Why is goal-setting important in dance?

Having visionary dance goals – along with a realistic plan to achieve them – is vital for dancers of all ages and at every stage of their careers. Dance is hard work – there is no way around that! Dance training can be tedious, strenuous, and require lots of sacrifice. You often have to deal with rejection, frustration, and imposter syndrome, and can easily experience burnout and fatigue. Goal-setting can keep you motivated and making process, even when things get challenging or overwhelming. In this blog post, I’ll share 5 ways that you can achieve your dance goals, no matter what they are.


5 ways to achieve your dance goals


Set specific dance goals


Goal-setting is just the first step in achieving your dance goals, but I find it is often the place where it is easiest to get derailed. Many dancers are too vague when determining their goals. For example, gaining more flexibility is a big goal for many dancers, especially in the early years of their training. But if our goal is to simply to “improve our flexibility,” there is a big chance that we’ll fail no matter how hard we’re working – or at least, we’ll perceive ourselves as having failed. When a goal is too general, we will never know when we’ve actually reached it, and can find ourselves in an endless loop of working toward an uncertain or unattainable endgame. After all, we could always become more flexible, in theory at least! Dance goals that are specific set us up for success by giving us a concrete result to work toward. You can achieve your dance goals by being clear about exactly what we want to accomplish.

  • Achieve your dance goals by moving away from general statements (I want to be more flexible) and toward specific outcomes (I want to be able to do a full forward split on my left leg with my pelvis square).
  • Think outside of the box! These blog posts offer examples of goals for dance technique, artistry, and social and emotional development for dance students.


Set personal dance goals


General goals are also universal – they lack the personal connection that make us feel passionate about achieving them. Our dance goals should be based in our own needs, not universal standards. When our dance goals are not personal, we can find ourselves playing the comparison game. We might have an amazing breakthrough, but not be able to celebrate it because it doesn’t feel as impressive as what others are achieving. For example, if your goal is simply to “improve flexibility,” being able to reach your toes in a forward fold might feel kinda lame in comparison to the photos of utlra-bendy dancers in full scorpions you see on Instagram. But, if you recognize that hamstring flexibility is a particular issue for you, personally, and make touching your toes in a forward fold a goal to be achieved on the path toward the scorpion, then you are in a better position to celebrate the personal success of the forward fold. Dance goals that are personal honor where we are at in our own dance journeys, provide the motivation to keep working through its ups and downs, and celebrate each milestone along the way. They set us up for success by becoming a meaningful part of our unique dance experience. You can achieve your dance goals by setting personal milestones to achieve – not holding ourselves to standards of others.

  • Achieve your dance goals by choosing goals that honor your individual needs and desires as a dancer – and free yourself from unhealthy and unproductive comparison to others. 
  • Use The Holistic Guide to Goal Setting for Dancers to help you reflect on your needs as a dancer and set unique, meaningful goals for dance technique, artistry, and your overall wellbeing.


Set a schedule for working on your dance goals


A goal without a plan is just a wish. Once we have specific, personal dance goals set, we need a plan to help us work toward them throughout the year. I find that many dancers are great at making a plan on paper, but struggle when it comes time to put it into practice. We may be over scheduled with classes or rehearsals, have pressing commitments and obligations in our personal lives, or just not have the intrinsic motivation to get started. Scheduling specific and recurring appointments with yourself to work on your dance goals is an important part of the goal-setting process. Your appointment should take place on a set day (or days) of the week, with a start and end time for each. Build your appointments into your calendar, and make a promise to keep them, just as you would keep a meeting with any other important person in your life. Specific and recurring appointments to work on your dance goals set you up for success because the work needed to reach them becomes part of your routine. You can achieve your dance goals by working toward them on a consistent and recurring schedule.

  • Achieve your dance goals this year by prioritizing the work needed to accomplish them – and thereby prioritizing yourself! 
  • If you are finding yourself so crushed by other obligations that you can’t make time to crush your dance goals, check out this blog post with strategies for overcoming “busy-ness” in your personal and professional life!


Set up ways to reward yourself when you reach your dance goals


Our brains are wired to seek rewards , and working with that natural instinct can help us achieve our dance goals! It is important to pre-determine concrete and desirable ways to reward yourself for your accomplishments. Yes, the accomplishment itself should feel good too, but a little external motivation can also help you keep persisting when the going gets tough! Maybe you will treat yourself to some fun new dance gear when you finally get that squared off front split or scorpion. However, it can also be helpful to set up a structure of mini-rewards along the way. In The Holistic Guide to Goal-Setting for Dancers, I talk about the importance of “micro-goals.” Micro-goals are milestones to meet on the path to achieving your long-term dance goals. Having a plan to reward yourself for each micro-goal can help keep you on track. Your “micro-rewards” don’t have to be fancy or expensive, but they do have to be personally meaningful to you! A fancy coffee, some extra social media time, a hot bubble bath, tickets to a streaming dance concert, an at-home mani-pedi … think about what motivates you, and use it to your advantage in the reward process!

  • Achieve your dance goals by building a reward system as you set your goals. A little external motivation throughout the process can provide the extra push you need to keep working toward your dreams all year long! 


Stay flexible – and not just physically


If we’ve learned nothing else from the last few years, it’s that certain things – heck, sometimes everything –  can be out of our control. Just as dancers need to be physically flexible, we also need to keep ourselves flexible in the process of setting and attaining our goals. Circumstances beyond our control may prevent us from achieving some of our dance goals, especially if they are dependent on forces outside of ourselves. For example, your dreams of attending a certain convention or summer intensive may unfortunately fall through again this year as we continue to navigate the pandemic. It’s important to be flexible, understanding, and compassionate with yourself and others as you work to achieve your goals. How can you adapt your dance goals if your circumstances change again this year? Even if your goals are truly personal and not dependent on outside forces, they still might change, especially in these strange and uncertain times. You may find yourself falling in love with the creative aspects of dance, and want to focus more on improvisation and choreography rather than flexibility and technique. Your goals will change as you do. And … because no one tells you this enough … that’s okay. Truly, it is. The best way to achieve your dance goals is to make sure they are ones you really want to achieve!

  • Achieve your dance goals by staying true to yourself, and allowing your goals to reflect your own big dreams, even if those dreams shift and change.
  • Feeling conflicted in about your big dance dreams? You are not alone! In this blog post, I share about my own constantly shifting desire to fit into the “ideal” conception of what a dancer should be.

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