After the lift of the trademark on the term in 2000, there was a distinct pull (and still is) to define the method in a way that represents Joseph Pilates and the many first generation teachers that formed teacher training schools following his death. Somehow, this lack of overarching definition of the Pilates method, (that, to me, most closely resembles a marketing problem) has led many of the professionals who teach the work to a place constantly question their self-worth as teachers. The argument about who is right when it comes to what Pilates is will most certainly go on for years to come, however there is something that we can do to keep this issue from plaguing our daily work: Knowing the difference between perfectionism and excellence in our teaching.
Simply put, a perfectionist pathway endeavors to “do it right” while a path of excellence invites us to discover the “next right choice” as part of our process. Semantics? Maybe. But let’s break it down into the “Pilates-speak” example of teaching someone the teaser.
Both the teacher striving for perfection as well as the one striving for excellence may spend hours, months, years trying to help their client achieve a teaser. It’s not the endeavor that changes, but rather, the focus. A teacher who is pulled towards perfection will focus on the execution of the teaser, all of the “rules” that come with it and will not allow themselves to feel accomplished unless the teaser is achieved. A teacher who is focused on excellence is much more likely to experience fulfillment throughout each step of the process of building towards the teaser. With perfectionism, fulfillment is so far out of reach that it will probably never be experienced – at least without judgment. With excellence, each experience is cause for celebration and fulfillment. The focus is off of achieving the exercise and is all about the process.
Is this all a fancy way of saying it’s not the journey, it’s the destination? Kind of. But with the amount of correspondence I receive from teachers who say they don’t feel like “Real Pilates Teachers” because their clients can’t [fill in hard exercise here] I thought it was worth a post. I’ve included a few questions below to help you take inventory of your teaching focus. Use your journal to answer them and see where you might be able to pump the breaks of perfectionism in order to invite more celebration into your teaching practice.
How do you know if a session is “good?”
What are the parameters you measure a successful session with? Are they client-based? Teacher-based? Exercise-based? What do you think is a good balance of input to signify a successful session? Where can you widen your perspective.
What are the most important sentences for your client to hear within a session?
How many times are you communicating these things? Where can you add more repetition?
Do you have a regular celebration practice? Do you allow yourself to bask in a great session?
Why? Why Not? What changes would be helpful to support yourself in your career?
I hope these give you some good food for thought! As always, leave me a comment with your thoughts below. I’d love to hear how this was helpful for you!