switch – 05:30
So, how do you flip the mental switch? Well, you focus on what’s in your control and take a small action step that moves you forward. Think about it. In life, what is actually in your control? It’s different for all of us depending on our age, our life circumstances and situations, but consider what it is for you.
Here are some examples:
Setting Your Intentions – 5:50
You are in control of your intentions. Set clear intentions. There is so much value in just pausing at the beginning of the day or the beginning of the week and saying, “What matters to me this week? What’s my intention?” Personally, I do a huge round of setting a clear intention yearly. It’s a big part of my end-of-the-year reflection, setting a word for the year moving forward, all of that. I set a very clear intention for the year that guides me. And then I do it weekly, too, and we’ll take a look and see what are my priorities this week? What is my intention? What matters? And then sometimes it’s even more minute than that, more daily and in the moment. What is my intention for coming into class today? What is my intention for these 30 minutes after dinner before bedtime with my kids? Just pausing to set that clear intention. You can control if and when that happens.
Finding Joy in the Small Things – 6:44
You can control the focus of just trying to find the joy in the small things. When we get bogged down, when we’re feeling heavy and things are hard, what really helps me kind of kick back into it is to find the joy in the little things. So, especially for my example earlier of my daughter asking me to play a game towards the end of the night right as I’ve sat down. I feel like that’s always what happens. [Laughs] And this just happened the other night. Dinner’s done. Everything’s cleaned up, and I have maybe 20/30 minutes before we’re gonna start bedtime. I sit down in my office by myself in my big cozy chair. I’m just gonna watch a show for a few minutes, and I sit down, maybe two minutes later, she comes in and says, “Mommy, will you play Yahtzee?” which is her new favorite lately. And, of course, the immediate of like, “Ugh, I just sat down. I’m so tired. I don't want to,” but, one of my core life values is caring, and I want to live in that. And sometimes that shift, right away when I notice the thought of, “Ugh, I’m too tired. I don't want to,” a little reminder of, “Nope, caring for her in this moment is putting down the computer, putting down the book, and playing the game. I know that that little shift of, okay, put it down and actually engage and live in the value that really matters to me is what’s gonna help me find the joy.
Choosing Kindness – 8:09
Speaking of caring, that’s something you can control every day, you can choose kindness. That choice brings so much more joy into your life and to those around you.
Listening to Those Around You – 8:20
You can also control how you listen to those around you. Actively listen with the intent to listen, not respond. Maybe you’ve heard that thought before, but we tend to listen with the focus of how am I gonna answer this rather than listening with the intent of just listening. It really deepens the connection to the people who matter to you.
Having Time for Reflection – 8:41
If you like to journal, you can control having time for reflection in your day. Reflection is another personal value of mine, but making time can still be really hard for me. I don’t always do it daily, but, monthly, I do these deep dives, and that works for me. But, again, reflection is my value. It may not be yours. Whatever your value is, you can control how you set aside your time to make sure that happens. What can you control that helps you live in that value?
Being Present in the Moment – 9:13
Lastly, you can control being in the present moment. Finding that focus is really hard, but you can control putting down a device or eliminating other distractions so you are fully present in the small things.
Back to our dancers, that’s what we want them to be able to do. We want them to be present in the moment at practice and rehearsals. I don’t want them worried about homework or the upcoming show or comparing to the dancer next to them. The goal at practice is to simply be present in what you’re doing right now.
But think about how hard that is for you sometimes. I know I have a really hard time being in the moment. I have a hard time not worrying about what's coming up or thinking about something that already happened. It takes practice to be intentional and present in the moment, and yet, we expect our dancers to always be able to do it, but it takes practice to notice, “Okay, I’m not living in my values right now or I’m not working towards my goals. This negative thought of, ‘I’m too tired. I don't want to,’ it’s taking me away from what matters to me,” which brings me back to flipping that mental switch. When you’re having those negative thoughts, you want to recognize, okay, what is in my control? How can I notice this negative thought and say, “Nope, that’s not helping me! I want to take some action to move me in the right direction”?
Taking Action – 10:35
Whenever I talk to dancers or dance educators who are stuck in a negative headspace, they’re almost always spinning out on what’s not in our control. My advice is usually to, instead, focus on what is in your control and then, importantly, to take a small step forward. Get out of thoughts and into action. We can stew in our thoughts for hours and get nowhere, but taking action is one of the easiest ways to flip that mental switch.
So, here’s an example for our dancers. After we say, “Okay, last time,” and they immediately groan (inwardly or maybe you actually hear it), what a dancer might do is have that immediate negative thought of, “I can't do that fullout again. Is she kidding?” But, then, what we want to practice is them being able to say, “Okay, but I can't control what coach says. Coach says, ‘One more time.’ I can control my attitude about it and try to find some small joy or purpose. Okay, one time through. I know I will be proud when it’s over. I said I value growth as a dancer. I know this fullout will help me grow,” right?
Then, the dancer needs to move into action. Take a deep breath. Set up that first formation with head high, shoulders down, and that intention to crush it, not sluggish wander back to first formation, but let that intention change your body language and take that action to set up with strength and intention that will help you move into that fullout much more in line with your goals and your values of giving it everything you have.
Again, this is so true of us in our personal lives, too. And so, my example with my daughter has nothing to do with dance, but it’s so much in my life, and practicing it in these little everyday moments helps us show up that way in every aspect of our lives. So, when I think, “Ugh, I don't want to play Yahtzee right now. I just sat down to watch a show by myself. I’m so tired,” I catch the thought, and I can say, “Okay, I know that’s not actually gonna help me live in that value. I can’t control my daughter’s emotions and desires. I can't control the fact that she just got super excited the moment I sat down. That wasn't intentional, but I can control how I respond to her desires. I value caring. I value our relationship, of course. Thirty minutes of Yahtzee will make me feel so much better at the end of the day than watching another Law & Order.” So, I tell her, “Yes,” I stand up and move to the kitchen table to play.
And, again, it’s that shift of, “Oh, there’s that thought of, ‘I'm too tired, I don't want to.’ I know that that thought is gonna pull me away from what really matters. I can't control the timing of this. Yes, it’s frustrating, but I can control how I respond and then I’m gonna take a short, small action of actually standing up and saying yes, move to another place, and start the game. I know I immediately feel better because I’m in alignment with my values, but I have to switch to what’s in my control, otherwise I’m gonna whine in my head about how tired I am, and then I’m not present in the game, and I’m missing the whole point.
But I think that’s what our dancers are doing, too. But it only takes one small action to help flip that mental switch to a more positive thought and more intentional action that leads you towards your goals. So, if you have a hard time flipping that, if the mental switch can be hard to trigger, it’s an action. It can be putting down a phone, changing locations, setting your formation with your shoulders down, just a small movement forward.
What is In Your Control Today? – 14:09
So, teachers and dancers, what is in your control today? I challenge you to notice when you have a negative thought today that carries you away from your goals and values. Just notice when it happens. Then, remember, what can I control in this situation? I control my attitude, my effort, and my response. So, let’s shift my attitude, put some effort into an action that moves my momentum forward so I can respond the way I truly want to.
I want to end by saying this isn’t a quick fix that will suddenly be so easy to do every time. It takes practice and this is just one small piece of a much bigger mental-skills puzzle. There’s a lot more to it, but if you ever want more guidance for you or your dancers about flipping that mental switch to a more positive mindset, please send me an email or DM on Instagram so we can chat. I’d love to connect, and I’m here to support our wonderful dance community. I’d love to do a workshop for your dancers or support you, the coach, inside my coaches community, Relevé.
Thank you so much for listening today. I hope it helped you kind of gain some perspective on how just being present in the moment when we are asking a lot of our dancers is actually kind of hard to do, and we have to practice it, and it’s not just about controlling the controllables on those big life stages, but it’s in the small things everyday.
If you liked the episode today or found it valuable, please leave a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. It truly helps me or send it to a friend or send it to your dancers if you think it will help them. It's the best free way you can give back.
Thanks, again, and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world.
[Motivational Outro Music]