The film ‘Billy Elliot’ (2000) is set in the 1980s in a poverty-stricken mining village in the north of England. The story revolves around an 11-year-old boy living with his no-nonsense father, rebellious brother and a grandmother suffering from dementia. His father has enrolled him for boxing lessons even though he has no talent for the sport and really hates it. One day, as he is leaving the gym after his lesson, he catches a glimpse of Mrs. Wilkinson’s ballet class and is fascinated by what he sees. After some hesitation he decides to try it out. Soon he has exchanged his boxing gloves for ballet shoes but doesn’t dare tell the rest of the family. And when his father and brother eventually find out that the little extra money they have is going towards Billy’s ballet lessons, his life at home becomes intolerable. ‘Lads do football, boxing or wrestling, no freaking ballet!’ they shout at him. ‘What’s wrong with ballet?’ he asks indignantly. So it looks as though dancing is absolutely off limits for Billy. But Billy and Mrs. Wilkinson are prepared to do everything in their power to have him audition at the Royal Ballet School in London. So he continues taking ballet lessons in secret. When his father finally sees him in action, he has a change of heart and accompanies Billy to London so that Billy can audition. He gets selected and his career as a professional dancer can begin.

This film demonstrates how desire and fear go hand in hand. Billy discovers a passion and has the desire to fulfil it. But due to the social network he finds himself in (family, friends, milieu), he doesn’t dare to go for it openly. The fear of being excluded, bullied, or humiliated lead him to following his passion in secret. And so his ‘growth’ as a ballet dancer is held back.

This is quite common in day-to-day life too. We all have desires which we don’t follow up on, or only partially, through some fear or other. Perhaps you want to give a new impulse to your career but don’t dare to discuss it because you’re scared that… Or you’d like to be able to express more explicitly how much you appreciate transparency but you’re afraid to say what you think because… At last you can take up that top position within your team but don’t dare to because … And so on and so on.

What I observe is that you can always think of enough reasons for not doing something. But what if you focus on the reasons for doing something instead of letting yourself become paralysed by your fear? By taking a step in the direction of your desire. What can help you here is to analyse your desire and to expand it by visualizing what it would be like if you followed your passion. What does it look like, how do you behave then, how do you look, what do you say, how does the environment respond to you, what do you feel when you are doing or living it, etc? By doing this exercise, the energy and courage you need to make that first step will be released. And who knows where that might that lead to in the long term? If you want to be inspired by an example of what can happen if you have the guts to follow your passion, watch this video of a fantastic ballet piece performed by a woman with one arm and a man with one leg.

A quote that is often used in the context of daring to follow your passion appears in Nelson Mandela’s inaugural speech (1994). Although the text is still often attributed to him, in reality it is a quote from the book ‘A return to love’ (1992) by Marianne Williamson. ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’ 

The challenge this time is pretty obvious. Reflect on the desires you have that you haven’t yet fulfilled, or perhaps only partially. Make a list of them and choose one that you really would like to follow up on. Then take 10 minutes to visualize how things would look if you actually followed that desire. Then think of 1 action you can do today or in the coming week that will take you one step forward in the direction of that desire. It doesn’t need to be a huge act, it’s all about taking that one step. And once you’ve taken this step, celebrate this fact and decide when you’re going to take the next one. By taking steps in the direction of your desire, you will be causing something special to happen!

Follow your desire, take a step forward!

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