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Mental Preparation
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Effectively setting goals you can achieve

Not just in competition but in life, goal setting is important. It gives you direction, boosts motivation, and gives you confidence. But have you ever considered how to effectively set a goal? What does that even mean? According to our experts, there is a difference between just thinking about something and saying ‘that’s my goal’, compared to structuring your goal and setting a plan for that goal – the outcome between the two methods is very different. Learning how to set goals properly can mean the difference between them being a dream and a reality.

Why goal setting is important

For dancers who compete regularly, goal setting should be an integral part of dance training. It’s about putting thought into and acknowledging what you want to achieve, and figuring out how to get there. While some may think the goal is important, it’s actually figuring out how to get there that’s key.

Do you have an action plan? According to Dr Ira Martin, a specialist Sports Psychologist with a doctoral and masters degree and who regularly works with Irish dancers, “If you don’t have an action plan it’s kind of like driving from New York City to New London when you don’t know where you’re going! The idea of goal setting is that if you can get it written down and get it clear in your mind, it is really similar to having GPS. It lets you know where you’re heading and exactly what to do when you get there.”

Something else to remember when it comes to goal setting is to focus on yourself. Setting your goal around someone else’s performance (like wanting to beat a specific dancer) means you are always going to be preoccupied with someones else’s progress instead of your own. Bill Cole, MS, MA and internationally recognised peak performance mind coach, advises “Focus on your attitude, your thoughts, how you feel, how you react to problems, how you prepare to succeed, how you review your performance, and how you set and go after realizing your goals. If you list all the roadblocks that might fall in your way, you will quickly realize that the only thing you have true control over is…yourself.”

How to effectively set goals

If you’re going to set a goal and really work towards it, there are four boxes you should check along the way.

  • Write it down. Don’t just think it, or maybe consider it, or think it’s crazy, or get embarrassed by it – stop and write down that goal. Putting it into words will make it clearer for you to know what you want.
  • Keep it visual so it stays top of mind. Seeing it in words on paper will make it that much more real for you. Stick it on your wall as a visual reminder.
  • Tell people. Dr Martin has the girls he coaches share their goals with their classmates. He tells them, “I want you to know each others detailed goals so you can keep each other accountable.” While Irish dancing is an individual sport, telling your classmates and holding each other to your goals helps foster a special camaraderie.
  • Be specific. Dr Martin has wonderful advice when it comes to getting specific with goal setting. When working with dancers, “they will say I want a recall, I say okay great. We all do, how? Tell me what you’re going to do to recall.” This is where you need to work out how you will get there, with specific, detailed information. Do you need to work on turnout? Do you need to work on body control? Dr Martin also advises focusing on what you want, rather than what you don’t want. It’s no good to say ‘I don’t want to forget my step’, instead frame it in a positive way, saying ‘I want to make sure I don’t forget my step and I will do that by practicing’.

Do you have a specific goal for the 2015 feis season? Do you put your goals down on paper to stay focused? Share with us in the comments below, or join the discussion on Facebook.

Vision board in header: credit to Brooke Mackenzie
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