Inside PT
Leaping into the New Year: Isabella Boylston, photo by Gene Schiavone

Love it or hate it, this is the time of year when people start talking about New Year's Resolutions. While it's exciting to think about what you want to work on in 2017, it can also feel daunting—especially because we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and wind up frustrated a few months in. Breaking resolutions down into small, attainable steps can help keep you motivated, and seeing positive results. To get you started, we pulled together a few tips for tackling some common dance-related goals.

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September 1 marks the beginning of a whole new year—a new dance year, that is. You're fresh from your summer intensive, getting back into a regular class and rehearsal schedule and learning choreography for a new set of performances.

It feels like a clean slate, and that makes it a great time to think about your goals for the upcoming school year. What do you most want to work on this year, and what do you hope to achieve? Whether it's finally mastering a technical challenge, establishing a cross-training routine or building up your confidence, here are some things to keep in mind:

If you attended a summer intensive, let that momentum carry you into the new school year. Students in Miami City Ballet School’s summer repertory performance, photo by Ella Titus.

Set realistic goals. According to a study that looked at New Year's Resolutions, 46% of resolutions fail within six months. That's probably because so many of us set unreasonably high expectations for ourselves, or create lists of goals that are a mile long. If you expect to perfect every aspect of your technique in one season, you're setting yourself up for frustration. It's great to challenge yourself, but you're more likely to see tangible progress when you make your goals smaller and more concrete.

Be flexible. One study found that when we make our goals a bit broader, rather than extremely specific, we're more likely to follow through. So if you're a non-morning person who wants to start cross-training before class, try aiming for 3-5 early days a week instead of making five days a week the only option.

Stay motivated. A new season, and all the possibilities it holds, is exciting—but it can also be daunting. Once you start working towards a goal, keep checking in with yourself and try these tips for keeping procrastination at bay if you start to waver.

Build on summer intensive momentum. If you attended an intensive this year, chances are you're energized and renewed after a summer of new experiences. Use that energy when you're back at your home studio: keep notes of helpful corrections you received from your new teachers, stay in touch with friends from your intensive and talk to your teachers at home about what you hope to accomplish this year. They'll probably be happy to help!

 

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Flexibility can be just as important in setting goals as it is during grand battements. A new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that we're more likely to pursue goals when they include a range of ideal outcomes, rather than being ultra-specific.

 

The study’s authors say a more flexible goal offers “the best of both worlds” because the low end of the range increases attainability, while the high end increases the challenge. Apparently, we experience a greater sense of accomplishment when a goal is both attainable and challenging, and feelings of accomplishment make us more inclined to continue to pursue a goal.

 

So, next time you’re looking to tackle a few more fouettés on pointe, try aiming for 28 to 34 instead of exactly 32. You may find yourself more motivated than usual.

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