How often do we fail because we haven’t clearly named what we want? Because we haven’t chosen appropriate things to want? Doing this goal setting exercise could be the most important thing you do for your dancing this year.

In another post, I talked about setting goals to help deal with feelings of shyness. And I tell ya what, meeting goals is hard work, especially when it comes to shyness. But setting the right goals at the right time is a MUST if you really love dancing and want limit unnecessary frustration.

Can’t I skip this?

Hm, maybe. I’d sure like things to just happen by themselves. It’d be nice for my dancing to be “discovered” and doted upon by the people I respect. Do I really want to think or work too hard on things? My lindy hop role models make it all look easy.

It’s normal to have the urge to avoid putting your dreams down on paper. However…

The vast majority of people who “make things look easy” didn’t have an easy time getting there. The dancers who inspire me the most work super hard. I envy those who seem to be lucky or just talented. But I respect those who work hard and have a plan.

If you want to go further and increase your self-respect, I suggest planning out your dance goals for 2011. The empowerment will taste delicious.

Goal Setting Formula

1. Discover Your Dance Mission

No matter what level you are, if you love to dance, something is driving you. It can be hard to identify at first. If you have a newly discovered love for dance, that’s probably because nothing else in your life was helping you express your values.

Whoa, deep, I know. Hang with me, it gets even better.

Think of your dance mission as the path you’re always traveling. Goals are the check points along the way. Your mission is your guide; it is not specific. Goals are the specific, actionable components.

Your mission can shift, and that’s fine. But generally it’s derived from deeply seated values that don’t change willy-nilly. It may take some time to discover what drives you to dance. Here are some broad examples of dance missions:

  • Achieving recognition
  • Spreading joy
  • Mentoring/teaching others
  • Connecting with people, networking, socializing
  • Personal discovery
  • Creativity/self expression
  • Pursuit of pleasure

Brainstorm what drives you. I’m gonna bet there’s one that rises above all the others. For me, it’s spreading joy. Creativity and teaching are pretty sweet too, but if dancing didn’t spread joy like drought spreads wildfire, I wouldn’t do it. It’s the happy people that keep me coming back time and again.

Getting stuck? Lay down and take a breather. Talk to other dancers. Give yourself the next year to discover your dance mission. Even if you can’t pinpoint it, you can still create goals and figure it out along the way. (Finding out what you’re good at might help, too. I recommend the book StrengthsFinder 2.0.)

As the year progresses, you’ll look back to your mission and evaluate whether your goals are still moving you along that path.

2. Dream Big

Getting from your grand Mission to bite-sized Goals can be a WEE bit of a challenge.

Or, on the other hand, you may be so anxious to get to those concrete goals that you limit your dreams.

Either way, spend some time reflecting on what life might look like at the end of the year. Are you more ingrained with your dance network? Are you really proud of some choreography you created? Have you finally gotten socially comfortable at your favorite dance venue? There are so many possibilities.

How do these dreams make you feel? Who is there with you? Where are you? Try to create a complete picture of one or two big dreams that help express your chosen purpose/mission.

Here’s an example. Say you dance because you love to mentor/teach and help other people grow. If you’re a newer dancer, perhaps you see yourself having a much greater understanding of the dance by the end of 2011. Perhaps you’ve successfully taught a willing friend the basics of lindy hop.

A more experienced dancer with the same mission may see herself surrounded by a small group of loyal students. Perhaps she’s been coaching them privately throughout the year. At the end they’ve grown their dancing beyond her expectations.

Get clarity on these dreams. It’s time to get realistic about goals that will get you there.

Are you afraid to get out there? Using concrete, achievable goals will make your life so much easier. You can do it!

3. Set Great Goals

Now you’re ready to imagine a set of steps/checkpoints that take you from point A to point E. Namely, you want to define where points B, C, and D are. (Can you have more checkpoints? Sure! But 3 is such a fabulous, attainable number. It’s easy to figure out one great goal for every 3 or 4 months of the year.)

Let’s work backwards. So, your is dream clarified; you know where you want to end up. What do you need to have accomplished by 3 months before then? And 3 months before that, and 3 months before that?

It’s easy to set vague or overly lofty goals. That’s less than optimal. Use these 3 components to set optimal goals:

  • Specific. Goals MUST be specific. Even more specific than the dreams you envisioned in step 2. “Dance more” is a weak goal. How much more? Where, when? Is it practice, social dancing?
  • Attainable. But not too attainable. I suggest setting your goals just outside your comfort zone. Don’t make your goals based on circumstances out of your control, e.g. winning a competition. You need to have control over meeting your goals.
  • Measurable. You’ll need to know for sure whether you’ve met your goal. Make subjective goals more objective. Instead of “Have a rock solid swing out,” use why you want to have a rock solid swing out to define how to measure it. If you are internally motivated, you might say “Take my swing out from feeling like a 6 to an 8 out of 10.”

Write each main goal down. When are you going to accomplish it by? What are the specifics? How are you going to measure it? Is it the right level of goal for you, not easy, but not way out of your comfort zone?

Also write down action steps to take to each goal. Like items on a to-do list. It may help to have deadlines for these, too.

Getting stuck? Ask another dancer for advice. Yeah, that may be hard to do. So ask someone you trust and feel comfortable with.

Do you want help meeting your goals? Try this online tool, Joe’s Goals.

In Conclusion

Does everything need to be planned, down to the last action item? Oh hell no. Just being honest with yourself will help you mentally open up to attaining your dreams and goals.

I’ll say this, though. There’s a noticeable resistance in the lindy hop community toward voicing your true dance dreams. I rarely hear people talk about where they are going with their dancing, unless it’s in a technique related way. Or talking about dance events and competitions.

I think that if you are bold enough to go through this process, you will find a much deeper satisfaction in your dancing.

Join the conversation about dance dreams and leave a comment below. How do you set goals? Do you have a dance mission?

Let’s keep in touch!

Get updates on my latest work by joining The Pulse, my monthly-ish newsletter on fitness, culture, and whatever else moves me. 2,302 of your closest friends already subscribe!

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.