How to Make Lasting Goals in Your Partnership
Reality check: if you want to have a successful partnership, you need concrete, feasible goals. While you can practice together as much as you want and improve your dancing in a number of ways, your growth needs a specific direction for it to be effective. Short-term goals are incredibly important (and I’m a strong advocate for making as much use of these as possible), but long-term goals are what actually orient the progress of your partnership; they give a firm metric to measure your progress against and make sure you stay on the track you want. That said, it can be difficult to sit down with your partner and plan very far into the future, so I’d like to offer a few tips that will help make the goal-setting process cleaner, easier, and overall more valuable:
1. Be rigorous and detailed.
The most important thing to do here is to physically write or type your goals out. Whether it’s on a pocket notepad you keep in your dance bag or on a Google Doc you’ve shared with each other is entirely up to you, but it absolutely has to be accessible.
Lay out a timeline with the specific levels you would like to be dancing at specific points in the year. If you want to be dancing Silver Latin in two months, write that. If you want to be dancing Champ Smooth in two years, write that too. Block this into phases to give yourself smaller chunks rather than attacking your primary goal head on.
You can break this down pretty far, setting specific milestones and writing the methods you’ll employ to achieve them. Think: if I’m dancing Champ Smooth in two years, when should I be moving into PreChamp? Once you’ve done that, plot out how you will have to improve before you can advance a level and how you will structure your practice time to facilitate this.
2. Disagreement is good.
Or rather, this is the time you want disagreement to come out. There will probably be areas where you and your partner have different visions of how your partnership will develop. This is okay! In fact, it’s productive, and is something you ought to address now rather than in the distant future. It’s better for this to come out now than in two years, when you realize your partner has been putting their energy into Rhythm where you’ve put yours into Standard, so your growth has been significantly less than it could’ve been.
If the two of you have different, unaddressed visions of your partnership, you’ll be ineffective in working towards either set of goals. Like the rest of partner dancing, working toward your goals is a cooperative effort, so you should be on the same page and moving in the same direction if you want to be truly successful. Talk about your disagreement and see if you can reach a compromise. If not, try making a list of hypotheticals as goals and seeing what is most appealing to you two, or find some common ground to polish and focus on.
3. It’s a prediction, not a dream.
Many people, when asked what their goals are in any part of life, will ramble on about their wildest dreams and fantasies and what they hope to happen to them. Although this can be fun, it is not a goal, or certainly not one productive enough to ask your dance partner to commit their time to. It’s important, then, to distinguish between fantasies and goals: fantasies are an imaginary tale you hope will come true by some stroke of luck, where your goals should be based on what you genuinely believe you can and will achieve.
If you’ve just discovered the world of ballroom dance two months ago, chances are, you won’t randomly bump into the godsend of a partner that’s going to pull you to winning champ standard by the end of the year. Although that might sound harsh, it’s important to set goals that are feasible. Evaluate the time and effort that you and your partner are committing and use this data to set the caliber of your goals. Be reasonable.
That said, you shouldn’t undershoot your abilities and make them all easy-to-achieve and ultimately meaningless; challenge yourself, but make sure it’s something you and your partner can do through hard work and hard work alone.
4. Follow through.
Now that you have a clear set of goals and know the work it will take to achieve them, it’s time to follow through. If your goals are ambitious, you will have to practice a few extra hours in the week, and you might have to restructure the way you practice to make it more efficient and more directed. It helps to remind yourself of your goals and track your progress to keep your priorities straight. If you genuinely want to achieve the goals you’ve set for your partnership, it’s going to take some commitment.
That said, all the long-term goals you’ve written down are within reach, so if you follow these tips and commit to your decisions, it will pay off and you’ll progress much faster than you would have otherwise. This is not only for goals in your dance partnership, but in the rest of your life as well: be detailed, sort out the conflict, assess your capabilities, and do the work. Setting rigorous goals like this will lead you to be the most effective dancer and the most effective person you can be.
(Published in Sheer Dance magazine May 2018)