Chelsea: Becoming somewhat of a buzzword: intention. There are lots of influencers and psychologists alike who talk about setting your intention and all the benefits it can have in your life, but what about setting an intention for a dance team practice or a ballet class? Does it help?
Hi, I’m Dr. Chelsea. This is the Passion for Dance podcast where we talk about mindset, motivation, and resilience in dance. When it comes to a focused mindset, I will admit I am one of those psychologists who talks about the benefit of intention. I personally always set one word for the year, and that serves as my overarching intention, and I often use daily intentions when I sit down to work. But I want to bring this into the dance studio.
In this episode, I’ll cover why intention directs your focus, how it’s different from a goal, and how you can use it to have more present and attentive dancers.
[Motivational Intro Music]
Welcome to the Passion for Dance podcast. I’m Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and a 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!
A Guiding Principle – 1:27
Chelsea: When you set your intention, I think there are two types of intentions and they're both effective, it’s just whichever feels better to you. You can think of it just like a goal or more like guiding principles. Again, while they're both helpful, I tend to use the latter and think of it as this guiding principle.
If you're setting an intention for the whole year, it may be a value or an attitude that you want to focus on for the year. For example, I shared in episode 91 that my word for 2023 is “purpose.” It guides how I spend my time, what I focus on, and how I make decisions, but you can also set intentions on a micro level like setting your intention for the day. That type of intention gives you a focus point or a goal to structure your day around and if you set an intention for practice within your team or within your studio, you can achieve just that: more focus and structure in your class.
Dancers, if you’re listening, you can set your own personal intention when you walk into the studio as well. You don't have to wait to receive a group intention from your teacher, you can own it and decide on your own personal intention for class.
The Difference Between a Goal and an Intention – 2:37
Now, I have talked a lot about goals on the show before, and they are great, but setting your intention is more than your goal for the day. It’s about the value or personal focus you intend on. Your intention as a coach may be different than the intentions of your assistant or a dancer on your team. It’s about finding focus for the practice, and that focus will ultimately make you more productive with tangible things like cleaning your routine or working on turn technique.
So, let me get concrete about the difference between a goal and an intention. A goal for practice is something that you can measure and see the outcome of. If you’ve heard of SMART goals, you can keep that in mind. So, something specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. A practice goal that is a SMART goal might be to run our jazz routine three times full out. That’s specific: we’ll know when we’ve done it or not. It’s measurable: we will all know that we got there at the end. Whether it’s achievable or realistic depends on your team and where you are in the season, but let’s assume that’s true. It’s timely because it’s what we want to get done in this two-hour practice. There is a two-hour time limit on this goal.
Another great practice goal might be cleaning a specific section of a routine, trying a new conditioning workout, learning a new combination, working transitions, cleaning up a new lift. There are specific things that everyone can get on board with, and everyone will know when you’ve achieved those goals.
I always tell my clients to set a big thee for the day. What three goals do you want to achieve today? It’s not a to-do list that never ends, but a prioritized, narrowed-down version. What are the three big goals for the day? I do the same for every dance class or practice. What’s our big three for class? Okay, that’s goals but I’m actually here to talk about intentions today, so let’s get back to that.
Intentions are more like that guiding value that will direct your focus. I think of goals as externally focused (the emphasis is the outcome), while intentions are more about how you want to feel. Intentions are internally focused. You can also think of it that goals are about the future and what you will have at the end of practice; an intention is how you want to feel in the present moment.
For me, the two really work together. You set a clear external focus on what you want to accomplish today. That will motivate a lot of dancers. But then you set a personal intention for how you want to feel while you're working on those goals. What kind of person do you want to be today? What attitude do you want to have? What do you need to feel in order to help you move towards those goals?
Examples of Practice Intentions – 5:16
Here are some examples of practice intentions:
- “I intend to lead by example.” Maybe that’s an older dancer or a leader who wants to show up as a leader who does the work, and the intention is to feel like a positive example today.
- “I intend to encourage my teammates.”
- “I intend to spread positivity.” Maybe for that dancer, they think, “Okay, in order to achieve my goals today, I need to feel positive vibes. So I’m gonna be present and positive and make sure that happens.
- “I intend to stop taking corrections personally.” Maybe a dancer’s thinking, “I know we’re cleaning a lot today. I want to be present, in the moment, and absorb the feedback and get better, not let it hurt me.”
- “I intend to see the good around me.”
- ”I intend to be kind even when under pressure.”
- “I intend to not second guess my creativity.”
- “I intend to keep a smile on my face.”
They're all more about the emotions and the feelings and how you want to show up in the present moment rather than the end outcome.
Setting an intention means you keep yourself focused on one specific value for that day or practice or class. Take the example of a leader. If you have seniors or more advanced dancers in your program, if a leader sets the intention to encourage all her teammates at practice, the idea is she will, in fact, probably be better at encouraging her teammates while they go across the floor, practice a new trick, and start cleaning. Without that singular intention, it’s easy to get really overwhelmed. If it’s more of, “I just want to be a good leader,” that’s too much to think about. What does that mean? How can I do that effectively all practice? If it’s not specific, it’s too much to think about. Now, they're worried about, “How do I be positive? I’ve got to be a good role model. I have to work hard. I have to remember all the choreography,” and instead, it’s helpful to choose one specific area of intention or focus and put your energy there. Like, “I’m going to encourage my teammates.” They're gonna be better at that, and then usually everything else comes along with it anyway.
Brain Warm Up – 7:22
As a teacher or a dancer, setting an intention at practice helps you focus on one specific principle for the day, and you're much more likely to see a bigger growth in that specific area. Imagine a practice where you took a minute to reign in the focus at the beginning with everybody. You take a few deep breaths, everyone sets their own intention in the privacy of their own thoughts, and only then do you start warm up. It’s part of what I call a brain warm up. It’s a five-step acronym for a short mental warmup that I teach inside my Relevé membership, but intention is an important part of it. It’s not a goal; it’s a personal focus for how you want to feel today.
I’ve done this kind of mental warm up with teams during consultations or workshops, and it’s amazing how just three minutes of mental focus and setting intentions before the physical warm up cuts back on the chatter while they should be stretching, increases their focus and drive when we set clear dance-related goals after that, and ultimately, makes everything more efficient. Who doesn't want a more efficient practice?
Start With Yourself – 8:25
So, I have a challenge for you today. Start with yourself. Teachers, set a daily intention or a specific class intention for yourself before you start. Dancers, choose your own intention before you worry about what the teacher’s plan is. Your intention is in your control, even if you don't like the combo today or you don't feel like cleaning your hip-hop routine. See how just a small mental focus exercise can change your whole class. If you change your approach to how you're in each present moment, it impacts every moment. After a few days, you’ll be hooked. You can even help your fellow dancers or teachers learn the same skill.
Your intention may even be the same for days, and that’s okay. The idea is you set the intention that you need today. It may not be easy at first. You are likely to lose sight of your intention part way through practice. That’s okay. The more you do it, the better you will be at holding that focus and staying on track. It’s really an exercise in learning mental focus that helps us in so many other ways. So, why not practice it every day? But, like anything else, mental focus training takes time. The payback is well worth it.
The Relevé Membership – 9:38
Setting a daily practice intention will instantly increase your growth and focus for the day, so please give it a shot, and if you want more tangible ideas like this, including the brain warm up, I’d love for you to join me inside the dance coach’s membership, Relevé. The community is designed to help you create a team of committed, hard-working dancers that are a pleasure to coach every day. There is a whole vault of all the mental skills resources I’ve ever made. I make new ones if anything ever comes up that people need, and, plus, the community of all the other coaches who are going through the same thing. I truly believe the community is something special that allows dance coaches like you to find joy and success in coaching. The community is open. We’d love to have you. You can go to chelseapierotti.com/membership. Click on the link in the show notes if that’s easier, and you can always send me an email or a DM as well. I’m happy to chat more about it or send you the link.
Remember, goals are about the future and what you will have at the end of practice. An intention is how you want to feel in the present moment. My goal for this afternoon was to close down distractions and write something helpful and impactful for all of you, but my intention was to be open to my creative process and not edit as I go. My perfectionist tendencies can get in the way, so I set an intention to be open and let it all flow, and that intention helps me get closer to my goal of creating something helpful for you. So, hopefully you can see how those two work so well together. I know I achieved my intention of staying open to the process, and I hope I achieved my goal of creating something impactful for all of you as well.
Thank you for being here, as always, and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world!
[Motivational Outro Music]