President Theodore Roosevelt said it best: comparison is the thief of joy.

What truly brings you JOY when you coach? Take a minute and think about that.

For me, it’s seeing the “lightbulb” moments in my dancers’ faces. Like when they finally feel their shoulders pressed down and understand what strength “from the back” really feels like. 

My joy comes from connecting with some of my dancers personally and creating genuine relationships that last years after their time on the team.

I feel so much joy when I watch them get over a fear. When I see a dancer tackle her biggest fear right in front of me. My heart soars.

If I’m being honest, competitive success brings quite a bit of joy too. But also, when I see a dancer reach a new personal achievement, or the team does our best on the floor.

What brings you joy when you coach?

And what gets in the way of that joy? 

I believe the biggest culprit is comparison, to ourselves and others.

Comparison to ourselves

One deep dark place you can easily find yourself is when you compare yourself to your former self. Ad dancers, when we feel bad about our current strength in our workout, or when we notice we used to be able to turn so much easier… we are usually fast to beat ourselves up over it. For me, I used to have pretty incredible balance. Now? Not so much. Sure I’m still better than the average person, but I don’t have the ballerina balance I used to and it makes me sad.

On the flip side, what coaches do (and many of our dancers do too) is compare where we are now to where we want to in the future. Maybe a dancer really wants to be on varsity or is desperate to be in the front row during your pom routine. Maybe you want a championship to your name, or to be the coach everyone goes to for advice. But when we spend all of our time thinking about who we want to be rather than enjoying who we are now, we lose our joy.

Good at many things, an expert in none

In school and dance, I was always a jack of all trades and had talent in lots of areas, but I was never the best anywhere. I wasn’t the best in my ballet company, and I wasn’t the strongest student in my program. I believe a large reason for that was because I was trying to do both at the same time. And the sad part? I felt a constant sense of shame comparing myself to who I thought I should be in both domains of my life. When I compared my abilities at the ballet barre to the top dancers or looked at the prestigious research grants other students were awarded, I always felt like I wasn’t enough.  

Now, I know better. None of those negative thoughts served me. I finally came to realize that the unique combination of dance-ability and higher education is exactly what lead me to what I do now. If I had given up on one or the other so I could focus and live up to my dreams of being the “best” I wouldn’t be able to do the work that brings me the greatest joy. 

When you focus on who you want to be rather than living in the moment, you’re robbing yourself of your own chance at joy.

Find the joy in the little moments now. Don’t worry about what you used to be able to do, or who you want to be in the future. Who you are right now, is the perfect version of you.

Comparison to others

In my experience as a dance coach and a mental toughness coach, comparing ourselves to other coaches around us is one of the biggest reasons we lose joy in our work.

Especially young coaches. It’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. “She’s so talented, I should be more like her.” “I love his choreography, I wish I could do that for my team.”

I used to always think about the coaches in my world who I admired and wonder, “what would she do in this situation?” It made me constantly watch others and try to model what they did thinking it would make me more successful.

I remember I had this burning desire to be a fly on the wall at another coach’s practice just so I could see what she was doing. I had no confidence in myself, and I thought the only way to grow was to watch and emulate other successful coaches. But I was comparing young coach Chelsea to a 20year veteran who had already learned so many lessons I had yet to experience for myself. And that’s the point… I needed to experience it for myself.

Just because that skill or strategy allowed the person you admire to reach success doesn’t mean it will be right for you. I finally realized I had to learn my own path and find my own strengths. Only then would I be successful. You have to know your own personality, establish your own coaching philosophy, and play to your strengths. 

Don’t compare yourself to other coaches. Use them for inspiration sure, but develop your own coaching style and stop comparing yourself.

Celebrate Others

One other reason comparison is the thief of joy: When we are stuck in comparison, we don’t celebrate other coaches’ wins. Just because they are doing something that appears bigger and better than what you can do, that doesn’t take away from your ability to grow and be successful in your own right. There’s not a limited amount of resources or a finite amount of room for personal growth! Stop and celebrate the wins of those coaches around you. Use them for inspiration and a source of your joy rather than a reason to feel shame and doubt. 

Where does your joy come from? Let go of comparison and hold onto your sources of joy.

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