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Why You DON’T Need a Long-Term Dance Goal

If there is one piece of advice I’ve heard more frequently than anything else, it’s to set a long-term goal, and recommit yourself to it regularly. This goal can range from a fuzzy picture to a detailed vision engaging all the senses, AND including the steps needed to get there. But fuzzy or detailed, it’s perhaps the most useless advice I’ve ever received.

I didn’t arrive at this opinion overnight. For years, I’ve set long-term goals – probably over a dozen of them by now – about where I wanted to be in 5-10 years, how much I wanted to make, what kind of life I want to live, etc. And each time, those goals were derailed by loss of interest, changing priorities, or another one of “life’s curveballs”.

My goals related to dance were probably the most “fully-formed” on arrival, yet even those changed radically over time: From overcoming my shyness, to helping others learn some moves, to teaching as a career, and even starting an online dance business.

The problem I kept encountering was threefold: First, I am a kinesthetic learner, meaning if I’m not doing it, it’s real hard to imagine how much I’m going to enjoy it. Second, I’m constantly finding new approaches, or receiving new information that changes the vision I’m moving towards.

Third, and most importantly, I am constantly changing, including in what makes me happy and satisfied in life. How can we hold to a consistent vision of success for the future, while constantly moving and evolving?

The answer: Most of us cannot. Those who promote consistent long-term goals were fortunate enough to find one they felt passionately about early in life. Yes, discipline and perseverance play large roles too, but without that passion, time would have inevitably pulled them in other directions.

I’m not knocking long-term goals by the way: If you can hold to your dream of being a world champion dancer for ten, twenty, or thirty years, I envy you. But most of us simply aren’t that clear about why we want to dance – we just do, and that is enough.

Rarely do my students begin with any goal more ambitious than to impress their girlfriend or meet new people at a social. Over time and experimentation however, this leads into more short-term goals, like wanting to feel more balanced, look a certain way, increase the types of music we feel comfortable moving to, and so on.

Those short-term goals are more likely to inspire action, because they are close enough to see and taste. While that dream of being world champion or a famous choreographer might be intimidating, dropping a few pounds by learning to dance salsa is a lot more doable.

Angela Duckworth, author of Grit, says that passions – like new romances – are rarely love at first sight. We need a “tinkering phase”, dedicating deliberate practice towards the things that interest us, to see what takes off and what doesn’t. And often, that takes us in a completely different direction from where we expected to be.

So if you don’t have any long-term dance goals, relax! Neither do most of us. Just keep developing in the directions that interest and excite you – you may be surprised how far they take you.

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.

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