Dr. Jennifer Bolt recently joined us on our SWSCD Conversations podcast to share her groundbreaking framework that she designed to support athletes and dancers through challenging life transition experiences. Transition is an inherent part of life, but has been significantly amplified with COVID-19. Her insights on managing transitions are applicable to all of us. During our podcast Dr. Bolt told us about her 'life theme song' that has helped her through difficult transitions. In this article, she digs a bit deeper on her theme song and unveils how she has personally dealt with some of her own difficult transitions.
Listen in to the SWSCD Conversations podcast with Dr. Jennifer Bolt:
I simply can't believe I shared this on air, but so glad I did because I had the most remarkable insight about how this sweet little movie was airing around the time of one of my own major life transitions. I didn't think of this song at the time as representing the transition I was going through because I was right in the middle of it. It was around the time I was finishing up my doctoral research on transition and didn't quite know what I was supposed to do next. (So much irony there!) The PRIMED framework hadn't evolved yet. I simply had the data from my Canada wide study on dance majors' transition and knew that the key transferable skills that support a good transition were: persistence, resilience, internal motivation and when excellence was defined, but I hadn't noticed that the first letter of each word spelled out the word - PRIMED!
The framework actually began to emerge on my daily runs the year after I completed my dissertation defense. I was listening to this little song from the Disney movie "Planes: Fire & Rescue" that both my then six-year-old son and I watched and loved. At the time, we had watched it together over and over.
"It renews my faith in the notion that when you hang in, stay the course, get creative and allow yourself to feel the pain and the loss of what was before, and then let go to embrace something new, that things have a way of sorting themselves out".
Yes - the truth is - I identified with Dusty, the plane who as a crop duster, had become a racer, and then had to shift yet again to become a fire and rescue plane but really felt changed by the transition. That is me! That is my story, and so I would run every day by the Humber River, listening to this song, trying to figure out why I had spent 10 years on this research and what it was all for. It was 10 years of blood, sweat and tears and many sacrifices away from my family and dancing professionally (hence the racing plane :)) into now a plane that does fire and rescue! Ha - so amazing that I only just realized this today! It renews my faith in the notion that when you hang in, stay the course, get creative and allow yourself to feel the pain and the loss of what was before, and then let go to embrace something new, that things have a way of sorting themselves out. It was a long and strenuous journey and so was the creation of this framework. We joke at home that it is like my second child. I certainly went through a birth process with it. My husband would often say to me, "Hang in Jen - this research deserves you!" How profound is that? So, I made sure to surround myself with people who also believed in me (like my husband), most especially when I felt most lost and vulnerable.
In time, the framework emerged from my own struggle to find my purpose in the world. And now - I realize that being connected to nature and running gives my brain the space and nourishment it needs to think creatively, problem solve and make insights and discoveries. Music - as a dancer - had played a powerful presence in my life and so running to music seems as natural as dancing to music, but the music in this case became a backdrop for my wild imagination -or fuel for making connections, replenishing my soul and finding the rhythm of my breath in a way that serves a different purpose than dancing. I've also discovered the power of variety. Too much of a good thing (all dance or all running or all anything) is never a good thing and so I now have a list of things I do to replenish myself - a kind of "911 list" that is my "time off for good behaviour list".
"I've also discovered the power of variety. Too much of a good thing (all dance or all running or all anything) is never a good thing and so I now have a list of things I do to replenish myself - a kind of "911 list" that is my "time off for good behaviour list"".
"I encourage him to be proactive rather than reactive to the stress and strain and to keep that list by his side to remind him, there are small simple things that he can do FOR HIMSELF that can help remind him that "the world is on your side" even though "it might not feel like it" as the song says".
I encourage my students AND my 11-year-old to make up their own "911 lists". "What really replenishes you?" - I asked my son yesterday. "What makes your heart sing?" I encourage him to be proactive rather than reactive to the stress and strain and to keep that list by his side to remind him, there are small simple things that he can do FOR HIMSELF that can help remind him that "the world is on your side" even though "it might not feel like it" as the song says. Everyone has 10 mins. to start a process and new proactive way of tending to oneself which begins with being aware/mindful and naming one's challenges. Sometimes that is all it can take to recalibrate your heart energy on a daily basis - awareness first. When life has taken a beating out of you (and it will - it always does) then stop, listen to your body's response, and align your head, heart and gut and find your equivalent to running to a crazy kids’ movie theme song. It will be different for everyone! Not that your 911 list will pull you out of heartache instantaneously. I think it is important to set up realistic expectations. It takes time and faith and requires a growth mindset about the power of "not yet".... "but soon!"
When life has taken a beating out of you (and it will - it always does) then stop, listen to your body's response, and align your head, heart and gut and find your equivalent to running to a crazy kids’ movie theme song. It will be different for everyone!
For Parents and Educators:
Here are the books next to my bedside that are helping my family and I face challenges of isolation during the multiple lockdowns, guiding our child towards self-reliance, cultivating empathy, and taking care of ourselves and others.
Brown, S. (2010). The gifts of imperfection. United States: Hazelden.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House Inc.
Gorden, M. (2005). Roots of empathy: Change the world child by child. Toronto: Thomas Allen Publishers.
Hanson, R.( 2018). Resilient: How to grow an unshakable core of calm, strength and happiness. New York: Harmony.
Kao, J. (2020). These six intelligences will drive smart leadership in disrupted times. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/six-essential-intelligences-shape-smart-leadership-in-disrupted-times/
Palladino, L.J. (2015). Parenting in the age of attention snatchers. Boston: Shambhala.
Richardson, C. (2009). The art of extreme self-care: Transform your life one month and at time. New York City: HayHouse Inc.
Stixrud, W. & Johnson, N. (2018). The self-driven child. The science and sense of giving your kids more control over their lives. United States: Penguin Books.
Train Ugly. (2021). Growth Mindset –What it is. What it is about and why it is important. Retrieved from: http://mindsetonline.com/whatisit/about/
Educational website for teachers and parents navigating on-line schooling:
BIG LIFE JOURNAL: https://biglifejournal.com/
Supports favourite reminders for staying in the present moment:
Kabut-Zinn, J. (2016). Mindfulness for beginners. Colorado: Sounds True.
John Kabut Zinn. 9 Attitudes. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2n7FOBFMvXg
Resources for Athletes in Training:
Orlick, T. (2008). In Pursuit of Excellence: How to win in sport and life through mental training. Windsor: Human Kinetics.
Gallwey, T. (1974). The inner game of tennis. New York: Random House, Inc.
Resources for Dancers (and applicable to athletes) in Training:
Bolt, J. (2018). Diving In: A manifesto for a feminist pedagogy in dance. The Dance Current. August.
Bolt, J. (2018) Diving Deeper: Suggestions for engaging a feminist pedagogy in the dance studio. https://www.thedancecurrent.com/column/diving-deeper
Taylor, J. & Estanol, E. (2015). Dance psychology for Artistic and Performance Excellence. Windsor: Human Kinetics.
Wilmerding, M.V. & Krasnow, D. (2017). Dancer wellness. Windsor: Human Kinetics
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Blog written and photos provided by Dr. Jennifer Bolt.
As a passionate and creative educational entrepreneur, Dr. Jennifer Bolt has been synthesizing her multi-disciplinary background in dance, educational theory, cultural anthropology, and sport psychology to help dance artists, high performance athletes and university students navigate challenging transition experiences. Based on the data gathered from her award-winning Canada wide doctoral research on the fine arts dance major in transition, Dr. Bolt designed a pedagogical framework that organizes social, psychosocial, cognitive and social emotional learning strategies along a four-stage process of transition that facilitates individual and group persistence, resilience, internal motivation and excellence defined (the PRIMED anacronym). A long-time Adjunct Professor with York University’s School of Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD) and the Faculty of Education, Dr. Bolt founded PRIMED™ for Life Education Inc.—a ground-breaking educational consulting business that offers individual and corporate workshops, motivational speaking, and student-centered retention plans using the PRIMED™ for Life framework. Since her company’s inception in 2017, she has worked with members of Canada’s National Ballet School Teacher Training Program, Randolph College for the Performing Arts, Peggy Baker Dance Projects and York University and presented her framework at numerous global conferences. She is a proud inaugural member of ELLA Accelerator for Women Entrepreneurs.
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