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How Can Healthy Motivation Be Nurtured? An Intrapersonal Perspective

This is an excerpt from Essentials of Dance Psychology With HKPropel Access by Sanna Nordin-Bates.

­Because of the variety of benefits associated with healthy motivation, it becomes impor­tant to understand how such motivation can be nurtured in dance contexts. In the following sections, healthy motivation is considered to be task involved and self-­determined, with separate sections used for each to remain clear about their theoretical homes in AGT and SDT, respectively. That said, ­these theoretical approaches (and their associated recommendations) are fully compatible; for instance, being strongly task involved allows dancers to have their basic psychological needs satisfied more often and more fully. The following sections focus only on intrapersonal strategies; interpersonal influences (especially how teachers can nurture healthy motivation among their dancers) are considered comprehensively in chapter 11.

Nurturing One’s Own Task Involvement
Being task oriented is fundamentally about interpreting personal improvement as success and therefore focusing on self-­referenced learning, effort, and collaboration. ­Because goal orientations are conceptualized as relatively stable, however, it makes more sense to try to nurture one’s task involvement rather than one’s task orientation. However, repeated positive experiences with being task involved over time should also nurture a task orientation. Key recommendations in this regard are the following:

Set clear goals to work ­toward, ensuring that they are personally meaningful and individually referenced; that is, they should represent improvements in your own previous skill level rather than comparisons to the skills of ­others (for more about goal setting, see chapter 9).

Focus on what you need to do during class. If you get distracted by your fellow dancers’ abilities, ­gently redirect your focus to the task at hand. If this is difficult, try asking the teacher for specific artistic or technical details to work with.

Take pride in your individual pro­gress, regardless of what ­others in your class may be ­doing or accomplishing. Pro­gress is key!

See ­others as inspiration rather than threat. What they are capable of says nothing about what you can or cannot do, but if you stay curious and positive you may learn something.

Be friendly and collaborative. Helping each other learn is of mutual benefit!

Nurturing One’s Own Self-­Determined Motivation
Most academic work into how self-­determination can be nurtured has been concerned with teachers, coaches, or other authority figures. Yet dancers can, of course, be proactive individuals in their own right and work to support their own basic psychological needs. This is explored in some detail in the Get Practical exercise in form 5.1 but the following are some key suggestions for bolstering one’s own basic need satisfaction:

Support your own autonomy. First, ensure that your primary reason for dancing is ­because you want to dance rather than dancing to satisfy someone ­else. The more self-­aware you are, the more able you ­will be to identify what you truly want (i.e., your own goals and values) and gradually choose or structure your dance training in that direction. Try to make your journey (i.e., long-­term goals) and daily tasks (i.e., short-­term goals) as personally meaningful and in­ter­est­ing as pos­si­ble.

Support your own competence. To feel competent, it is helpful to stay focused on your own pro­cess and pro­gress (i.e., task involvement). Keep in mind that it is a teacher’s job to help you improve, so seek their feedback if it is not forthcoming. But do not rely just on teachers; also trust your own sensations and any other sources of input you can access. Dance at your own level without avoidance (hiding) or trying to prove anything to ­others. This may involve adapting exercises so that they actually suit your body.

Support your own relatedness. Stay mindful of the fact that every­one you meet in dance is a ­human first and a dancer/teacher second. Stay open and friendly and support one another. Seek and value collaboration and other interactive experiences; dance is, in many ways, a team sport. Fi­nally, remember to talk to your fellow dancers not just about dance but about life in general.

More Excerpts From Essentials of Dance Psychology With HKPropel Access