As we were laughing about our near miss I was thinking about the idea of steps. I suppose part of that stemmed from the fact that the reason we were on the Stampede grounds to begin with was for me to perform with the Chinook Country Dancers for the final day of the Stampede. Our group had taken many, many steps over the past two weeks. My Garmin watch keeps track of my steps and I went back to find out how many I had taken over two weeks of dancing. No wonder I had some tender tootsies; I tracked 241,542 steps in our dance performances during that time. Some of the girls would have done more as they performed at a few extra venues.
That’s a lot of steps. And yet it isn’t the steps alone that tire us out. It is the concentration needed to remember which steps belong to which dance, and which order those steps go in that also take a toll. The beauty of our dancing is the synchronicity of so many feet. It’s mesmerizing to look down a long row of dancers and see every one flicking their right heel at exactly the same moment. Without looking at our feet, we are ‘watching’ our step every minute of each performance. The wonderful part about this group is not only do we watch our own steps, but we help each other watch their steps too.
Having about thirty dances to recall, it’s easy to momentarily lose our way when we catch the eye of someone in the audience, or when thinking we have a dance mastered, we allow our mind to wander to something mundane like what treat might be awaiting us at the end of the performance. Every single one of us has mis-stepped and every single one of us has been gently steered back on course by the equivalent of someone saying, ‘Watch your step’ in the most comforting sort of way. No one really says these words of course. What they do instead is keep their own focus so that by watching them, we can quickly get back on track. Or sometimes if we say out loud, ‘I forget this one’, one of our dancing sisters will tell us to stand beside them as we begin and they will remind us of the pattern as we get started. Once we are out of danger, they allow us to take over on our own. None of us thinks we have to be perfect. Each of us is just so grateful to be part of a group that accepts wrong stepping as part of the experience. And each of us is thankful to have support around us as we find our way.
Most of us, including me, do not accumulate most of our steps while dancing. Most of us gather the vast majority of our steps during regular living. Each of us will take millions of steps as we walk our journey from birth to death. Some of these will be the Garmin type steps; the ones we physically take each day. Others will be the more proverbial types; the steps we take toward or away from a new career, a new level of health, a new understanding or a potential new friend.
Some of us are terrified to take new steps; steps that lead us onto unfamiliar trails. It is good to remember that although it is possible, it is very, very rare for one single step to completely derail us. More often than not we are safe to make some mis-steps. We can recover if we step in cow manure. We can get back in step if we forget our routine. We can find our way if we veer off course. We can even wander down the ‘wrong’ path for years, and still find our way back to a path that guides us to the place that is a better match of the vision we have for ourselves.
I’ve spent a good deal of my life on safe paths. I have well read maps in my hands, helping me to stay on course. And I have had some wonderful experiences. In my most truthful moments, I can admit that I have also very likely missed some incredible scenery. I don’t really want to step into cow manure but I do think I am at a place in life where I want to step into some arenas where I don’t know all the steps. I want to try some new things, make some new friends, see some new places and have some new insights. I even think I’ll be ok if I do find some manure on the bottom of my boots.
Twenty years from now I suspect I’ll be more disappointed by the steps I was afraid to take than by the mis-steps I dared to make.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How clean are your boots?’
Elizabeth is a certified, professional Life and Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership and personal coaching for individuals and teams. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to embrace even the smelliest of steps.