Chelsea: Only eight percent of people stick with their New Year’s resolution, and last week we talked about setting a one-word intention instead, and, yes, it’s January, and many people are trying to set big new goals for the year. But for those of us in the dance world, we’re usually mid-season right about now so setting new goals may seem strange. We are too busy for that right now. The truth is goal setting can backfire if it’s not done well. Poorly set goals just remind you of your failure. We certainly don't want that right now as competition season is heating up.
Now may not feel like the right time to set new goals. However, I say it’s the perfect time if you take the right steps to do it well. I should say hi, it’s Dr. Chelsea. This is the Passion for Dance podcast where we talk about mental skills for dancers including motivation, mindset, and resilience. Goal setting is one of those skills that can have a positive impact on all three mental skills. It’ll keep your mindset in the right place, help you be more resilient through this challenging season, and even give you that added motivation.
So, be real with yourself right now. If you, as a coach or a dancer, set goals over the summer or at the beginning of your season, have you looked at them since? Have those big goals been on the forefront of your mind as you go to practice every week? If you’re like most of us, the answer’s something like, “I meant to, but…” Yeah, goals are easy to brainstorm and visualize at the beginning of the season. It’s easy to talk about them when they are months away and no one is burned out and tired yet, but by now you may be a few competitions in, had a major obstacle (or several) thrown your way, and your goals could be on track (I hope so), or maybe you’ve made progress but now you're feeling stagnant or maybe those goals never got off the ground.
The good news is there is this thing called a clean slate effect with goals where starting new (like starting over in the new year) can be a psychological advantage because it feels more possible right now. You have the freedom to choose a new focus or let go of the weight of your past goals. So, why stop and think about goals now? Because there is still time to make it happen.
In today’s episode, I’m gonna share some of the new science of goal setting and how you can use this to your advantage to finish strong this season, and I’ll also share a free download to guide you through it, so stay tuned for that.
[Motivational Intro Music]
Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and a dance team coach turned sports 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!
Don’t Wait – 3:06
Even if you were only weeks away from a national championship or have months to go, there is no time like the present to get razor-focused on your goals. As author Napoleon Hill said, “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.”
If you feel like, “Oh, I’ll have time later,” or, “I’ll just focus on goals next year. There’s too much going on right now,” I encourage you to reconsider and don't wait. Don’t let the last few weeks or months of your season pass by without renewed intention and clear action plans to move you closer to your goals.
Six Principles of a Quality Goal – 3:42
So, I want to talk about a few of the important aspects of a quality goal that you should keep in mind. Remember, goal setting has to be done well or it will backfire. So, keep these six principles in mind as you get started.
#1: Balance Challenge and Skill – 3:57
Goals should be challenging but doable. You may need to guide your dancers on this or, dancers, ask for help if you're not sure. When I work with dancers, it largely depends on the group. Sometimes I have to encourage them to believe in themselves and reach higher. Other times I have to encourage them to reign it in a bit.
As the leader, help your dancers set challenging but achievable goals. In the same idea, you have to align challenge and skill. What’s challenging to one may not be challenging to another. If goals are set too far outside your current skillset, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment, but if it’s too easy, you get bored or apathetic towards the whole thing. So, goals that are in that happy balance between challenge and skill will have the best effect.
#2: Goals Must be Authentic to the Dancers – 4:46
Goals should come from the dancers. They need to be authentic to the dancer, not coming from the leader, the coach, or the teacher. Let the dancers be the ones setting the goal to improve stamina, for example, so that when you set a concrete plan for how you are going to do it and you start challenging them at practice, they're behind you and willing to commit to the hard work it’s going to take because they made the goal in the first place. If the leader just hands down the goal to everyone else, you’ll see more backlash and complaining and less effort.
#3: Commitment Increases with Specifics – 5:22
Commitment increases with specifics. If you know exactly what you're trying to do and how you are going to do that, it’s easier to be committed. A goal like work hard every practice usually isn't enough. What does that mean? What does that look like for us? Commitment will increase with clarity about what you are committing to and why.
#4: Use Scaffolding – 5:47
You want to use scaffolding. Once you have a clear goal, how are you going to make it happen? I think of scaffolding as kind of the step-by-step process. Set those small check-in points along the way to help you monitor progress and allow you to celebrate growth and then even recalibrate a little bit if you need to. If your goal is too far away and you don't have any scaffolding to get there, you’ll often get off track very quickly.
#5: Don’t Try to be Perfect – 6:16
Don’t try to be perfect when you're working towards your goals. No one’s perfect, and most people give up before they're even halfway there. So, remember that even if you hit your goal 80 percent of the time, you will be ahead of most dancers. Don’t let perfectionism make you give up and quit.
#6: Process Goals – 6:37
Finally, the best kind of goal to set for increased performance is called a process goal, a goal that focuses on how you are going to make progress rather than setting what’s called an outcome goal which is a final ranking or end result. You want to focus on a process goal, and for dancers, at this time of our season, that’s often something like a goal around how you will practice.
If you are able to keep these things in mind as you set new goals at this mid-season point, you will see greater progress, effort, and performance. Goals that are well done direct your attention and effort to a singular place. For a team of dancers, having clarity of focus can make all the difference in those long practices when you're cleaning the same section for what feels like hours or maybe it really is hours. Goals can energize us and bring in a spark of motivation. Feeling a sense of accomplishment every day can really boost motivation rather than waiting until your final competition to know if you achieved your goal or not. If you want dancers who persist and fight, goals can help them do that because they will directly impact action. Once you know what you're working for, you can collectively decide how you're going to achieve that goal and hold each other accountable. It’s a great exercise in unity as well.
How I Approach Mid-Season Goals – 8:06
So, today, as usual, I encourage you to take action. Here’s just the basic overview of how I approach mid-season goals:
First, pull out your goals from the beginning of the season and actually take a hard look at them. If you didn't write any down or you never talked about it, you can skip this, but remember that for next year you will want to be more concrete in your early season goal setting.
Second, reflect on where you really stand, the good and the bad. Ask your dancers, “What have we achieved so far?” When you're in the thick of competition and it feels like a grind, taking a moment to look back on how far you’ve come can be really helpful. Ask them, “What have we made progress on but still have some work to do?” Then, when you start to think about actions, you can ask, “What behaviors are helping us, and what’s getting in the way?” Then, rewrite your goals so that you know exactly what you need to do. Remember to make them specific, challenging, and process oriented.
Lastly, continue tracking your goals and make progress. If you fell short on tracking your goals during the first half of the season, maybe your only revised goal should be to regularly assess every other goal you set.
Guiding Principles – 9:26
Before I leave this, I want to talk about a few guiding principles about how to do this, things to keep in mind as you're doing this with your dancers. Go narrow and keep it simple. For mid-season goals especially, too many goals will mean no progress on anything and a sense of failure. That’s the biggest backlash I see when goals actually cause harm is there are too many, and then you either lose them all or you don't feel like you've made enough progress on any of them.
If you only have a few weeks left, set one practice goal. Focus everything there. If you have a few months left of your season, you can set two or maybe three goals, but the more narrow and specific you can be, the better you will end up at this phase of your season.
As I mentioned earlier, I also highly encourage you to not do this by yourself but to spend time with your dancers as a team or as a studio working on your goal review. You can even add a visualization into the process to make it a fun team event. Visualize what achieving your top goal would feel like. Where are you standing? When will you know? What emotions will flow through you? Visualize the celebration. What will your banquet be like at the end of the season if you achieve your goals? That can add a big dose of motivation into the process and help the dancers buy into why this is so helpful.
Open-Ended Goals on Competition Day – 10:54
My final piece of advice is taking all of this goal-setting research to competition day because that does look different. Before that, you have that clear process goal that’s kept you focused and efficient at practice. Because of that, you’ve put in the work in practice every day and rehearsals are going well. So, when it comes to competition, you can have an open-ended non-specific goal which is basically the opposite of everything else I was just saying. But on competition day, an open-ended non-specific goal like, “Do my best,” can be the right attitude towards competition day. That may seem counterintuitive, but it’s actually a good way to enter what’s called a flow state and your best chance of reaching a peak performance.
When it comes to competition, you've already put in the work. You want to trust your training, and your goal for the day is to just enjoy it and do your best. An open-ended goal is actually shown in research recently to increase performance rather than focusing on a competitive outcome like making finals or placing top five. So, use these goal-setting principles to keep you focused and motivated and working hard in practice, but on competition day, let it be more open ended and nonspecific.
The Workbook Download – 12:14
Overall, there’s a lot of value in taking time to do a mid-season goal check in. So, I hope you’ll invest in yourself and your team and take some action. To help you, you can download a simple workbook that I put together to get you thinking along the right direction and make plans for the remainder of your season. You can find it in the show notes wherever you're listening or go to www.chelseapierotti.com/93.
Good luck coaches and dancers! Just don't let the end of season feel like something you have to get through. Take control, narrow your focus, and make it happen. Thank you for listening. Don't forget to grab that workbook and help guide your mid-season goal process, and, lastly, keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!
[Motivational Outro Music]