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Tango Life Lessons

“We can’t always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it.” ~unknown

Last year, I decided to choose a word for 2019 that would embody the essence of what I was seeking to create more of in my life. That word was ‘freedom’. Originally, it started as a way to describe what I wanted to bring to one of my personal passions – Argentine Tango dancing. Freedom in Tango, as in life, means many things. When I can move more freely, I create more ease in my body. And, when a body has less tension, it opens up more possibilities in the dance for me and for those who dance with me and around me.

As I explored and experimented with the idea of feeling freer in my body and on the dance floor, I found the sense of ease spilled over into other parts of my life. The more I focused on freedom the easier it was for me to be aware of times when stress or tension was creeping in. I could adjust and let go faster and spend less time and energy suffering through worries, concerns, or challenges.

I like choosing just one word and finding the many parts of life I can apply it to. It allows me to learn and grow without becoming overwhelmed. It keeps things simple…and with so many great things going on in my life, simple works best.

Unlike in 2019, I didn’t choose my word for 2020. It chose me. As with last year, it came to me on the dance floor while working with one of my teachers in Buenos Aires. The word is ‘tenderness’.

I was excited about taking on freedom in 2019. Tenderness, on the other hand, is a bit terrifying. I’ve survived using my strength. I know how to buckle down, push through, train hard, drive to the finish line, go the extra mile. Many of the lessons I was taught in life about success were related to working hard and being competitive. But what freedom taught me in 2019 is that I can invest effort without creating tension. I can expend energy with less stress in the past. I can be successful and live a life that integrates the personal and the professional in a sustainable way.

I’m curious. Curious to see what changes when I build on the sense of freedom I now have and add in tenderness. When there is tenderness in the Tango embrace, it is easier to listen to your partner. It feels more generous and it requires that I trust more – trust that my partner will also be tender. Being tender also invites me to set aside the judgment and be fully present. As a trained athlete, it is easy to be constantly assessing if I’m ‘on or off’. It’s how we improve – by noticing what’s working and what could work better. But in social dancing, the experience is much more enjoyable if I invite my critic to stick to practice sessions and lessons instead.

I am also curious about what changes will show up in my coaching and my business when I bring this quality to my professional life. The more I approach life as an experiment, the more expansive and surprising it becomes.

What word will you choose for 2020? Will it be a word that excites or inspires you? Or maybe, like tenderness is for me, it will be a word that makes you just a little uncomfortable or feels a little foreign. I know I am grateful for the surprising outcomes that were generated by a year focused on freedom. Here’s to wondering what I’ll be sharing this time next year about my year of tenderness.

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