[Motivational Intro Music]
Chelsea: Hi, it’s Dr. Chelsea! Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast where we talk about mindset, motivation, and resilience in dance. Today’s topic actually involves all three of those because we’re talking about the different types of goals you could set to help you achieve your best.
Good goal setting improves confidence, motivation, and your actual performance. To be real, most people get this wrong. So listen up, and if you take goal setting seriously and use these tools, you will be ahead of the game this season.
I’ve actually broken up this episode into two parts. So here’s goal setting part one. If you want a win, winning can't be the goal.
[Motivational Intro Music]
Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and dance team coach turned sport psychologist. This podcast focuses on four main pillars: motivation, resilience, mindset, and community. Each week, you’ll learn actionable strategies, mindsets, and tips to teach your dancers more than good technique. This is a podcast where we can all make a lasting impact and share our passion for dance. Let’s do this!
[Motivational Intro Music]
I spend a lot of time helping dancers set goals over the summer, and when we first brainstorm, I hear a lot of goals like, “I want to get stronger this year,” or “I want better turns,” or “I want to place top ten in my solo,” or with teams, it’s things like making finals at a state championship or placing in the top ten at nationals. I understand why those are common goals, but none of those goals are going to help motivate a dancer and help them be in a positive mindset. It can actually really hurt their confidence during the season.
Why Certain Goals Don’t Work – 1:48
So why don't those work? Well, the first two are just too general. When we say things like, “I want to get stronger this year,” or “I want better turns,” I don't know what that really means. So the definition of a goal is an important thing to think about right here. It’s an objective that attains a specific standard usually within a specified time. So being stronger or being a better turner isn't specific and there isn't a timeline. So, really, they technically aren't even goals. They're wishes and dreams with no action plan to ensure they happen.
Good goals spark commitment, they're challenging, and they're specific. So when a dancer just wants to get stronger or wants better turns, that’s not gonna be a strong motivator all season because they're not gonna know if and when that happened.
Outcome Goals – 2:41
The other goal I mentioned earlier about placing top ten or making finals, that is called an outcome goal. Outcome goals might feel inspiring, and I know a lot of us that are super competitive like those kinds of goals, but they can often do more harm than good. Outcome goals are standards of performance that focus on the result of the contest or the competition. In dance, that usually means ranking at a certain level, achieving a certain score, or in the professional world, it could mean booking the job or making the company. It’s about the end result.
Before I keep going, I need to pause and explain a little bit here. I’m not saying you can never set outcome goals. Again, I know for some of the really competitive dancers out there, those are actually their favorite. They're motivating. I hope you do have big dreams and goals in your dance life and competitive success that you want or career success that you have in mind. I certainly have outcome goals in my life right now, but they're usually years in the making. I have some big things I want to achieve, and they do inspire me to work hard.
The problem is if you only set outcome goals and make those the focus of all of your training and expect those goals to motivate dancers day in and day out, it’s probably not going to work. Those goals actually become oppressive and full of pressure, and they often hurt dancers way more than they help. So if some goals are too general and some are only about the outcome, what do you do instead?
Well, you can set a big outcome goal if that is important to you as a dancer in your programs, but then think of that as the top of the ladder or the top of the mountain you're working on right now, and then leave it to the side. It’s not really the focus, and it’s not your goal for the year. Now you turn your focus to setting what’s called process and performance goals because that’s where all the magic happens. So let me explain.
Performance Goals – 4:39
Performance goals focus on improvement relative to your own performance. It’s setting a goal about getting better than you were before. But remember the first point that it has to be specific. So, for one dancer with, say, a solid double turn, it might be to get a solid triple turn that they can hit consistently three times in a row without dropping their heel.
Consider how that feels different from, “Get better at my turns,” right? That kind of goal is still too vague and broad, and we don't know when you hit that. But the goal of getting a solid triple that I can hit consistently three times in a row without dropping my hip, that, I will know when that happens, right? Can you picture the celebration that dancer would have when they hit that goal? When a dancer knows exactly what they are working on, it’s easier to fight for it and easier to recognize when you're making progress. That really helps confidence and motivation.
Other examples of a performance goal include anything about getting a new skill you've never done before or improving stamina or height in jumps. It’s about evaluating where you are and then measuring growth compared to yourself. Performance goals are really powerful because they can help a dancer reduce comparison as well.
So if your dancers constantly have those negative thoughts get in the way of, “Oh, I’ll never be as flexible as her,” or “I’ll never has as much style as he has,” and you just can see those negative thoughts in there, or maybe hear them out loud, it’s easy to get caught up in what other people think and what other people can do. But when you're measuring your own progress against yourself, you're more likely to notice your progress and celebrate the progress and keep pushing for further growth. If you don't, you spend all that mental energy on what everyone else is doing, and so, you don't have anything left to focus on your own skills.
Performance goals that really focus on measuring where you are now and then being able to track and see the growth against yourself brings the focus back to your own growth, which helps improve that confidence and motivation.
Process Goals – 6:45
Another effective type of goal is called a process goal, and these goals specify the procedure that the athletes have to do in order to improve their performance. Think of these as the “how” goals that, really, most people miss, right? If you set the goal of, “I want to be stronger this year,” okay, well how are you gonna actually be stronger? Or, “I want to improve my use of the floor in transitions.” Okay, how, right? If you want to improve your jump height, for example, let’s set a goal about how. Not just, “I want to be higher in jumps,” but you could say something like, “Let’s do a [insert certain strength-training series here] three times a week for a month.”
So you take the goal of, “Okay, I want higher jumps,” but that’s not really the goal. The goal is the how. What’s the training gonna look like that’s gonna help make that happen? So rather than saying, “I want to place top ten,” you break it down to what you want to work on to achieve that goal. So again, if you have some big competition goal, okay, great. Talk about it, that’s the vision. But it’s just a vision. It’s just what the really competitive dancers want to hold onto, but it’s not your goal, right? You want to break it down into what is the work that you have to do in order to achieve that goal.
So sticking with this example about higher jumps, maybe this hypothetical dancer recognizes their jumps are the weaker part of their performance and wants to make that improvement this year. “Place top ten” might feel threatening or even daunting, and then if they don't hit that (and it’s not in their control always), then they're gonna feel really upset at every competition it doesn't happen. But completing a strength-training series designed for explosion over a specific amount of time is a goal in your control, and you know exactly how you were working towards that bigger goal, but you stay focused on that. Then, likely, you will actually see the gains you're looking for down the road, but those end results aren't the focus.
Set All Three Types of Goals – 8:47
My advice to dancers and coaches is to set all three types of goals. If you have that big competition goal or a professional dream, set that goal, know what that is for you, but hold it off to the side, then get to work setting performance goals based on your own improvement and process goals for exactly how you are going to make it happen. If we stick to those two, the bigger outcome goal is more likely to happen. But again, if you only focus on those outcomes, they're likely to actually hurt motivation and confidence during the season.
I hope that breakdown of goals is helpful. Next week, I’m gonna dive into the why about this a little bit more, like why these types of goals lead to better performance, better persistence and growth, and actually even better happiness. So come back next week, and until then, keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!
[Motivational Outro Music]