A person who is “meek” is often thought of as being resigned to their circumstances, even weak, but that really isn’t what is being described here. Those who are “meek” are those who understand that they are dependent upon God, and not upon their own strength or even upon the power of armies, for our […]
The world of elite, professional ballet is tiny, brutal and exacting. It operates within a long history of well-established traditions to define excellence in the industry. In that world, ballet dancers are long, lean, have delicate waists, small busts, lithe legs and are white.
And then there’s Misty Copeland: 5’2”, curvy, muscular and black.
This week, Copeland, 32, was promoted to the highest rank in one of the premier ballet companies in the world: principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater. Her promotion goes into effect on Aug. 1, according to an announcement from the theater.
Copeland is changing the face of the world of ballet and fueling the dreams of so many young dancers out there. But more than that, she’s an inspiration to anyone trying to overcome barriers or achieve what sometimes feels impossible.
Here are five lessons from her story.
Copeland, one of six children raised by an itinerant and poor family, took her first ballet class at the ripe-old age of 13. That may sound young, but for a female ballet dancer, taking a first class at 13 is ancient. Men often start training older than professional female ballet dancers, but women who are considering a professional ballet career start training by 6 or 7 years old. (Ideally, you want to start training a woman’s body to move in the lines of ballet before muscles and limbs get too rigid.)
The takeaway: If you’re thinking about making a big move — starting a business, taking up a new hobby — don’t let your age be an excuse. Some of the most successful leaders in history found their purpose later in life.
Professional ballet classes are expensive, and Copeland grew up in a family with a lot of kids and not much money. Her first ballet class was a free class offered on a basketball course at a Boys & Girls Club. She didn’t have a leotard, tights and ballet shoes, so she wore gym shorts, a shirt and socks.
Recognizing her natural talent and grace, the volunteer teacher at the Boys & Girls center brought her into her own ballet school on a full scholarship for the next four years. After that, she was accepted at the San Francisco Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensives on full scholarship. She joined ABT’s Studio Company in September 2000 and the main company as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001. She was made soloist in August of 2007.
The takeaway: There’s no price on passion. Pursue your dreams, surround yourself with good people and seek the wisdom of mentors.
Copeland is the star of a viral Under Armour commercial where she is seen dancing while a girl reads a rejection letter from a ballet company. As someone who didn’t fit the typical ballerina mold, she understood feelings of rejection acutely.
“Because I was being told you’re not right for this role and you’re not right for that role, I really believed it. I thought that maybe I should leave ABT or join a company where I’m surrounded by other black dancers that look like me,” she told Vogue Italia in 2013. “But for me that is completely giving up, because my goal was always to dance for ABT. That went on for most of my early twenties. It was hard to dig myself out of that hole.”
The takeaway: There will be times in your life where you face failure and rejection. Learn from those moments, but don’t give up.
Copeland is more active outside the ballet studio than most other elite dancers. She published a bestselling autobiography, Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina, was on the cover of Time magazine, is the subject of a documentary, keeps an active presence on social media, and the list goes on.
Copeland’s desire to get her story out is to inspire other girls who aren’t built like the typical ballerina. And getting her story out requires her to be a savvy business woman in a tough market.
“It’s important to believe in yourself. Especially when you get to a professional level, you have to be the one that is promoting yourself. There are so many dancers that you are competing against and that you have to stand out with. And if you don’t believe that you are worthy, then no one else will,” Copeland said in an interview in April.
The takeaway: Identify what it is that makes you or your business special and run with it. Your belief in yourself will help others take notice.
When Copeland was a soloist, the rank below principal, she was given the opportunity to take the lead role in Firebird, a Russian ballet about a magical bird. It was April of 2012, and she had six stress fractures in her leg at the time, but she went on with the performance without telling her artistic director.
“Any of those times could have been the last times I danced, had my bone completely snapped,” she told 60 Minutes in December 2014. “I was 29 years old and I was really given the biggest role of my career at that point and I felt had I not done this performance and proven myself that I was capable and mature enough to become this character, that I wouldn’t be given the opportunity again.” She says, with a bit of a nervous, relieved laugh, “I think it paid off.”
Indeed, Misty. Indeed.
The takeaway: You aren’t going to get to most elite levels of success by always playing the safe card. Take risks, but be strategic
According to a study from the University of Melbourne, individuals that gain high confidence are more likely to earn high wages and be promoted earlier and more frequently.
If you want to be exceptionally successful, you must learn to be your own best cheerleader. After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?
If you emanate confidence, others will be drawn to you. The sooner you can learn to be confident in the workplace, and drop the habits that are holding you back from doing so, the sooner you will see yourself starting to climb that ladder of success.
The good news is that nobody is naturally born confident — it’s something you learn. There’s also evidence suggesting that many of your common habits, mindsets and behaviors could be dragging down your self-esteem in the present.
Without further ado, here are some common behaviors you should give up in order to be more confident and successful. You’ll be surprised at how much they’re affecting your life:
American journalist, activist, author of six best-selling books Maria Shriver once said, “Perfectionism doesn’t make you feel perfect; it makes you feel inadequate.”
Often, we strive for perfection because we seek approval and praise from others. When we obsess over how others perceive us, we are left unhappy, disappointed, and unconfident.
Although you should always aim to do your best work (and you should never be making sloppy mistakes), you can’t expect to take on new challenges without a few slip-ups along the way.
Next time you find yourself in this endless cycle of thinking your best isn’t good enough, take a moment to find gratitude for all you’ve been able to accomplish — and then move on.
A great deal of how our mind functions can be influenced by what our body is telling it to do. Not only does our body language send a message to others, but it also sends a message to ourselves.
According to social scientist Amy Cuddy, “power posing” can boost our sense of confidence and directly lead to greater success.
Power posing is when we use our bodies, on purpose and with intent, to create powerful movements that are more spread out and take up more space, creating this message of confidence to ourselves and others. Cuddy found that these movements actually produce more testosterone (the dominance hormone) and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), yielding individuals to take risks and to feel more positive about their abilities to achieve goals.
This may sound shallow, but remember, this is all about you, not about pleasing others.
You don’t have to be a fashionista to be self-assured (my receipts at T.J. Maxx can attest to that). But dressing like a slob isn’t doing you any favors in the confidence department.
Studies show that our mental state is linked with our wardrobe — if you wear an outfit associated with successful people, you’ll look, feel, and speak like a successful person. And if you dress like a “hot mess,” you’ll most likely act the part too.
So invest in yourself at the mall — your confidence is worth it. You don’t need to bust your budget at Prada, but you should get that sharp outfit, and even consider implementing a dress code to boost your whole team’s confidence.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” — Theodore Roosevelt
If you are in the habit of comparing yourself to others, and a big majority of us are, it’s time to stop. There will always be someone ahead of you, but the game of life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Whether you are feeling bad because you think your peers are doing better than you, or you are building yourself up based on their failures, both are unproductive and have the potential to be self-destructive. If you feel good about something you’ve done, enjoy it — you don’t need the recognition from others to affirm your accomplishments.
Also keep in mind that your perception of others is likely inaccurate, and the grass is actually sometimes not as green as it appears to be. A study done by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology shows that people are much more likely to display positive emotions than negative. So the next time you think the guy from marketing “has it all,” you may want to consider what he is not showing underneath it all.
“The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend time feeling sorry for themselves.” — Barbara Corcoran
If you’re waking up every morning thinking about what went wrong the day before, you’re going about your career the wrong way.
Learning from your mistakes is Success 101. But the ultra-successful take it a step further by remembering the lessons and then forgetting the rest. Their philosophy and your new one: the past is the past and it cannot be undone. Learn from it and move on.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Like many other success stories, Roosevelt realized that she couldn’t choose who was happy with her and who wasn’t (and there were certainly plenty of people pretty unhappy with her).
Although she couldn’t control what people thought of her, she could control the way she thought about herself. Remember, no matter what life throws your way, this is something you can decide daily. So choose to realize your greatness — it’s something ultra successful people do daily. Don’t regret the choice of letting others influence your self-esteem.A baby step you can start today is to leave yourself positive notes daily.
Remember how nervous you were when you first hopped on a bike? That slight slope on the concrete sidewalk felt like a freefall down Mount Everest.
But after time passed and you embraced that “terrifying” new venture, all that discomfort washed away.
The phrase “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for,” is truer than ever for your confidence.
I’m not saying you should take on every crazy risk out there. But by realizing that your discomfort will go away over time, you can easily dive right into the uneasiness of those smart risks.
1) Make yourself vulnerable
2) Demonstrate grace
3) Stand apart
4) Identify with the broken people
5) Speak life
Learn from my mistakes
Use what you have
Do everything for the Lord
I have a friend who is lonely, who has such a good heart and desperately wants to find a partner who appreciates that goodness, to share a life with.
We have all felt this, I’m guessing: this desire for a deep connection, this hope that another person will just get us and want an intimate relationship with us, the idea that if we could just find this person and merge with them, we’d be fulfilled.
What if we tossed that idea out on its head?
What if everything we need for happiness and fulfillment is within us?
What if all the requirements for fulfillment were in this very moment, not in some imagined ideal future?
What if the idea of a romantic partner who is perfect (because of their imperfections!) and who fills our every need is just a fantasy that isn’t helping us?
The truth is that even those of us who have partners know that it’s not all honeymoon, and in fact a long-term relationship contains a lot of struggle. The fulfillment that we get in life ends up (mostly) not coming from the other person, but from ourselves.
What would it be like if we let go of this fantasy of a fulfilling partner, this fantasy of a better future … and instead focused on finding fulfillment in the here and now, within ourselves?
Another person isn’t going to fulfill us — at best, they’ll make us feel better about ourselves, and listen to us. The listening part is great, but we can get that from friends or family as well. The feeling better about ourselves is a function we can fulfill on our own as well. I’m not saying a partner is useless, but I am saying that a partner isn’t needed for fulfillment.
So how can we fulfill ourselves, by ourselves?
Well, what brings fulfillment? In my experience, focusing on pleasures like food, entertainment, online distractions, sex, drugs, alcohol, and thrills … these only bring temporary pleasure, but in the end you’re left wanting more.
Fulfillment comes from something deeper — finding meaning in life, finding appreciation for the fleeting beauty of every moment, being in service of others, loving.
But we don’t need a partner for those things. We can find meaning by searching within ourselves and in the world around us. We can start to appreciate the impermanence and joyful moments around us all the time. We can be in service of others in our community. We can love anyone, from those already in our lives (even if they don’t know we’re doing it) to strangers on the street, to all living beings.
What if we could do all these things just sitting here, doing nothing?
What if this very moment contained all we need for fulfillment?
Try looking within:
These and more are always available, right now and in every moment, in you and all around you.
This practice can bring fulfillment, and nothing is required but attention, appreciation, gratitude and love. You have that in you.
Does your relationship pass this test?
Whether you’re entering a new relationship or hitting a significant milestone, it’s natural to question whether you’ve chosen the right partner. We talked to Elizabeth Schoenfeld, Ph.D., director of research and evaluation at LifeWorks and frequent contributor to ScienceofRelationships.com, and Marina Williams, a therapist in Boston and the author of Couples Counseling: A Step by Step Guide for Therapists, about the telltale signs you should look for.
Small, daily gestures of romance are an important part of a supportive relationship, especially when they align with your personal needs. If you’re feeling under the weather, for example, you’ll appreciate your partner more if he or she makes you soup rather than brings home concert tickets, Schoenfeld says. “Having a partner who notices what you need or want in a given moment and responds accordingly bodes well for the long-term potential of your relationship.”
Whether its hugging, kissing, or cuddling before bed, regularly engaging in some form of physical affection is key to feeling connected to your partner, according to Schoenfeld. “Generally speaking, couples who are more physically affectionate with one another tend to be more satisfied with their partners and their relationships—which makes sense, as individuals tend to feel more cared for and understood when their partners show physical affection,” she says. And being affectionate is good for our personal and mental health, too.
How you communicate in the heat of an argument can be a telltale sign of the status of your relationship. In fact, the amount of conflict you engage in with your partner doesn’t matter nearly as much as how the argument is handled, Schoenfeld says. In healthy relationships, each partner responds to conflict in a caring and supportive manner. “If they listen to what you’re saying, respect where you’re coming from, and respond to your disclosures by sharing their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences (without making the conversation all about them), then intimacy is more likely to flourish.”
If you are communicating poorly, however, don’t give up hope. “As a couples counselor, I always love it when the problem is communication because it’s something that’s very easily fixed, granted that the couple is willing to change,” Williams says.
While it’s okay (and perfectly normal) to have different interests from your partner, it’s important to be on the same page when it comes to long-term goals. “Differences can be great for balancing out a couple and making things more interesting socially,” Williams says. “Where I think it’s important to be similar is in your values and goals for the future.” And Schoenfeld agrees: “Prioritize similarities that have long-term implications, such as a shared desire (or lack of desire) for marriage or children.”
I like the article because it reinforces my goals, I know that it is important to take risks in life.
Before we even embark a new goal or journey, we imagine a potential outcome. Dreams quickly get extinguished by excuses, or we get our hopes up so high that we feel ashamed when we don’t get our ideas off the ground.
In order to really evaluate your goals and focus on decision-making, there are a couple important questions we should ask ourselves:
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