Friday, February 3, 2012

Take It to the Next Level

Since the second month of the year has begun, I thought it would be a great time to reflect on the New Year's resolutions that were made on that very first day of January. That was just over a month ago, but it feels even further away in the past because you have most likely gotten back into your normal routine by now. After all, major, lasting change takes a very long time to achieve. That's why vague, large-scale resolutions never work. A lot of people say, "I want to be happier this year" or for dancers, "I want better technique". Those are respectful goals, but there's no plan of action. Now, don't let this discourage you. If you want to succeed, you must take your goals step by step. And I mean small steps. Sounds easy enough, right?
If you've already broken your resolutions down into concrete steps, at this point you're probably struggling with how to follow through and keep it consistent. I've been using a resource on a blog called, The Happiness Project (originally a best-selling book) called, The Happiness Project Toolbox. In the book, author Gretchen Rubin made a resolution for each month of the year. Then, she made smaller steps within that resolution to focus on everyday. The online toolbox is very helpful because you can post your specific resolution for each month, and the individual steps are shown in chart form similar to a weekly calendar. The chart lists every single day of the month, and each day you can check off whether you completed that step and write notes about your progress!

You can either do this online or on your own in a journal, but I believe that writing down your steps and tracking your progress is essential to making lasting change. Even though I have this great online resource, I found myself losing determination throughout the month of January. I continued to mark my progress on the toolbox, but I started to get less and less checks because I thought that being consistent with the website everyday was enough. But, you have to be serious about your goals and you have to find ways to renew your enthusiasm. Once I realized that I was slacking off, I became more determined and started getting checks for every single step. When I look back on those days where I completed every step, they were the best days of that week and that's when I was the happiest.

Here is an example of what a resolution chart looks like:
Another wonderful tool is something called SMART goals. It stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. We got a SMART goals worksheet in the beginning of The Professional Semester and it helped me narrow down what I wanted to achieve in the field of dance. We had to make 3 short-term, 3 mid-term, and 1 long-term goal. Each goal has 3 action steps and a deadline, similar to The Happiness Project Toolbox. What's amazing is that I recently reviewed my short-term goals for my semester at BDC, and I achieved every one of them :)

Ways to renew your determination:
  • Review your goals and steps everyday. There are no exceptions. You have to do it everyday to make it a habit. Post your goals somewhere where you will always see them and be reminded of what you're trying to accomplish.
  • Make an inspiration board. This is a collage of pictures, quotes, and positive affirmations that relate to your goals and will give you a boost every time you look at them.
  • Imagine what your life will be like once you achieve your goals. It's important not to spend too much time thinking about the future, otherwise you will not be present enough to take those crucial steps that bring you towards your goals. But, if every once in a while you visualize how these resolutions will benefit you and change your life in a positive way, you will want to do everything you can to start living the life of your dreams.
  • Try doing all of your steps for one day and see what happens. You will be amazed at how good you feel. It's like a cycle; if you achieve your goals you feel good, then you continue to achieve them and continue to feel good.
It takes awareness, effort, and time to make any kind of change, but it will become easier the more you practice and it will definitely be worth it in the end.

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