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Know Yourself to Reach your Goals

Your expectations of yourself are likely high. That’s a natural dancer tendency. If you’re ready to dig a little deeper into what can get you to work harder and smarter, this post is for you.

In Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of our Everyday Lives, you can find a lot of insight to help you master your work ethic as a dancer and a person. Here are the types of people and how you might capitalize on them.

Rubin separates people into four main categories: Obliger, Rebel, Upholder or Questioner.

An Obliger:

Someone who is motivated by external incentives (this one is very common — it definitely is the one I relate to most, and I can see this being true for many other dancers as well). Obliger’s are not as easily able to meet expectations they’ve placed on themselves, instead they’re motivated by external validation.

If you’re an Obliger, you may work harder with certain teachers than others depending on who gives you more feedback.

You’re not in a bad spot if you identify with “Obliger.” You can definitely create situations with external validation to propel you forward.

In the area of cross-training, an Obliger should probably work one-on-one with a coach or trainer, or take group exercise classes where you’re able to get the outside validation that you crave.

Even working with a friend whom you’re set on impressing would help you to work harder in a cross-training or practice situation.

Maybe try taking barre, pilates, or yoga classes with instructors who give lots of personal attention and validation.

I’m definitely an Obliger. In college, I was able to work on partnering outside of partnering class only because someone else was there with me. For variations, I had to enlist a friend to come watch and give me feedback. I definitely needed that external validation, but clearly, there are ways to create it for yourself.

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healthy eating for ballet dancers
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I was never the person who could just go to a studio and work super hard on my own with no one around. And you know what? That’s totally OK. Just identify what you need.

The Rebel:

Hates being told what to do and resists both external and internal expectations. I’m sure you can think of at least one ballet Rebel that you know, but this one is not common among dancers.

As a Rebel, you’d be best served to find ways of improving your dancing in your very own methods. You might look more analytically at technique or strengthening in order to identify what makes sense to you (and possibly no one else).

The Upholder:

Is able to reach both external and internal expectations. These are probably the friends whom you’re most inspired by. The ones who seem to work so hard all. the. time. Even when no one is watching. (I always wished this was me; however, I really needed the feedback from teachers to feel like I was accomplishing anything).

As an Upholder, you’ve got a lot of options in the areas of cross-training and improvement as a dancer. You can work out on your own and create exercise plans that you’ll likely stick to even if no one else has any idea what you’re doing.

Upholders can go for a swim, do some cardio, weight train, or work on the pilates reformer independently and still work their hardest and see improvement.

Finally, the Questioner:

Resists outer expectations but meets inner expectations. If you’re a Questioner, you have a lot of drive but likely always take corrections or outside feedback with a grain of salt.

Questioners can certainly be great dancers, but they might butt heads with artistic staff or choreographers. They have a lot of internal preferences and want reasons why a movement might be done a certain way.

Rubin suggests that rather than try to change your natural tendency, you should acknowledge it and work within your inclination.

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Be true to who you are. When I work with dancers to reach health and body goals, considering the natural mindset tendencies is key. You might thrive when you create your own plan or you might do better with some set “rules” from me. To reach your personal best body goals, honor what you need and seek out the support that will get you where you wish to go.

Work Smarter AND Harder

Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Holistic Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach for high level dancers. She founded The Whole Dancer in 2015 after identifying a greater need for balance, wellness and support in the dance world. Since The Whole Dancer was founded, Jess has worked with 100's of dancers worldwide at top companies and schools. She has been featured in or written for Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Pointe Magazine, and Dance Spirit Magazine.

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