As we head into a new year, many of us dancers are looking to create a mental new start after last year. Unfortunately, the hardships of 2020 are not just going to go away when we start a new planner. Learning how to create smart goals for dancers can give us an opportunity to create something to work towards while developing a healthy relationship with food and with our body and career. This isn’t about willpower. This is about making realistic, sustainable, and healthy goals that can help us get out of a rut and help us feel physically, mentally, and emotionally our best.
I want to put out a reminder that you do not need to always have a goal. If you feel like you are in a hamster wheel trying to achieve personal growth, it can be helpful to distance yourself for a while and know that you don’t need to constantly be improving in order to be an amazing human.
A Road Map
Goals are like a destination and we can use thoughtful planning to create a road map to this destination. Setting out towards a destination without a plan might prove to be frustrating after a while and may lead us to a place of burn out and feeling like we are going in circles.
Our goals can be big or small. Or we can have a series of smaller goals that provide stepping stones to reach one bigger goal. While we can have many goals at one time, I prefer to only focus on one or two so that I don’t become overwhelmed and quit mid pursuit.
Barriers to Goals
In order to create thoughtful goals, I think it is important to look ahead and see if there are any roadblocks that we could encounter. This can not only help us create an action plan, but it can also help us to prepare so that we won’t be derailed as easily.
Some of the most common barriers involve time-management and financial burdens, but they can also include lack of physical, mental, and resource capabilities. For example, after having several surgeries, I know that creating a goal that involves running is not the best choice for my physical health in the long run because it is too intense on my joints. These barriers should not be discouraging, but recognizing them helps us to establish realistic and sustainable intentions.
Goals vs. Intentions
I have a very type A personality, so it has been helpful for me to view goals more as intentions. By viewing my goals as intentions, it personally reminds me that it is okay if my goals/intentions need to change over time. Or that it can be healthy to take a break from pursuing a goal if needed for my overall well being. I can have flexibility to also change and adapt the methods I am using to reach a goal.
Creating smart goals for dancers, who tend to be very perfectionistic and driven, might be helpful to keep goals from becoming rigid, overly-intensive, and ultimately destructive. Creating healthy and sustainable goals means keeping our overall physical, mental, and emotional health first.
An acronym for goal setting that has personally helped me to create a road map for goals and intentions is SMART. Using this acronym can help you to create goals as a dancer.
- Specific – goal is well-defined, detailed, and clear, not vague
- Measurable – goal has specific measures in which to measure your progress in reaching your goal
- Achievable – goal is attainable for you to reach
- Relevant – goal is meaningful and realistic to who you are and what you want to achieve
- Timely – goal includes a start date and timeline for achievement
A Real Example
This year, I want to focus on establishing a practice of mindfulness in my daily routine. In the past, I have dedicated a few weeks or a month to a mindful morning routine here and there. It has helped me overtime to become more calm and present during the day, but I have never stuck to it long-term, even though I know the benefits. This makes the goal relevant to me.
Rather than just saying I want to pursue mindfulness this year, I want to create a plan for developing it into a habit. Using the SMART acronym, my goal, starting on January 1, 2021 and going forward for the whole year, I am going to set aside five minutes each morning to engage in a mindfulness practice. Each month I am going to change this practice so that it keeps a sense of freshness and creativity to the goal and also helps me find different habits that work for me. This might include a month of meditation, light stretching, breathing exercises, journaling, or noting.
By being specific and establishing a realistic practice and a timeline for this goal, I already have S, R, A, and T covered. While mindfulness is difficult to measure in a quantifiable way, at the end of each month, I want to reflect on any changes to my overall mental and emotional health. I want to note if I liked the mindfulness practice or if it was something that I dreaded doing. While all goals do not need to meet SMART standards, it can be a helpful tool for mapping out a goal or intention that will prove to be sustainable in the long run.
For when you feel like you are failing
No matter how prepared and dedicated we are to pursuing a goal, life happens. 2020 has definitely taught us that we are not always in control, and that we need to adapt and change to fit our needs from day to day and week to week. While this can be disheartening for someone like me, it has helped me approach goals with more flexibility and self-compassion.
For goals to be sustainable, we must be open to changing and adapting them as well as the possibility of throwing them out and creating a new one altogether. Ultimately, goals are meant to serve our needs, improve upon our character and passions, and help us pursue personal growth in a positive way.