Start, stop, continue.
Over the years, I have tried many sports psychology and self-development exercises and tools for improving our dancing intentionally. Some of these tools didn’t have much effect, yet others provided such an important insight that I still, to this day, use them.
One of these exercises is “The start, stop, continue” list.
Simply put, all you need to do is write three lists on a piece of paper under the categories of “start”, “stop” and “continue”. It is incredible how much knowledge we hold in our minds, and this exercise allows us to reflect and evaluate our current practices and habits. Probably one of the most powerful things we can all do is to (slowly) eliminate our bad habits and replace them with new, better habits. This list will help you do exactly that.
Begin this exercise by writing down things which you would benefit from doing. Things, which if you did them – most likely on a regular basis – your dancing would inevitably improve. In other words, things which you can start to implement into your dance journey. Examples of this could be a weekly meet up with your partner planning the upcoming week’s practice sessions, committing to a stamina practice every Thursday, arriving at the competition at least one hour before the start time of the first round etc. At this stage, you should not limit yourself and simply brainstorm all the various things you could do which would result in a better performance.
This list will now function as the exact opposition to the previous list. Now, you want to write down all the things that you should stop doing. The things, which you know is slowing down your improvement and you would be a better dancer if you could eliminate these actions. An example of this could be to stop arriving at your dance practice when it is scheduled to start meaning you are wasting the first minutes changing clothes and warming up – something which you could easily have done prior to the start time of the practice.
This list is actually my favourite and one which is often neglected. What is currently working? This is very important to know as we all do things already which are serving us well. Writing them down and giving them deserved attention can help you highlight what you need to continue to do. Again, to provide some examples this could be continuing to have a healthy snack with you for practice sessions or scheduling a lesson with your teacher a few days after a comp for evaluation and new guidance.
I am sure by now you can see how important this exercise can be and how much value it can provide. All you need is a pen and paper!
From my own experience, there are a few aspects that can help you:
Write down at least 10 items in each category. If you limit yourself to only 3 for example, it will not create the same brainstorming experience as writing down more items. The brain needs a few items jotted down before it starts to get creative.
Sometimes, I prefer to write the list in order of start, stop and continue, yet other times I scatter around the list. Meaning, I write down things in any category when it comes to mind and in any order.
You can write these lists as a couple, but I personally prefer to write it down individually and then share and compare with your partner.
Once you have brain dumped and written a nice list under each of the categories, it is now time to prioritise. As much as it would be wonderful to eliminate all the items on your “stop list” from that moment, it is highly unlikely and unrealistic. What you need to do now, is to highlight just one item within each of the categories to focus on. One item from the start list, one item from the stop list and one item from the continue list. Now, I’m not suggesting you should throw away the paper and forget all the other items – but you need to start with one from each category. At a later date, you can then select another 3 items to attack.
Therefore, I only do this exercise 3-4 times a year as it provides me with so much information and insight - I do need time to implement it. I promise you this is time well spent and you will be amazed of how much information you are storing in your mind!
Over to you. Take some time (soon!) to try this exercise and please comment on this blog post if it benefitted you, and share anything you may have learnt. We always enjoy reading your feedback and comments.