Dancer Health

Choose growth over goals for 2021

2021 goals

There’s going to be a lot of talk this January about making up for 2020. About hitting the ground running when our industry reopens and making up for lost time. But before we dive headfirst into expectations, let’s remember that 2021 will still be subject to slow recovery. As much as we might want to catch up on that list of resolutions, factors outside of our control could prevent that from happening when or how we want it to.

Let’s also remember that 2020 brought challenges far beyond what anyone anticipated, and that we are all a little worn out! Although you may not have checked off all of your 2020 goals, you most definitely learned a new set of skills. Adaptability became a super power. Being flexible enough (pun absolutely intended) to just make it through this past year is testament to your talent, commitment and sheer grit as an artist.

So let’s take what we’ve learned over the last year and apply it to the tired “New Year new me” mentality. Rather than setting objectives that rely on outside validation — and breaking down when your rigid targets come up against “unprecedented times” — why not grow into and around the “new normal”? That way, whatever 2021 throws at you (and let’s hope it throws a little less), you’ll be steady and solid enough to catch it. This year, let’s focus on growth over goals.

Before we get into content, let’s start with language and leniency. How we talk about our resolutions often dictates how successful we are in them. Let’s retire phrases like “I will stop” or “I will always,” and try instead “I will less” and “I will more”. Instead of punishing yourself every time you miss a day, commend yourself every time you check one off. 

Positive reinforcement makes repeating the behaviour far more likely than berating yourself for messing up a perfect score. It’ll also keep you from giving up entirely at the first sign of trouble. Whether or not you stretch every single day of 2021, you’ll still have stretched more than you did previously. New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be about guilting yourself into doing better. They should be about connecting with what you want of yourself instead of for yourself.

On to some common resolutions, and how to approach them.

#1. Fitness growth

Fitness goals are always tricky. As performers, our body is our artform, and we tend to get wrapped up in how it looks. We might also be feeling a little more self-conscious of our body lately and have had some mirror shock when we got back to the studio. From lack of space to lack of motivation, it’s understandable if training was a little sporadic during quarantine. Old goals might have included getting our six-pack back. But from a growth standpoint, maybe our focus shifts to properly engaging our core in active movement, finding a use for our abs other than aesthetics. Not only will it strengthen our core (and maybe result in a six-pack regardless), but it’s also integrative to our artistry and serves us better as dancers.

#2. Financial growth

The pandemic was particularly hard on performing artists, financially speaking. Not only do we tend to have smaller savings in our rainy day fund, but we’ll also likely be out of work for longer than other sectors when things begin to reopen again. How much money you’ll make is so dependent on so many external factors; old goals like setting a magic number to hit is unfair to yourself. From a growth perspective, how can you create new revenue streams? What skills or interests can you foster that might help widen your horizons? What spending habits can you examine and rework to fit your current situation? Artists are creative problem solvers, and that’s an asset to you in this area. 

#3. Career growth

This is not the year to swear you’ll land your dream job. In fact, pandemic or not, that goal has always been the epitome of putting the cart before the horse, and perfectly exemplifies the importance of our growth over goals mindset. Landing that contract or booking that agent is beyond your control now more than ever. External pressures on companies and agencies (most notably the dip in overall work) limit the number of new dancers they can afford to take on. All you can do is put yourself in the best position possible to ensure that you’re a top notch candidate, and that they know your name. Whether or not it happens (in your self-imposed timeline or at all), you’ll have done everything within your power to make it possible. And as a bonus, that will open other doors to you. Chances are, one of them will lead you to a dream job you hadn’t considered before. 

This approach is about qualitative growth over quantitative goals; it’s a matter of how you measure success. As artists, our drive pushes us to constantly seek out the next step closer to “making it.” Is success that title in that company with that salary? Or is it getting paid well to do what you love, whatever that ends up being? What if we redefine success as, simply, achievable happiness?

That isn’t to say it isn’t important to strive; “achievable” is a big umbrella. You’re capable of more than you know, and comfort zones are meant to be pushed and expanded. But putting the emphasis on the outcome rather than the process blinds us to — and keeps us from enjoying — what we already have and how to build on it. We’re dancers because we love it, because it’s what makes us happy. If we root our happiness in a to-do list of inflexible objectives dependent on outside factors, then our path to it stays narrow. If we can tie our happiness to our own growth and the opportunities that brings, then it’s fully within our control, adaptable and achievable. And wouldn’t you rather nurture happiness than try to count it? 

By Holly LaRoche of Dance Informa.

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