“Nimble”: My Word for 2020

“Nimble”: My Word for 2020

I’ll never forget the day my ballet teacher finally allowed me to dance en pointe for the first time, on the tips of my toes rather than the balls of my feet.

I was fifteen and had been taking ballet classes for years, shredding my calves at the barre for hours each week. In my teen years, I made for a tall and clumsy ballerina. Still, there came a week when my teacher looked down at my legs–which had grown muscular to a degree that can only be described as “equine”–and proclaimed me ready to dance on my toes. 

In the beginning, I fell multiple times every lesson. (In my defense, I was balancing my entire body on a scant 1.5″ of surface area while plie-ing across a wooden floor as burnished as black ice…)

Finally my teacher let me in on a secret: I wasn’t supposed to bear all my weight in my toes.

What did she mean? I wondered. What about gravity? 

But I soon learned to hold my weight differently, to draw it up into my calves, my quads, even my glutes; to pull myself up and up, into my abs and neck and extended arms, as though a string were holding me up from the top of my head. My feet began to feel lighter; my whole sense of balance was coming from a deeper place than my feet. 

I haven’t danced ballet in years, and I’m pretty sure it did lasting damage to my feet and hips, but I miss that sense of gracefulness. That ability to set my feet down and keep moving, however uneven the floorboards were or however quickly I was spinning around. 

And it’s what has partly inspired my theme word for this year: Nimble.

Despite all that ballet training, as a Type-A personality (and an Upholder with a strong tendency toward what Gretchen Rubin has termed “tightening“) I find it difficult to accept the need to be flexible and mobile in the face of life’s tenuousness. 

To me, being nimble means being able to operate from an equilibrium that is deeper than the shifting tides of external circumstances–to not be so dependent on everything going my way in order to move forward. To be able to shift my balance and expectations with grace; to remain responsive to changing circumstances without departing from the bigger picture of goals and values.

When life throws me a curveball, I either stick to the plan at any cost or else throw my hands up in despair, chuck my goals in the trash, and view myself as a victim of chaos with no real choices or sense of agency.

Both reactions come out of a same kind of rigidity, an inability to hold the weight of my goals and values in a deeper and higher place so that I can step down onto the slippery floors of this life with gracefulness, nimbleness.

Am I taking the metaphor too far? Don’t worry, I’m setting it aside now 🙂

Here is a list of what nimbleness to my symbolizes in my personal life, professional endeavours, and writing. 

In my personal life, staying nimble means to:

  • Avoid inflexible expectations of myself and others, to see expectations as constantly evolving the more information I learn;
  • Seek a middle ground between the extremes of rigidity (trying to force life/people/situations to conform to my plans) and resignation (assuming I’m powerless in the face of life’s chaos);
  • Expect situations to change and develop; view this as an opportunity to be nimble and responsive rather than regretful or fearful;
  • Be able to change plans without changing priorities;
  • Be able to shift between different priorities and areas of my life/daily routine more easily rather than hyper-focusing on one area or another;
  • Continue moving forward without dwelling on the past;
  • See all things, situations, and people as my teacher–my job is to grow, learn, and respond, not to be always in control or ensuring things never change.

In work and business, staying nimble means to:

  • Be quick to see, notice, and respond to needs and opportunities;
  • Be responsive (rather than avoidant or hasty) even when that means saying no, asking for extensions, or being honest about my limitations;
  • Keep a lean business model but don’t shy away from innovation or meaningful risks;
  • Be ready to acquire new skills, such as SEO keyword research skills, professional development, e-course development, etc.
  • Be guided by intention and well honed sense of direction rather than doing things to maintain a status quo;
  • Stay current with trends and needs among other creative entrepreneurs;
  • Be open to change, innovation, and transformation;
  • Work toward multiple goals/targets at once, but in a purposeful and well-monitored way;
  • Stay curious;
  • Be willing to step away (or take a break) from what’s not working;
  • Hustle gracefully.

In my writing, staying nimble means to:

  • Be “light on my feet” in my prose: tighter, faster-moving prose that doesn’t get bogged down in over-explaining things;
  • Continue strengthening executive functioning skills that guard against hyperfocus and “getting lost in the trees”;
  • Staying responsive to people my writing connects me with;
  • Expose myself to new trends, books, and influencers in my genres and areas of knowledge;
  • Allow myself, my writing, and my understanding of my audiences to be always growing and evolving;
  • Be clear on my topic(s) and boundaries, but be open to new approaches and ideas within those parameters.

What are the simple truths you are returning to during this difficult historical moment? I’d love to hear about it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!