Don’t Make Any Dance Resolutions This New Year
One evening, many years ago, I decided that I wanted to become an expert on everything. I devised a grueling schedule, in which I would research various subjects on an ongoing basis. For free time, I allowed myself a mere one hour a day.
Needless to say, I lasted about a week before I burnt myself out.
This example, if a bit extreme, reveals several of the pitfalls that trip us up while setting our New Year’s resolutions, which is probably why only about 8% of us actually stick with them.
When setting our resolutions, many of us confuse a marathon for a sprint. We take something like dance, and dive headlong into it, putting in hours of practice or thousands of dollars worth of private lessons, then get frustrated and quit because we don’t look like Karina Smirnoff or Derek Hough after a few months.
If we pace ourselves, we help to manage the stress that naturally arises from trying something new. Too big a change in too short a time, and our body and mind rebel from the overwhelming stress levels, resulting in burnout (I’ve previously written about this here).
So what is it specifically about New Year’s resolutions that are so problematic? For one, we are forcing yet another scheduled task upon ourselves, regardless of whether we are mentally prepared to make those changes. It’s even worse if we set a deadline for our goal – that’s a LOT of stress being generated.
Instead of picking arbitrary dates like New Years for your goal setting, why not take stock of your life more regularly? That way, any desire for change can arise naturally, and you will be able to see it coming and plan for it.
For example, I meditate every morning, which gives me a chance to spot any angry or frustrated thoughts that may arise. I also write in a journal – often right after meditating, in which I define my feelings in more detail. This is also where I start making plans for change.
Lack of planning can actually exacerbate our challenges, by setting us up for failure. For example, if you impulsively set a practice goal without proper planning, you are likely to feel very frustrated when that plan falls through. And that can lead to compensation behaviours, causing you to practice less, not more.
We need to remember that setting the resolution is the easy part. In fact, studies have shown that simply setting a goal makes us feel temporarily better, which ironically hinders our desire to follow through with it. If you don’t want to rely on “sudden will” to propel your dancing forward, PLAN YOUR ACTION STEPS.
In my earlier story for instance, I might have stuck with my “learn everything” plan if I had set smaller, approachable benchmarks, like reading just 2-3 articles on the subject of my choice each week. Click here for my thoughts on the benefits of short-term goal setting.
Now that you have some goals and action steps, find ways to track your progress. How many patterns can you complete without losing your balance? If you film yourself, how many times does your head or arms drop in a practice run-through? Can you do better next time?
Not all things are easy to measure, but writing in a journal and/or getting feedback from an instructor can help enormously. For one of my pet projects, I make a journal entry every time I sit down to work, recording the time of day, how long I worked, how I felt and what I accomplished.
NOTE: It’s important to keep how you feel and what you did separate, so if you feel lousy you don’t let that take away from how great you looked pulling up your knees during your plies.
Goal setting is a vital part of becoming a better dancer, but those goals often fail when we force specific dates and regimes that aren’t in line with our current abilities. By getting in touch with ourselves and planning ahead in smaller increments, we can slowly but surely, become the amazing dancer we want to be.
Let that be your mindset as 2020 arrives. Happy New Years everyone!
About the Author
Ian Crewe has been dancing ballroom for over 18 years, and has a Licentiate in American smooth and rhythm. His passion for dance eventually led him to blogging and the World Wide Web. Ian currently teaches at the Joy of Dance Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.