Photo by Bruce Aoki
I have to admit that I am someone that can lose motivation when I lack inspiration. While it might not always show, because I am also extremely determined and goal-oriented, I notice a difference in myself when I work from a place of inspiration and joy rather than out of pure commitment. The truth is, we are all going to find ourselves in that place of discouragement, where we kind of take a step back and ask ourselves: “Why am I doing this? Do I really love what I do?”. While I think those times can be an important catalyst for introspection and reevaluation, there are a few proactive steps that I sometimes like to take.
If inspiration is lacking in one job or project, try a side outlet or grow a hobby. Learning a new skill or working towards my degree was always an important way for me to experience success and fulfillment outside of ballet. I cannot express enough how important it can be for dancers to find another outlet for creativity and passion. For me, baking, hosting dinner parties, writing, hiking, enjoying an evening with friends, pursuing education, and working on strength in the gym have all been important avenues of personal growth that boosted my confidence as an individual and grew my skill set that I could then bring into the studio. That sense of accomplishment or excitement in other areas of your life can provide a spark to keep going during a long rehearsal day in the back of a studio.
Sometimes changes in your routine, big or small, can help get you out of a rut. It allows you to take notice of what is going on around you and helps you to shift your focus outward . There is something to say about finding a routine that works, but even those routines can become stale after a while as we grow and change as individuals. Changes as small as trying a new recipe or cutting your hair differently or even changes as big as moving to another city or starting a new side hustle can bring a breath of fresh air. Take yourself to a new coffee shop, try that new ingredient that caught your eye at the grocery store, walk a different way to work, pop into that new workout class that piqued your interest! The options for change are limitless.
Treat yourself! This is huge if you are someone like me who can be hard on yourself for not feeling inspired and motivated. Approach this place of discontentment with kindness and compassion toward yourself, knowing that it is natural to have fluctuating feeling and different levels of enthusiasm. Instead of beating yourself up with the “I should be”s and guilting yourself into trying harder, stop, and do something that will nourish you as a person. This doesn’t have to involve spending money. You can read a book, light a candle, meditate, take a bath, do a homemade face mask, make yourself dinner, look through old pictures, self-massage, call a friend. This can what truly whatever your heart desires.
Take time to step away. This one is difficult because it sometimes makes us face the reality of something we have been ignoring for a while. Taking a break can allow you to come back with a fresh perspective, new inspiration, and a rekindled love for what you do. But, it can also bring clarity that it’s time to go a different route for a while. My path with ballet has never been straight forward. I have taken breaks that were forced on me because of injuries, but I have also taken time to step away and try out a new career because at the time that was best for my well being. On paper, it can sound easy, but it is SO DIFFICULT to step away from the thing that you have known and loved your entire life. Taking time off can bring up emotions from going into the unknown, feelings of inadequacy, and even a sense of loss for who you think you are, but it can also unlock freedom to pursue other parts of yourself. If I would not have listened to my intuition to take time off from ballet, I would not be who I am today.
Now, let’s talk about what happens if these feelings are persistent. Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings about it, which can help you look back and see if there are any patterns in emotions. Sometimes, a decision of change can become obvious. Realize that it is okay to be exactly where you are. Give yourself permission to just be in that space and recognize that you don’t have to have a five-step plan of action. Know that it is normal to go through periods of intense motivation and inspiration, followed by periods of just feeling kind of meh. As dancers, we think that we have to be at 110% capacity all the time, that we are only allowed to make progress. In reality, there are going to be times of stagnation and even degression, and that is okay. Lastly, give yourself a deadline to reevaluate where you are. Make a few small changes and then give yourself a few months, or whatever timeline you choose, to see if anything has shifted. If nothing has progressed, head back to the drawing board.