Learning how to dance in the rain

Learn to Dance in the Rain

What do you do when bad things happen? Neuroscience has some remarkably useful tips. DUCK! Here comes another of life’s curveballs

In leadership, unexpected curveballs can strike out of the blue at any time. Often, we have no control as to what, where, when or why these happen.

But here’s the rub - you are in control of how you choose to deal with them.

I don’t know about you but, when bad things come along, I just want them to go away. That reminded me of this famous quote:

“Life isn’t about sheltering from the storm…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

But, what does it mean to dance in the rain?

To dance in the rain is a metaphor. It means: “that a person has learned not to allow circumstances deter them reaching their full potential. They don’t wait for bad things in their life to go away. Instead, they have a positive attitude and take challenges head on and enjoy the journey.” (Christine Smith, Family and Consumer Education at Wayne County, North Carolina 2013).

I believe there are some useful lessons here, to apply to leadership.

Hmm - fate, Or destiny? Choices, choices!

I have observed that often people seem to spend their lives reacting to life’s circumstances. Driven by fear or out of habit, they seem conditioned on going along a path set by fate (events outside their control).

But every once in a while a person just like you comes along and knocks down all the obstacles that fate puts in their way.

These are the people that realise free will is a gift. But, here’s the thing - you won’t know how to use it until you unwrap it.

Therefore, one day you won’t have to follow fate because you put the effort in and tested yourself. You deserved the right to reach for your destiny instead. It isn’t an easy road, but one less travelled!

But, when something rains on your parade, dealing with it still takes courage, character, attitude and conviction. These are essential leadership qualities. What’s more, neuroscience says you can train your brain to develop these. We will explore this next.

Uh oh! - we found this monkey in your brain

Sometimes in our lives, when it rains, it pours. That can trigger one or more limiting beliefs. These are basic survival neuro-pathways that your brain can build. When a limiting belief is in play, it fires off all sorts of negative mind chatter that fills up your head with bad thoughts. For instance:

Typical, why does this always happen to me?

Why am I never worthy (or good, pretty, clever) enough?

I always get things wrong; I’m a failure, why do I never learn?

Professor Loretta Breuning, Ph.D. neuroscience expert, author and founder of the Inner Mammal Institute picks up this theme. She says, ‘when your brain senses threat it releases a spike of cortisol - the stress hormone. Cortisol is nature’s emergency alert system. That spurt arouses your survival and protection reactions to avoid a threat. Cortisol creates a bad feeling and that also sparks your limiting beliefs to get your attention.

It is the wiring of the downstairs part of your brain that warns you of external signals of danger or anything like what has hurt you before. Loretta goes on to say, ‘if you always treat that cortisol blast as if it’s a real threat, you end up with more being triggered’ – and your negative mind chatter hijacks your brain.

So, a practical way to deal with difficult circumstances is to recognise a bad feeling as it happens. That feeling is an old neural pathway that has set off the flow of cortisol. Loretta believes the trick is that when you sense it, give your body time to dispel the cortisol release. Back to my metaphor, to dance in the rain! It is useful to find a distraction to interrupt any limiting beliefs and exit those old patterns.

You get to decide and choose in every moment. (Loretta Breuning)

Train your brain for a change - happy days

Leaders know that they are at their best when they engage their upstairs (thinking) brain. Not only is your upstairs brain infinitely capable, did you know that it also has access to your happy chemicals such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin and endorphin?

Loretta says that your upstairs brain looks for facts that make you feel good. When you engage your happy chemicals, they give you a boost. Moreover, they override the feel bad factor of cortisol. Every rain cloud has a silver lining!

Loretta recommends that you can:

Take a step toward a goal, whether a huge goal or tiny goal. This releases dopamine, the reward chemical because your brain anticipates reward instead of anticipating pain.

Stimulate oxytocin – the hug chemical too, with a little faith, take a small risk or a step toward trust (a little bit of real trust is much better than lots of fake trust).

Prompt serotonin by comparing yourself favourably with others instead of wondering what they might say and think about you.

Trigger endorphin with a belly laugh - a real laugh. So, make time for humour and things you find funny. Endorphin is released to counter pain too. So, it gives us a feeling of joy when we work hard to overcome an obstacle.

See all these in action and check out this inspired video clip of a child’s simple, but profound words on a rainy day. At the same time, it teaches us not to sweat the small stuff:

Oi, you! Yes, you. Look in the mirror - that’s who’s in your way

Here are ten useful tips for leaders. They help you engage the upstairs part of your brain along with your happy chemicals. They also teach you not to take yourself so seriously at work and in life:

1. Have a go at taking the occasional risk. Like the mother in the film, challenge your embarrassment. Nobody will care if you get a bit ‘red-faced’ once in a while

2. Set yourself a goal to take a few chances. For example, take time out to build your team, or present your ideas and passions to wider audiences

3. Drop the pretense that you are The Big Cheese. Eat a bit of humble pie for a change and start to accept other peoples’ ideas too. You might surprise yourself

4. To make a mistake is okay. But your fixed mindset will tell you that you aren’t capable if you fail. So tell yourself that to learn from failure leads to better success

5. It’s okay to lose once in a while - things don’t always work out. The trick is to learn from the disappointment

6. Give yourself a slap on the back whenever you stop yourself being harsh and critical. Learn to feel good about others and yourself instead

7. The ultimate source of happiness is a positive mindset. So, see the funny side of your oversights and flaws

8. Be generous, kind and above all forgive others (how are you doing with that one?). Have gratitude too

9. Nothing is permanent

10. Smile, if you want a smile back.

So, work on these tips, get out of your own way and every now and again dance in the rain. Let go of the little things and don’t let problems rain on your parade!

Read this and more from Andrew Jenkins.

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Learning How to Dance in the Rain

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Falling ill can put a halt to our plans. When healthy people become muggle sick this nuisance is only temporary, life soon returns to normal. But a chronic illness diagnosis has a long-term impact on our lives, and we have to make substantial adjustments to accommodate the new limitations. Often our lives are put on hold – just surviving each day is hard enough. 

But at what point do we restart our lives? At what point do we say “this is my life now and I will embrace these challenges and move forward”? At what point do we stop searching for a cure and learn to embrace life, just as it is, with all its messiness? At what point do we stop waiting for the storm to pass and learn to dance in the rain? 

There is a quote that I often see doing the rounds and it makes me think about my life, and specifically the impact chronic illness has had on my aspirations and happiness;

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. . It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

Vivian Greene

I’m sure this quote means different things to different people, but for me it simply means not putting my life on hold until I’m ‘better’. It means making the best of the life I have been given, with all its frustrations and limitations. It means finding purpose and fulfilment despite the pain and exhaustion. It’s about living in the moment, and finding acceptance and even happiness, right now, without judgement of the past, or expectations of the future. 

But I haven’t always thought this way, even when I was relatively well. I have never felt good enough. I have never felt worthy of praise for my achievements. I have never given myself the opportunity to pause and enjoy life. I have never learned how to dance in the rain. 

I have always concentrated my efforts on future plans. I have always placed my happiness on future goals; I will be happy once I lose weight, I will stop pushing myself so hard once I have gained that promotion, I will relax once I have saved enough money to be financially secure. I don’t blame myself for this attitude, we are taught to think like this by society from an early age. 

But chronic illness forced me to stop. It was an unwelcome and painful slap in the face, but it has taught me so much. 

My personal storms

I have weathered many storms throughout my life. Some have been quick showers, while others, full blown hurricanes. Each storm presented its own challenges but they all impacted my life.

I have battled with depression and anxiety. I have faced the tornado that is anorexia. I have drowned in thoughts of self-loathing, never feeling good enough or worthy of happiness. I have faced grief, been consumed with guilt and struggled with suicidal thoughts. These were my personal storms.

I was a fat teenager. I always believed that once I lost weight I would be happy. So I put my life on hold and pinned all my happiness on a day in the future, where I would become a socially acceptable weight. But guess what? I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone, but being slim did not solve all my problems. It did not magically fix my mental health issues. It did not erase my childhood trauma. It did not remove all my insecurities or my desperate need to be liked. It did not make me happy. If anything, it added a whole new level of pressure and anxiety to the mix. 

And then chronic illness reared its ugly head. I was not prepared for the loss of confidence and feeling of worthlessness that came with my new chronic life. I felt useless and desperate. I certainly couldn’t see a way of accepting this new and painful life, let alone finding a way to be happy and fulfilled. I spent each day just surviving and making promises to myself; once I’m better I will embrace life, I will not take anything for granted, I will start being kind to myself, I will prioritise self-care and I will be proud of my achievements. But what if I never got better? What if this was what the rest of my life was destined to be like? How much longer would I put my life on hold waiting for an unknown future where I would allow myself to be happy?

I’m not sure at what point it happened, but I knew I needed to find a way to accept myself and my life with all its messiness. I knew that unless I found a way to be kinder to myself I would spend my whole life consumed by a war I could not win. I knew that if I could find a way to love myself and accept my life while at rock bottom, I could build from there. I didn’t want to keep putting my life on hold. I knew I was just sacrificing my present happiness for a future full of unknown promises.

Dancing in the rain – what I have learned

When you live with chronic ill-health, the storm can represent some pretty difficult times. The chronic nature of our illnesses means the storm never fully passes. Yes, we can experience less turbulent times when our health may stabilise, but waiting for the storm to pass is not really an option for us. 

There are ways for us to embrace life, and to find happiness and fulfilment amongst the unpredictability. Here are my tips for finding ways to dance in the rain:

1. Put yourself first

To learn how to embrace life, we often have to be a bit selfish. Prioritise your well-being over others – put yourself first. 

2. Acknowledge you are worthy of love and happiness 

We are often our own worst critic and being chronically ill often acts to amplify this judgment. You are worthy of happiness, you are enough just as you are, right now. Give yourself a break – and a big hug.

3. Make time for fun stuff

Learning to dance in the rain, and finding ways to enjoy life means making time for fun stuff. Don’t feel guilty for expending precious energy on things that make you smile, even if they don’t feel ‘productive’. Laughter is often the best medicine. 

4. Try to live in the now – practice mindfulness 

It is very easy to get consumed by the grief of our old self, or the fear of our unknown future. But I have learned that the best way to embrace life is to focus on the present. I have wasted too many years either ruminating over past mistakes, or panicking about all the ‘what-ifs’ of life. I find Mindfulness meditation particularly effective as a way to ground myself in the now. I intend to write more about this in a future post. 

5. Try to find a place of acceptance

It’s very hard to make the most of life if we are constantly fighting against ourselves and the limitations of chronic ill-health. Finding a place of acceptance doesn’t mean giving up, but rather recognising your limitations and being at peace with how things are right now. It’s about focusing on what you can do rather than what you can’t do. It’s about acknowledging your flaws and learning to accept the person you are right now.

6. Make self-compassion your first priority

To dance in the rain is to be kind to yourself. This comes naturally to some. However, my need for perfection and always berating myself for not being good enough, means I find self-love and self-compassion difficult. I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of years researching ways to be kinder to myself, and putting these into practice.  

Self-compassion simply means being kind to yourself. It’s the best way to ease the mental suffering that comes with chronic illness. How can we embrace life and fulfil our potential if we are constantly criticising ourselves?

7. Don’t be afraid to plan for the future and strive to achieve new goals 

I know planning ahead is hard when you live with chronic ill-health, but it doesn’t mean we have to let go of our aspirations altogether – we may just need to adjust them to more realistic goals. 

8. Redefine what success means 

Having a chronic illness has changed my perspective on life in many ways, and it has also allowed me to redefine what success actually means to me. I now celebrate all my achievements, however small. By just living and not giving up, I am succeeding in life. A lot of good things have happened in my life since I redefined what success means for me, and I let go of my need to strive for perfection.  

Don’t wait until you are ‘successful’ (whatever that means), to celebrate your victories and enjoy your life. Embrace your life (and yourself) and all its messiness, right now. If you choose to wait for the storm to pass, what are you missing? 

Life is not about waiting – it’s about living

I have no idea what life holds for me, none of us do. But I’m determined to make the most of my life even with its unpredictability, and through all its limitations.

It is not easy to know how to continue living during the worst downpour. But life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, nor is it about avoiding it. It is about learning how to enjoy life and discovering ways to dance in the rain. 

What beat will define my dance? I don’t know. I used to be a control freak, but now I try to embrace this unpredictability. I look forward to seeing what life has in store for me. I look forward to embracing everything that life has to offer. What I do know is: If I had waited for the storm to pass before dancing, I would still be frozen in a time filled with self-loathing and self-pity.

Life is never going to be perfect – there will always be challenges. Whatever my future looks like, I plan to continue to dance in the rain. But whatever your personal situation, please don’t stop dancing. Life is not about waiting – it’s about living. 

What does this quote mean to you? 

For more personal stories, reviews, news, inspirational quotes and in-depth discussion, please head over to my Facebook page.

Vivian Green quote: The meaning of life is not to wait for the storm to end, ...

- Vivian Green

Life is not about waiting for the storm to end. Life is learning to dance in the rain.

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Life's not about waiting for the storm to pass… it's about learning to dance in the rain.

Last updated October 20, 2022

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Vivian Green
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    " but in learning to dance in the rain. Life is not about waiting for the storm to end. Life is learning to dance in the rain"

    I love this phrase! I heard it in 2010 and, by the way, it was included in my first published book, Dignity. The author of these wonderful words is an amazing woman Vivien Green , an American pianist, composer and singer. I will always be grateful to her for these words!

    For myself, I divided this phrase into several parts, from each part I singled out my thought, which became for me, so to speak, a guide to life, a pointer to action. Before, I did not like rainy weather, I associated it with cold and colds. At this time, I wanted to sit at home with a cup of hot tea, wrapped in a blanket. Looking out the window, I saw dullness in nature, pouring rain and rare passers-by, usually dressed in dark blue or black jackets. nine0003

    While studying this saying, I thought:
    What happens if it rains forever?
    Will I sit at home all day long and drink tea wrapped in a blanket? No! After all, you need to take children to kindergarten, school, make appointments for business, and it wouldn’t hurt to go to the store to buy groceries.

    Photo by Kristina Tripkovic on Unsplash

    I realized that it was impossible to wait until the rain stopped! Why?

    • Well, first of all, I have no control over whether it rains or not. nine0120
    • And secondly, if I still wait until it passes, then I will just waste my life sitting at home.

    So, my “work” on the first part of this catchphrase led to a positive: I decided to stop waiting! What did I do after that? After some time, I bought myself a raincoat. It is an unusual color - pink-white, with delicate flowers. I had never seen such coats before. Designed specifically for rainy weather, made of waterproof fabric, it is very stylish! I picked up a pale pink light scarf for it, and - "voila"! nine0003

    The second part of the saying goes like this: “You need to learn how to dance in the rain”

    Before, I didn’t understand: how is it? How can you dance standing in puddles, with wet feet, when it is pouring from above “like from a bucket”? But it’s worth trying once... I already had everything I needed for this: a raincoat, a scarf, an umbrella, waterproof shoes, and most importantly, a desire! I can dance, and quite well, so I can dance in the rain!

    Thank God, now I am one of those people who do not do what everyone else does! Realizing this makes me feel free, joyful and inspired. So when I danced in the rain when the lonely passers-by ran for cover, I really enjoyed it! It is unusual and bright, and I am everything that is bright! nine0003

    So I stopped waiting for the storm to pass and learned to dance in the rain! What has it changed in my life?

    Much! As a rule, our life does not consist of only bright sunny days, it has different periods and seasons, just like in nature.

    Learn more