I have a secret. By day, I help people with their career goals. By night, however, I transform into a spandex-wearing, salsa-dancing superhero. That’s right, fellow career professionals, I’m a Zumba Fitness Instructor.
My decision in 2011 to start teaching Zumba classes has not only improved my fitness but levelled-up my professional game in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Never stop learning
My journey has been a wonderful reminder that, regardless of age or experience, we have never arrived. Growth is always possible. It keeps work and life interesting. So many people take one small step, commit to getting it over with and then believe they’re ‘free’ forever. This type of thinking, as we know, achieves the opposite. Each time we dare to stretch outside of our comfort zone we gain new skills and insights, develop greater confidence and trust in our abilities, and are more open to exploring new possibilities.
From participating in training and assessments to developing friendships with instructors worldwide, the experiences I’ve had since embarking on this journey have both improved my competence as an instructor and increased my ability to empathize with the fear and doubt that those in career transition face. We must continue to challenge ourselves if we are to be of real service to others.
Skill will give you foundation, but mindset will give you flight
In the early years, showing up with confidence and reminding myself that I had done the work and truly cared about my students allowed me to keep moving forward even when I thought I might be mucking it all up. My enthusiasm, caring and commitment to improvement made my flaws as an instructor forgivable in those early years. Without realizing it at the time, it also made me more human to those who first came to my class with the belief that they would fail.
Mindset is an essential part of the conversation with jobseekers. We may prepare people with all the right tools, but if they are struggling with their self-worth or are unwilling to put themselves out there, they will stay stuck.
Be clear on where you’re heading
Whether it’s the boardroom or the gym, no one wants to look foolish. That’s why I spend a lot of time on cuing and transitions when I’m going to teach a new fitness routine to my students. If people are forever blindsided by what’s coming next, they never get a chance to settle in and enjoy the moment. That’s why, I’ve discovered, that showing people where you’re heading – and then giving them the time to get there – is essential to their success. If they feel foolish, they’ll give up. If they feel encouraged, they will try again.
Combine competence and challenge
We also have to ensure we’re providing people with tasks that make them feel competent in their abilities while providing enough challenge to help them grow. For example, when teaching a new fitness routine, I keep movements low-impact or provide a lot of repetitions. As the group becomes more comfortable with the routine, I show them how to incorporate new levels of challenge.
This also applies to work satisfaction. Many times, when I’ve worked with clients that have been employed in ‘good jobs’ yet are unhappy with their work, it has been because:
- They are uncertain of the expectation or are not able to keep up, which leads to feeling incompetent.
- The work has become routine, so they’ve stagnated and become disengaged.
Just remember: Too easy = bored. Too challenging = frustrated/defeated.
Whatever you’re doing, be present
If there’s anything that will show you where your attention is, it’s teaching a fitness class. If my mind wanders or I allow the troubles of the day to float into my brain, I can almost guarantee you that I will trip or forget my choreography.
When I teach, it’s all about being in the moment. Since we live in the age of distraction, it’s essential to make being present a priority when we’re doing any type of work that requires human-to-human connection. For example, you may want to be mindful to avoid typing notes or searching the internet when speaking with a client on the phone. People can tell when we’re distracted, and this only leads to misunderstandings, feelings of disrespect and the erosion of interpersonal communication.
The power of movement is, by far, the most important discovery I’ve made on my Zumba journey. I have seen people begin a class and try to shrink behind their stress, fear and insecurity only to, 60 minutes later, leave lighter, taller and more confident simply because they moved their body and changed their energy. Many have shared that after coming to class consistently, they felt they could rely on themselves to follow through with something and this led to greater physical and professional growth. Stuck jobseekers found meaningful employment. Introverted retirees found extroverted second careers. Self-described couch potatoes discovered a new love of dance and sport. At the end of the day, success goes beyond a resume, a salary or a title. It’s about taking time to do things that will not only advance our professional lives but support our personal lives and overall wellbeing. A commitment to self-care is an investment in our happiness.
My personal motto
For years, I’ve said that my personal motto is, “create, connect, contribute.” After teaching fitness classes for many years, however, I think I’ll include, “be active, be well, be happy.”