Ready, set, go! So we are now into the second week of the new year. Be honest, have you kept your New Years resolutions? Or are you waving them fondly farewell as they disappear off into the distant horizon that is good intentions? Please know it’s totally ok if you haven’t, no judgement here. New year seems to be one of those things people love or hate- kind of like marmite. Me personally? I love it. It’s a chance to take stock- what’s working, and what needs to be adjusted to get to where you want to go. Of course this is an ongoing process throughout the year, but it’s nice to have that feeling of a clean slate, new adventures, and becoming a better, happier, more productive you. I mean, who wouldn’t find that appealing?
If you have fallen off the resolutions wagon so to speak, don’t sweat it! (We all do.) There is a huge divide between knowing how to set goals, and what to do to actually achieve them. So if you’ve been feeling left out in the metaphorical dark, let’s get you back on track, and feeling kick ass again! Below I’ve listed my foolproof ways to slay those goals, and get you from wanting to having– no disappointment, no shame, no hassle!
These can be applied with pretty much every area of life, so although I’m gonna focus on goal setting in dance, feel free to read on whether you’re a dancer or not.
1. Focus On One Thing At A Time
Did you know it takes 66 days for something to become a habit? It’s very easy to get caught up in the candy floss clouds that dreams are made of and go ALL OUT. Now I’m not saying this can’t work for someone, but a lot of the time, we try to change too many things at once, and it’s too many habits to try to stick to all in one go. Before we know it, it’s all gone out the window. See ya!
It’s ok- no, better than that, it’s GOOD that you want to achieve it all. Just remember success is cumulative (Rome wasn’t built in a day after all,) so start with just ONE thing, make that a habit and then grow your success from there- let your small wins start lead to bigger ones.
2. Take Stock Each Month
If you want to know how to set goals, the first step is making monthly goals or resolutions a habit. This is a good way to keep on track- stay focused on where you want to go by charting your course and then getting there bit by bit. It’s also a chance to split those big goals into smaller ones, as often it takes many steps to get there. Say for example your goal is to be able to do triple pirouettes on cue. You might want to start with getting a good foot and ankle strengthening workout off YouTube that you follow 3 times a week. You might then want to add in practising balancing in different positions every other day. Next you might invest in a turn board. These little steps each month get you closer to your goal.
On the other hand, you may want to achieve several different goals. This action of doing a monthly audit allows us to achieve these. Say for example you set the goal of eating a healthy diet. After a couple of months you feel like that’s become habitual, so you add in a new goal of doing a podcast once a month. Then when that is up and running a few months later you decide you want to be getting a new video up on your YouTube channel once a month. By reviewing where we’re at each month, what we are capable of grows exponentially whilst allowing the necessary time for things to become habit. After all, a book isn’t written overnight, so why should we hold ourselves to that standard?
3. Know What’s Motivating You
This can be really powerful. We need passion to carry through with things, ESPECIALLY when it gets hard so having reminders or pictures to spur you on can be really helpful. Even negative emotions can be useful fodder if used healthily. For example, making that extra effort to go to class because you know the last time you missed it you felt rubbish about it, or putting away £200 in savings a month, even though you know it means not being as spend happy at spoons/primark/the cinema because you want to achieve your bigger goal of training abroad. Or committing to eating healthily 5 days a week because you know when you don’t you don’t feel as energised. In this way remembering how you felt in the negative, or might feel should you not achieve your goal can be hugely powerful.
Just like you can use your memories of times you felt rubbish to fuel success, you can also do more of what you love to ignite that passion and feed that drive to succeed. Love aerial? Go and commit to that course. Enjoy choreographing? Make up a routine to your favourite song. Remember, the better you feel, the more you’ll accomplish. And the more ideas you’ll get for both goal setting in dance, and life.
4. Have A Resolution Buddy
if you join forces with someone who has the same goal as you, you can spur each other on and keep each other accountable. It also gives you that sense of company; so if for example your resolution is going to the gym three times a week, you might be able to go with your friend who has the same goal.
5. Pie Chart Or Mind Map Anyone?
Ok, so a pie chart is not quite as yummy as it sounds, but it will help. Generally when we’re looking at how to set goals in our lives, there are multiple areas we want to improve- after all, before being dancers, first and foremost we’re people. By breaking your life down into the different areas, it helps you a) feel less overwhelmed and b) get a clear overview of where you want to go and what that looks like as a whole.
You can further break each subheading down into a list of what you need. This is helpful, as not only does it get all your stress and overwhelm out on paper, but it also helps you strategise. Ultimately, you can’t steer a boat if it’s not moving, so this will get you moving again, (no matter how small or what area you start with,) in the right direction.
6. Fire Up the Reward Centre In Your Brain
Imagine this: we’re forming a new habit, so we repeat this habit for 66 days, however it’s NOT something we enjoy. How likely do you think it is that this behaviour will become a permanent change, if competing with a previous behaviour where enjoyment was king?
Meh, probably not much. This is because when we do something that makes us feel good, the body releases the party in the brain, feel good neurotransmitter dopamine. So if we want to change a behaviour and make a new choice stick, we need to repeatedly make it more enjoyable than what we were doing before.
Let’s take an example. You decide you want to eat more healthily, but every day you have a pain au chocolat for breakfast. The only way you are going to change this (healthily) is if you make healthy food enjoyable too. Say this has additional benefits like making you feel fuller for longer. And giving you more energy. As a bonus, you stop feeling bloated, and start to feel much better about your body.
Now that’s a change that’s much more likely to stick. Bottom line, try to make new habits enjoyable. Life’s too short not to be happy!
7. Develop Self Trust
If you want to know how to set goals, this is arguably the most important on the list. But what does it mean? If you tell yourself you’ll do things, and then cave- how do you feel? Defeated? Guilty? Powerless?
If we do this repeatedly we lose trust in our own ability and decision making. We start to believe we’re not capable of sticking to the promises we make ourselves and just not cut out for this. One little promise doesn’t seem like much, right? The thing is, over time the more we do this, the more the problem becomes bigger than our actionable ability to create and make a change. We keep the promises we make to other people, and we are equally valuable, so why when it comes to ourselves don’t we hold ourselves to that same standard of love and care?
The more we keep the promises we make ourselves, the more our self trust grows. (Just remembers not to hold yourself to impossible standards- when in doubt, start smaller and go from there.) So if you say you’ll work out 4 days a week, stick to it, regardless of how you feel. If you say you’re going to apply for jobs for an hour 3 days a week, do it. Whatever it is, whether you’re goal setting in dance or life, set the intention and keep the promises you make to yourself.
7. Have A Growth Mindset
Have you ever noticed how if you watch a fire, it never stays the same? What do you think would happen if you watched ice? Yup, pretty much nothing. This is the difference between a growth and a fixed mindset. With the latter we believe our basic traits, talents and abilities are concrete, unmalleable and permanent. We focus on what we can’t change, or not being able to do something because of what we believe to be true and so we stay stuck, nothing changes and like ice, we’re frozen.
In this space, goal setting in dance and life becomes moot. If we believe our talent and ability is fixed and can’t be changed, the jobs we are capable of getting or not getting are already predetermined. We may think thoughts like: ‘I’ll never be good enough for that project,’ ‘I’m not capable of doing that,’ ‘I’ve got bad feet,’ ‘I’m not flexible enough,’ or ‘I’m too old/young/fat/thin/ordinary.’ This takes the power away from us and keeps us stagnant. When you’re in a fixed mindset, you’re in a negative space where nothing can change.
However when you’re in a growth mindset, the key word is YET. ‘I can’t do that YET...’ Like fire, a growth mindset will help us grow and change if fed correctly. Whilst we don’t deny that we have a base level of natural ability (what is handed to us,) it recognises our capacity to move beyond our current capabilities. The fire in this case is fed by possibility, and this is created through our thoughts and our actions.
The more we recognise when we’re in a fixed mindset regarding a goal, the more quickly we can make a U-turn and get ourselves back into a place of growth where we can achieve our goals. As C.S. Lewis said, ‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.’
To find out which mindset you’re in, ask yourself if you’re experiencing lack or abundance. With a growth mindset you’ll generally be experiencing gain, whereas in a fixed one, you’ll be reaping more of the same or even less than you had before. Once you know this, ask yourself what you can actively do to get closer to your goal. Then do it. Remember, fire or ice- your choice.
8. Have A Goal, But Be Adaptable About How You Get There
This I learnt the long way round. Sometimes when we have a goal, it’s easy to set our heart on a specific route. You think about it, dream about it, nothing else will do. The downside of this is that it can a) blindside us when it doesn’t happen, and b) mean that we close ourselves off to other routes to getting there. So, when you’re thinking about how to set goals, remember it’s good to have a specific goal; just remember it doesn’t hurt to be open to different routes to getting there. There are always way more solutions than we think.
9. Find Ways To Make The Unpleasant Things More Pleasant.
Be creative and try to make unappealing goals more emotionally manageable. For example for me, I don’t like searching for jobs. You look through so many adverts- fielding ‘I’m too short, not tall enough, not the right nationality, need to be based in a different geographic location etc etc.’ It can get overwhelming. So try to find something enjoyable to compensate. An anchor, if you will. Something to centre you and keep your mood upbeat. Don’t like going to the gym? Go with a friend. Admin stressing you out? Put your favourite TV show or music on in the background.
So that’s it! I hope this helps anyone whose feeling stuck with goals. I know these things help me. Comment below and let me know what you think, or if you have thing so that aren’t listed here, I’d love to hear! Questions also welcome 🙂