It’s that time of year again: the leaves are changing colour, everything has become pumpkin flavoured, and Irish dancers everywhere are starting to stress out about their regional championships. With the Oireachtas comes annual stress, but also big dreams of recalls and World placements. In order for you to get the most out of your season- whether you are going to a qualifier or not- it’s time to talk about goal setting.
Proper Goal Setting
Proper goal setting is not something that is talked about often in Irish dance. I see plenty of dancers who have goals like “place higher”, or “recall”, or even “do a better reel”. Now, I’m not here to tell anyone their goals are too unrealistic. In fact, I’m saying just the opposite – aim high, dancers! Shoot for the moon, stars, and beyond! Dare yourself to dream about that goal that feels so far away.
“Hope is not a plan”
…this might sound a bit extreme, but let me explain. Setting goals for your dancing is excellent at any level. If you’re a beginner just aiming to start hardshoe, a Prizewinner aiming to move into Champ level, or a World champ aiming for the podium, at every level proper goal setting will help you. What this means is that you have to start getting more specific with your goals. It’s not enough to just get to dance class and “do better”.
Turn subjectivity into action
Irish dance is a notoriously subjective sport. While we do receive comments at the end of each feis, sometimes we never get to know just why we placed a certain way on that day. That’s why when making goals for your dancing you need to focus on what you can control (even if that means ignoring the result on paper).
- Look at the comments you get after each feis, and turn that into your plan.It’s easy after a disappointing feis to set your goal as something like “do better next time” (read here for ways to deal with a disappointing feis result). But you’re not going to get anywhere if you look at the judge comments without acting on them. The judges are there to give you feedback on how you danced that day. Think of it as the judge saying, “if you do this, you could place higher.” So use those comments as the first steps towards your goal.
- Make an overall goal, but don’t rely only on just that.It’s great to set a lofty goal like ‘recall’ or ‘win first place’, and you shouldn’t lose focus of that. But if you don’t have a tangible plan to get to that goal, then a lofty goal is about as useful as shooting darts while blindfolded- you might hit your target at some point, but you’ll get there a lot faster if you learn how to do it with your eyes open!
- Don’t worry if you don’t reach your goal right away, or have to change it a bit.Perseverance is key with this one, dancers! You might have an excellent strategy but as we’ve said before, competitive Irish dance is often very subjective. By focusing on what you can control, you can reach smaller goals on your way to the top. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day! And just like that, any goal worth having is going to take plenty of time and commitment. If you don’t reach your goal right away, re-focus and make sure you’re sticking to the plan you’ve made.
Goal setting is something that dancers of every level can benefit from. Even if you’re joining dance as a recreational and fun activity, setting a goal like “master a skip-2-3” can help you get the most out of your classes. But if you are a competitive dancer with plans to move up, proper goal setting will be necessary get you there.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post where I’ll show you how to really focus on your overall goal, and make a plan to get there!