So it’s been a while since my last post- sorry! Life has been crazy; mainly work has really gotten on top of me the last few weeks, people’s hours have been cut meaning we’re operating with less staff and therefore I’ve been finishing super late. The last couple of weeks were a blur of exhaustion, but I think I have found a solution… I can’t say more yet but big changes potentially on the horizon.
Anyway, today I really want to talk about MENTAL training. We all know how important it is to take class every day, to cross-train, stretch, and otherwise look after our bodies… but what about our minds? Mental strength and agility are equally as important to success as our physical training.
What do I mean by “mental training”? There are a few aspects:
– Managing our negative and/or critical thoughts
– Having a clear idea of where we want to be/ what we want to achieve
– Remaining focused
– Visualising success
So, firstly, managing negative thoughts. Ballet is an art form. Every dancer, choreographer and ballet master is constantly striving towards perfection. There is always something to honed and improved upon. It is a necessary skill that dancers are able to spot their mistakes and correct them, as well as having the ability to listen to and apply corrections. Dancers do not receive a lot of praise, something which we have to get used to and accept as part of the work that we do. It is vitally important not to get down about this, and also to not be overly harsh on yourself in your own self-critique. It is important to observe your work in a detached manner- this helps you to spot your mistakes better and to not get stressed out about them. When you receive a correction, or spot a mistake, try to see it as a chance to improve and better yourself as a dancer. Speak to yourself constructively, focusing on what you need to do, not on what you are doing wrong. Feel good in the knowledge that every time you do this, you are bringing yourself closer to your goals.
It’s not just about reducing negative thoughts- you also need to fill yourself with positive thoughts. Notice when you have improved, and be proud of yourself for it. Be mindful of your strengths. See every class, rehearsal or workout as an opportunity to better yourself, and get excited about that! Feel gratitude for your school, your teachers, your body and that fact that you get to do what you love! Let go of negative self-talk, and fears about not being good enough or not making it. Make room for the good thoughts and fill yourself up with them- you’ll find that you are more open to improvement, and you will feel better during class and in general.
Next, it is important to be clear about what you want. Sit down, take some time out, and think about it. Writing it down is a good way to get really clear- and be specific. Do you want to be a professional dancer? What rank? What company do you want to dance with? Do you want to get into a certain school or win a competition? Maybe you dream of being a teacher? Maybe you dance as a hobby but see yourself achieving a certain goal, such as fouettes en pointe. Whatever it is you want, write it down, get clear on it, and then think about it every day. Think of ways you can bring yourself closer to that goal. Once you know exactly what you want, it’s SO much easier finding a way to get there, and so much more believable for you too.
You don’t need to plan out every step in the journey; that’s not how life works. Just keep the end goal clear in your mind, and do whatever you can do today to bring yourself closer to that vision. Stay focused on it and do not allow worries and stresses to interfere with your determination to reach your goal. It’s okay to make slow progress, it’s okay to change your mind about what you want, and it’s okay to make mistakes, but make sure that you’re always moving in the right direction. Keep that image of what you want in the back of your mind always, like a painting hung on the inside of your skull! Let that guide you in all your choices.
The last, and possibly most powerful, aspect of mental training, is to visualise success! Take 5-10 minutes every single day to sit quietly on your own- you can do it first thing in the morning, or before bed- I do it at the start of my daily conditioning routine, as I consider it a vital exercise as much as any physical strengthening! Take a few deep breaths, feeling the tension leave your body. Then think about that idea of what you want to achieve- imagine what your life will be like once you have achieved it. Imagine yourself the way you want to be- take yourself through exercises that you’re finding difficult and imagine yourself doing them perfectly. Think in as much detail as possible about what you can hear, feel, smell, taste and see. While you’re doing this, feel the happiness and excitement that you will feel when you reach your goal. The more you do this, the more likely you are to achieve what you are imagining in real life. After I am done visualising, I spend a couple of minutes sending positive energy into any areas of my body that feel under stress or are causing me pain, and try to let that discomfort go. Your mind has a HUGE power over your body, and this is a good way to use that power to keep yourself healthy.
If you don’t already, incorporate mental training into your daily routine, and watch the difference in your dancing! You’ll feel better, and you’ll move faster towards your goals. Good luck!