Teacher Tune-Up | Don’t Fear Change

by Sandi Duncan

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” Had I understood the truth of this William Arthur Ward quote 20 years ago, my life could have been a little less bumpy.

I started taking dance classes at age 2 and a half. It was instant love. As I grew up, I knew I would make my career in dance. The more I studied and trained, the more I wanted to be a dance educator and share the knowledge so many wonderful teachers had shared with me. At age 25, I opened my studio.

Year one was wonderful. Year two—I am ever the optimist—was still mostly glorious. In year three, reality set in: I was in over my head. I didn’t know the first thing about running a business. The studio grew quickly, so I started hiring staff, which made me boss as well as creative director, choreographer, business manager, costume and set designer, maintenance director—the list goes on.

As the years passed, my self-doubt and exhaustion grew, and my creative spirit waned. On the inside, my soul was crying out for help. On the outside, I put on my “yes” face and did what I needed to do to keep afloat. I had trained my entire life to be a dancer, and I was confident in my teaching abilities. It was the business area that remained foreign to me.

During this time of inner struggle, I became a mom through adoption. I thought opening the studio was one of the best days of my life—but the moment I first held my daughter gave me a feeling like no other. Inevitably, my priorities shifted, and eventually I came to realize that change was necessary. My busy life pulled me in so many directions that I felt defeated in all areas. So in my ninth year of studio ownership, mid-season, I made the decision to sell my business and go back to teaching for others. It was the hardest but best decision I ever made.

I’m not suggesting you should sell your studio. I’m sharing my story to encourage you to go out and make the changes—even the tough ones—that will help you create the life you want to live. Many times we choose to stay static and “comfortable” due to personal and financial obligations, even if that choice will not serve us well in the long run. So if you are feeling uneasy with your life, pay attention—it may be time for a little self-reflection. Let’s dig in:

  • Take some quiet time to evaluate your life. Which areas need change?
  • Ask yourself where you want to be next year, in 5 years, and in 10 years. Are you working toward goals that will create the change you want to see?
  • Ask yourself this tough question: if I don’t change my situation now, how will that affect me today and in the future?

Photo by Kimi Duncan

I’ll leave you with this quote from John C. Maxwell: “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” Allow these words to propel you toward creating the change that will help you grow and thrive. For me, change was scary but worth it. Change gave me what I knew I needed: more freedom and peace of mind, heart, and soul.


Sandi Duncan is a senior staffer at Melissa Hoffman Dance Center. A certified life coach, she conducts team-building seminars and workshops for studios nationwide.