It’s a New Year! Time to make those resolutions—or is it?

New Year’s resolutions…they are a waste of time and I don’t make them! Why? “Resolutions” made at a time when social pressure and an arbitrary date in the diary dictate that we “should” decide things, are doomed from the start. A controversial viewpoint, you may think? Well, let’s start with the facts:

  • Around 43% of people make New Year’s resolutions.
  • Of those, close to 4 in 10 have broken them by the end of January, while a further third only keep them up for six months.[1]

I have a theory as to why. First, New Year’s resolutions are made using our conscious mind—the logical front brain part—which, like a captain of a ship, sets the direction for the crew. I’ll come back to the crew in a moment.

Secondly, most of the time New Year’s resolutions are not actually goals. How many of us set New Year’s resolutions like, “I’ll go to the gym three times a week,” or “I’ll give up smoking” or “I’ll create a better work-life balance”? These are not goals.

Why not? A goal is an outcome, not the thing or action you do to get the outcome.  Sometimes the actions themselves may not excite us, but a great goal should! So ask yourself why do you want to go to the gym three times a week? What will stopping smoking really do for you? Getting the right higher level goal can be a powerful motivator and push you through the actions you’ll need to take in order to succeed.

In the example—“I’ll create a better work-life balance”—what does a “better work-life balance” mean, specifically? To increase your chances of success, goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) and positively stated (i.e. what you want, rather than what you don’t). They also need to have action plans that will help you achieve them. To increase your chances of success, you need to have the right number of goals—enough to excite you and few enough that you can channel your energy into each one you’ve set.

And here’s the fundamental, pivotal thing about setting successful goals: They need to be powerful and motivating enough that you are driven to overcome any obstacles that crop up on the way. Bob Proctor, international coach and motivational speaker, said, “Set a goal to achieve something that is so big, so exhilarating that it excites you and scares you at the same time. It must be a goal that is so appealing, so much in line with your spiritual core, that you can’t get it out of your mind. If you don’t get chills when you set a goal, you’re not setting big enough goals.”

His point about the spiritual core is critical—remember the captain and crew analogy?  Think of the crew as your spiritual core, your unconscious system. It needs to pull in the same direction as the captain for the boat to arrive at its destination. If the goal isn’t congruent with your core, the crew won’t work with you to achieve it.

The New Year’s resolutions that you set at five to midnight, or in the haze of the morning after the night before, will have been made without a genuine plan to achieve them and probably won’t be very compelling. Can you imagine a world class company like Microsoft or Apple setting goals on 31st December that they haven’t thought about and made a plan to achieve? That would just be another name for wishful thinking! Successful companies have to align their global resources to achieve their goals, and so do you, using the full resources of your mind and body.

But, it is good to set goals—the right ones. Research shows that people who clearly set goals or make resolutions are ten times more likely to achieve them than those who don’t explicitly make them.[2]

So, how can you check that the goals you’re setting are important enough? There are four great questions you can ask yourself, and it’s worth taking the time to go through all four, writing down your answers:

  1. What will happen if you do achieve this goal?
  2. What will happen if you don’t achieve this goal?
  3. What won’t happen if you do achieve this goal?
  4. What won’t happen if you don’t achieve this goal?

These questions will help you to map out the consequences of achieving or not achieving your goal, and with that knowledge you will get a sense of motivation and importance. If at the end of the exercise you’re not highly motivated to achieve your goal—it may be the wrong goal to set and you probably won’t take the required actions. Very quickly you could be beating yourself up for not doing something you were never fully aligned to do!

Having said all of that, this time of year is a good time for clearing and making room for new seeds to grow. It’s nature’s rest time—the leaves are gone, the fields lie empty, many animals hibernate—and in nature’s cycle, it’s an essential phase before new growth can come. For we humans, it’s a great time to do the “maintenance jobs” we have in our lives—the clearing out, the repairs, the “down time” we need to give us the energy for the growth phase. That could be physically clearing out the junk we’ve accumulated, finishing outstanding jobs, or maybe letting go of emotional baggage that’s been weighing us down. By clearing this stuff out, we make room for newness; we clear the soil for planting. We give ourselves a chance to grow even more vigorously towards our goals.

Nature works in a cycle of rest, rebirth, blooming, shedding and rest again. What makes us any different? How can you make room for growth in your life? What earth do you need to clear? And what seeds do you want to plant?

I’d encourage you to think beyond the coming year too. Some seeds take longer to grow than others and bring richer fruit and rewards that make the wait worthwhile. If we only focus on what we can harvest this year, we’ll be missing out.

What do you want to plant this year that will bring you fruit and reward in the years to come? Which areas of your life do you want to blossom more in the future? Whether it’s your career, relationships, personal development, hobbies or health, consider what it is you actually want and how you’ll know when you’ve got it. Take a few minutes to dream about achieving it—what you’ll see, hear, feel and say to yourself in that moment. Mental rehearsal is a powerful tool in motivating yourself. And flexing the mental muscles is a great way to get the captain and crew working well together.

Have I just talked myself into setting New Year’s resolutions after all?  Not quite, but I have paused for a moment to think about how I’m going to prepare the ground for success this year and beyond, and what seeds I’m going to select based on the flowers and fruit I really want to enjoy at the end of the growth season. And I know that choosing the right ones is critical to my commitment to take action and to increasing the possibility of fully achieving them.

So, good luck with choosing your resolutions, and enjoy the fruit of your labours when it comes!


Checklist for Setting & Achieving Successful Goals:

  • Choose the right ones and the right number to motivate you
  • Use the 4 powerful questions to help you decide
  • Imagine achieving them and align the captain and the crew towards the goal
  • Create your action plan
  • Identify potential obstacles and make a plan to overcome them
  • Identify the resources that could help you—that might include a coach to help keep you motivated and on track
  • Keep taking action
  • Enjoy and reward yourself for your success!


“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden.”   Johann Von Goeth, 1749 – 1832.  German poet and writer.


[1] Source: The Telegraph, 20th December 2008

[2] Source:  Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers, by John C. Norcross, Marci S. Mrykalo, Matthew D. Blagys, University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Volume 58, Issue 4 (2002).


What really happens at a DCD EVOLVE workshop?

Attending DCD’s EVOLVE workshop can be a really powerful experience, wherever you are in your dance career.

“You’re not alone in this transition – that is what EVOLVE is all about.” EVOLVE Participant

Meeting dancers from different backgrounds and at different stages, together you’ll hear the Transition Tales from one or two dancers who’ve moved on from their performance careers.  At times emotional, at others humorous, these tales paint very different pictures about the range of routes and approaches dancers take, and their diverse personal experiences of handling the transition.  You’ll get the chance to ask our guests questions too, to deepen your understanding and get fresh perspectives.

Just some of the themes we’ve identified in talks like this in the past have been:  joy; self determination; asking the question ‘Who Am I?’; fear; purpose; instincts; and connections.

And that’s just to start the session.

Most dancers are used to focusing on what they haven’t yet perfected, or what they need to do differently, rather than taking time and space to appraise themselves in a more positive light, and understanding both their strengths and transferable skills.

“It was a great moment to reflect.” EVOLVE Participant

With the expert facilitation of one our DCD coaches, in a confidential and safe space, we take a look back at your careers, personal lives and strengths – identifying some of your proudest moments and what those have taught you.  Our experience tells us that this can be a really powerful (and challenging) exercise for dancers, and can help form the foundations of future CVs and even self confidence.

For those who haven’t yet experienced the power of coaching, during the workshop there’s an opportunity to work individually on an area of your life that you’d like to move forward.  You can keep it 100% confidential, and yet still benefit from our coach’s powerful questions to get you thinking in new ways.

We share some tools and models that help you to understand a bit more about the emotions, reactions and mindsets that can occur during transition – and really importantly, we’ll show you how normal those are.   This is a real eye opening moment for many dancers during this session. Understanding ourselves better can really help navigate the change that’s coming or has even arrived.

You’ll make connections with other dancers and discover the mutual support available to you from them.

And you’ll leave having made a commitment to yourself about one step you can take to move forward.

“Incredible day surrounded by inspiring people, a great experience I will hold on to.” EVOLVE Participant

Some dancers attend EVOLVE more than once in their career or post performance career – life is always changing and evolving and it’s so useful to take time out to reflect, reset and then move forward again. So you’re welcome to come along whether you’re in your first professional job, nearing transition or even several years into a new career.

“All dancers at some stage must transition. It’s tough but DCD offers amazing support and EVOLVE is a fantastic day to realise your capabilities as a dancer and beyond!”  Iain Mackay, DCD supported dancer and former Birmingham Royal Ballet Principal dancer


Click here to register for our next EVOLVE workshop today!


Photo credit: DCD Supported Dancer Rebecca Le Brun @TalbotLeePhotography 

Four Key Questions to Consider in Your Career Transition

I meet many dancers who are at various places across the spectrum below with regard to their career transition:

All are great positions to be – from having no idea – where a myriad of possibilities are open for you to explore, to having some idea – meaning you can start testing out and exploring in more depth, to having so many ideas you don’t know which to choose – meaning you have a luxury of choice and can apply the next level of criteria (whether they be earning potential, speed of training or sheer fulfilment factor.)

I’d encourage every dancer, no matter where you are on this spectrum, to consider four key questions:

1.      What are you most passionate about in life?

2.      What are you particularly good at, or skilled in, beyond dance? Could be teaching, talking to people, understanding the science behind movement, or composing amazing camera shots, could be cooking nutritional foods.

3.      What does the world need, or need more of? From more abstract answers such as ‘compassion and patience’ or ‘fighters for justice’, or more job specific such as ‘great primary teachers’ you will have a view – and there are sites you can check to see which jobs/functions are massively in growth.

4.      What you can be paid for – now?

It can help to draw 4 overlapping circles to help you explore this, to get to the Japanese ‘sweet spot’of ikigai, which roughly translates as ‘reason for being,’ where all four areas intersect.

In a perfect world, we’d all find the sweet spot in the middle, and going through this process can help you to identify a number of different options for your future.

For more information, or help exploring your next steps, book an appointment with a DCD coach by emailing or find out more here.

More Than One True Calling

What’s your calling?  What have you been put on earth to do?  What are you passionate about?  For many, this question is a luxury, as we work various jobs to make ends meet, or fall into careers rather than actively choosing them.

For professional dancers, their dance career is the near-miraculous marriage between a passion, a calling and peak talent.  It becomes more than a career – instead, an identity, creating a specific challenge to overcome in the acceptance of the need for transition.

And not only that, in coaching professional dancers on their transition to new careers post performance, one of the things that strikes me is the common belief that, having only had one career to date, the same must be true post dancing: The belief and pressure to find the next one true career.

And it’s no surprise – in fact, we are trained to believe that we must choose just one thing from a very early age. Which, to me, creates a whole load of pressure to ‘get it right.’  And we start this training really early, as the TED talk ‘More than one true calling’ highlights.  As early as ages three or four, we ask children “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  (Incidentally, this is an early example of linking job with identity.)

So, as dancers come to consider and imagine their lives post performance, having dedicated between 20 and 25 years of their lives to this one career (combination of training and professional career), it can be really scary and pressurised to not only consider ‘what next’ but to imagine that there must just be one thing.

What if, instead, we encouraged children, teens, young adults and anyone going through a career transition, to think and talk about what interested them?  To reflect on what they enjoyed, and what about a specific activity or interaction or environment that they enjoyed?  Doing this recently with a coaching client, she generated a whole list of areas that interested her. Digging deeper, she was able to identify what made those things interesting – and in so doing, effectively created a list of criteria against which she could evaluate training or career options for the future.

And who says even then we can only do one thing?  As an independent facilitator and coach, I get my work and satisfaction from more than one source, whether that be my own private corporate, charity or individual clients; freelance work I do for larger companies; or work I do with partners like DCD (Dancers’ Career Development.)  Some areas generate more financial return than others, others more personal reward. Over time, I’ve managed to create more space for work I enjoy and gradually reduce the amount of work I do on projects that interest or inspire me less.

What if careers post performance could combine interest, passion and the reality of needing to earn a living?  Perhaps part time yoga/pilates teacher, ballet teacher and freelance dancer?  Or part time office job combined with independent personal training?  Or any manner of combinations that help to fulfil your desires and your pocket.   So few people have a job that satisfies every part of them in any case – so why not take a portfolio approach instead?

My job satisfies my professional interests, my need to contribute, some of my skillsets and (usually) my financial needs.  And I have needs outside those that I meet in other ways:  Social or activity groups to meet my need for a sense of belonging or community; friends that meet my need for closeness and being the 100% unguarded me, as well as my need for laughter and fun; courses and development that meet my constant need for learning & development (that may have nothing to do with my career intentions, for example my recent qualification in Indian Head Massage.) We are all more than our jobs.

In placing so much importance on finding the ‘one thing’ to do or be, I believe we limit ourselves and even cut ourselves off from the different facets of ourselves that make us fascinating human beings.  And – of course, if you do have a burning passion or calling and can do that – that’s great too.

My message:  There is no right or wrong way to do this. Explore every part of yourself and find a way to honour your many needs and interests.  Be unlimited.


Inspiration:  TED:  Emilie Wapnick: Why some of us don’t have one true calling, Oct 2015

Click here to watch.