4 Dance Goal-Setting Tips For the New Year (and Beyond!)
The sense of new beginnings and the possibility of change that greets us at the start of each new year is a wonderful, yet tricky feeling. Sometimes we resolve to do too much and end up disappointing ourselves when the fire of excitement at what is possible starts to burn out with the realities of everyday life. Instead of resolutions—cutting things out of your life and expecting yourself to be a different person overnight—we suggest focusing on goals! To help out, we’ve created a list of tips and resources that can help you start out on the right foot when setting dance goals for the new year.
1) Think About Why You Dance
It seems like a simple question, but for many of us there’s a tangled web of emotions and motivations behind why we choose to dance. Before you set a goal, check in with yourself and make sure it’s something that you personally want or care about. It can be easy to get caught up in what you see other students, instructors, or performers doing and feel that their goals should be yours as well. But if those goals don’t match what is at the heart of why you dance, they will end up being more frustrating than motivating. A good place to start is to ask yourself how important the things listed below are to you in regards to dance. Depending on where you are in your dance journey, some of these may not be very applicable to you, but that’s still a good thing to acknowledge!
Expressiveness and/or musicality
Performing (small events)
Performing (large events)
Studying with renowned instructors/dancers you admire
Learning new skills
Advancing to the next class level
Joining a specific dance group/troupe
Spending time with others
None of these aspects of dance are inherently more important or valuable and therefore there are no wrong answers—it’s your goal and your life! If list above is too overwhelming or too structured, you can also try taking a few minutes to write down your stream-of-consciousness about what matters to you about dance. While it might feel strange, chances are you’ll uncover a few important areas to focus on with your goal setting.
2) Make Smart Choices
When thinking about a dance goal it’s easy to start with your head in the clouds. After all, your goal is your way of trying to manifest your dreams! No matter what the size or scope of your goal, letting it stay nebulous and undefined will keep you from turning a dream into reality. That’s where SMART goal-setting comes in. Chances are if you’ve read anything about goal-setting, you’ve heard about SMART goals. There’s a reason for that—they’re effective! A SMART dance goal meets the following criteria:
Specific: Want do you want to do? How much/how often you want to do it? Where do you want to do it?
You can’t work towards a goal if you don’t know what exactly you want to do!
Measurable: How will you know when you have achieved your goal? How will you measure your progress?
Goals like “I want to be a better dancer” or “I want to perform more” are not defined enough and may lead to a lack of motivation or no feeling of accomplishment. How do you define being a better dancer? How many performances are “more performances”? If you’re setting a technique-based goal, video yourself before you start and along the way to get visible feedback on the work you’re putting in.
Attainable: Is it within your power to achieve this goal? What are the action steps you will take to meet this goal?
A goal is an exercise in futility if it isn’t within your power to achieve. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself, but rather that it’s important to look at things from a realistic perspective. If you’re a brand new dancer, becoming a renowned performer in 6 months would be exceptionally difficult and unrealistic. Your big dreams will stay with you and if you set realistic goals you can get to the point where they’re achievable.
Keep in mind that some dance goals have aspects that aren’t 100% under your control; being accepted into your favorite dance troupe or getting that awesome dance gig are things that you can work hard towards but ultimately the decision is out of your hands. When setting those sorts of goals, make sure that you have other ways to measure your success even if you don’t achieve the main goal.
Relevant: Is the goal relevant to what you value about dance? Does the goal fit in with your overall life plans and desires?
Don’t set a goal if the end result isn’t meaningful to you! Remember that this is YOUR goal and therefore it needs to fit what YOU value.
Timely: What is the timeline for achieving the goal? When exactly do you want to accomplish it by?
No timeline = no motivation to work on your goal. Embrace the accountability and structure of a specific timeline for achieving your goal. If you have a large goal, give yourself checkpoints along the way to evaluate your progress and have a sense of accomplishment for what you’ve done so far.
The SMART method works well for all sizes and types of dance goals. Here are a few sample goals that use the SMART criteria:
My goal is to learn how to dance with a scimitar and choreograph a routine with it that I will perform at least once by July.
My goal is to take one session of belly dance classes before the end of March.
My goal is to earn $1500 from dance performances and instruction in the month of April.
3) Quiet Negative Self-Talk
Self-critique is a valuable tool for dance growth. It allows us to see where there is room for improvement and work towards specific goals. However, sometimes critique can morph into destructive thoughts. We run into a roadblock or make a mistake and a nagging voice in the back of our minds tells us that we’re a failure and that we should just give up. When this negative self-talk starts to creep in and discourage you, have a conversation with those thoughts. If your inner critic tells you that your performance was terrible, let it know that you did the best you could in that moment and that everyone makes mistakes. If the thoughts persist, take a moment to acknowledge them and give yourself a break before making any decisions that will affect your goal. It’s easier to view a situation more rationally when you’re not in the heat of the moment.
4) Embrace the Power of Community
You don’t have to go it alone! Having a friend or group that you can discuss your goals with and stay accountable with can go a long way towards helping you achieve your goals. Here are two great community resources that already exist to support and encourage you through efforts:
Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and set those dance goals! Let us know what your goals are for the New Year in the comments below :)