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How To Set Goals And Actually Achieve Them- A Dancer’s Guide

How-to-set-goals

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!

How-to-Make-Goals-one-step-at-a-timeIt’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.

how-to-set-goalsOn 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.

Dancing-goals

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?

Mind-mapsOk, 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.

Setting-goals-to-Make-habits-enjoyable

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?

Self-trust-for-how-to-Make-goalsThe 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.

Growth-mindset-for-goal-settingHowever when you’re in a growth mindsetthe 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

Be-adaptable-in-how-to-set-goals

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-With-how-to-Make-goalsBe 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 🙂

16 Comments

  • Jeff

    You have provided awesome tips on setting goals and achieving them, and since I have always a goal-oriented person I have found accomplishing most of my goals to be pretty easy for me. I know some people use the strategy to focus on the easy part of a goal first and let the most difficult part for last, but I have found for myself just the opposite works the best for me.

    I found some new tips from your article I am going to try, so thank you very much for writing this article I know it will help many of your readers.

    Jeff

    • Natalie

      Thanks Jeff, I totally agree with you. If I leave the difficult part until last I start to doubt myself and then it’s very easy to just keep avoiding it!

      It sounds like you’re nailing strategising your goals, glad I was able to give you some extra tips 🙂

  • Devara Garrison

    Hello Natalie,
    This is a very encouraging post. I struggle with 1, making goals and 2, sticking with whatever it is to accomplish the goal.
    I’m not a dancer, but I try to stick with a health workout routine daily. I start out great and then slowly stop doing it until I’m completely out of shape again!
    My biggest problem is not enough time to do everything I want and need to do in a day, My second biggest problem is that I procrastinate a lot!
    I work 3rd shift, so I go home and straight to bed. My normal routine is to get up by 4 pm and start my day. I’ve noticed that I’m taking longer and longer to get going each day, accomplishing nothing in the 1st two hours of my day.
    By the time I get started, its time to eat dinner and get ready for work. LOL
    I really need to find a plan that works for me, maybe even one that will jump-start my day from the time my feet hit the floor.
    I’ll work on it some new tactics.
    I appreciate you bringing “Goal Setting” to my attention. It has certainly been heard by me and opened my eyes.
    I could get so much more accomplished in a day, if I set up a daily “at home” schedule and stick with it.
    I look forward to reading more of your articles.

    Best wishes,
    Devara

    • Natalie

      Thanks Devara, so glad you found it helpful. I totally get you, I massively struggle with the ‘too many things to do in a day’ situation 😂. It can be a little overwhelming, can’t it? I know it might feel like you get nothing done the first two hours of the day, but it sounds like you have a massively hectic schedule (kudos to you for everything you get done, that’s amazing!) so I think it’s great that you have those first two hours to do nothing 😊 maybe just decide to focus that time on doing whatever’s enjoyable for you and making it relaxation time- spoil yourself a little. That’s just as important.

      It’s so hard when all we want to achieve is longer than the amount of hours in the day. In this situation I try and go 50/50 so maybe with your workout rather than trying to do it daily, aim for every other day- that way it should take the pressure off and be easier to stick to whilst still seeing the results 😊 is that helpful?

  • Stephen Barrow

    Hi Natalie. I am not a dancer but great information about goal setting and staying on purpose. I am sure that a dancer or for that matter any person following your methodology would achieve the success they are after. I guess the trick is maintaining the discipline to continually complete each step. Keep up the good work.
    Stephen.

  • Renea

    Hey, you have a lot of Great tips!! I love setting goals and accomplishing them, it gives you a boost and makes you feel wonderful!! 🙂 Your goal tips reminded me that the best part of reaching my goals was going through the process even though I didn’t realize it at the time, when I met my goal, it was All Worth It!! And on to the next one I went:) Thank you for sharing!!

    • Natalie

      Hi Renea, thanks for sharing this. I think you’re right, when we’re quite driven (as I am too) it’s easy to forget to savour the moment, even though it’s such a great feeling! It does feel wonderful, doesn’t it? Glad you were able to achieve your goal, may you achieve many more 🙂

  • Tom

    Hey Natalie,

    I am so pleased I came across this article. Very inspiring and insightful.

    Setting goals and sticking to them has been something I’ve struggled with over the years. The reason being was I set them too big, and didn’t break them up. This would make my head spin and in the end I would give up.

    As you have said, breaking them up and focussing on one thing at a time is the first thing I needed to do.

    Being accountable to someone has been a great help for me. I love how you call them your buddy, because it is actually my best buddy who I am accountable to.

    Being adaptable is something I need to work on, and trying different routes on how to achieve the goal.

    I will let you know how I get on with my adaptability.

    Thanks for sharing this article, really has made my day.

    All the best and keep up the great work,

    Tom

    • Natalie

      Thanks Tom, so glad you found it useful. That’s so nice that the person you’ve chosen is your best friend, who better really. I completely understand, I think we’ve all been there- set huge and impressive goals and… failed. It’s never our fault, it’s just about have the right know how. With adaptability sometimes it can be useful to just get out a pen and brain storm all the different ways you can think of, even if some of them seem a little ‘out there,’ write them down anyway- it helps us get into a place of strategy and problem solving. There’s always more ways to achieve a goal than we think.

      When we do this, I advocate a ‘yes and…’ approach- rather than thinking of listing off the ones that can’t work, pick the ones you think most likely to be feasible and have the answer ‘yes, and’ in your head to keep going until you have a plan to make it work. Hope that helps.

      Yes, I’d love to hear how you get on 😀

  • Martine

    These are great tips for any goal you may have. The idea of focusing on one thing at a time is really important I think as we can be overwhelmed if we try to do too much and end up either not doing any of them very well or nothing at all. Knowing what motivates us is crucial too. We need a ‘why’ otherwise it will go by the wayside. Having the ‘right’ buddy is also a great idea. Great post. Thanks

    • Natalie

      Hi Martine, I totally agree- I’ve learnt through trial and error 😂. And yes, if there isn’t a strong motivation, it’s unlikely to get us to where we want to go, so this is essential. So glad you enjoyed this post 🙂

  • Angee

    Great article. I really enjoyed reading your article its articles like these that keep me motivated on my goals. I have to go back to the drawing board now and again for reminders and keeping track. I have been in a fixed mindset many times I like how you have put it here really practical. Love it. Keep up the good work.

    • Natalie

      Thanks Angee. I totally agree. I think we all have to go back to the drawing board at times, I know I do. Glad this article inspired you and I wish you great success in all your goal endeavours 🙂

  • Jamie Longworth

    Great post! Goal setting is paramount in all aspects of life! I for one know first hand but over the years have fallen out of the habit. I earned my second degree black belt many years ago through goal setting and perseverance. I often related martial arts to choreography. Your post has brought back the memories of the power of goal setting. you have truly inspired me to obtain new goals. Thanks for the great read and inspiration. I’ll be visiting your page often.
    Much Success!
    Jamie L

    • Natalie

      Hi Jamie, wow second degree black belt, congratulations! I totally agree, there is a lot in martial arts which can be related to choreography. Choreography is really just sequenced steps or movement so it is a type of choreo of sorts (like in films when they have to choreograph fight sequences.)

      So glad you found this post has inspired you, and was able to refresh things for you. I’ll look forward to hearing about what you do next!

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