How To Set Challenging But Realistic Oireachtas Goals

Article featured in Diddlyi Magazine.
11.09.11

Western US Region Irish Dance Oireachtas 2010

An Oireachtas is different from a Feis. Dancers who win in open championships can come home without even a recall when they compete at an Oireachtas. Other times, preliminary championship dancers can beat open championship dancers. It’s extremely hard to predict where you are going to place when there are so many dancers competing against you. Since an Oireachtas covers an entire region, you are likely to have anywhere from 50 to 200 dancers in your competition alone. It’s hard to know who’s been working the hardest, who wins all the time and who doesn’t until you actually compete against each other.

How can you possibly know where you rank with so much competition? More importantly, how can you set a goal to win 1st place when you really don’t know who you’re up against? I may not be the most experienced dancer in the world, but I do know that setting a goal to win 1st place at an Oireachtas is pretty foolish. It’s true there are dancers who win Oireachtas competitions all the time and perhaps 1st place is a realistic goal for them. But for most of us, planning to win is just asking for disappointment. Yes you work hard, you can even be the finest dancer at your school, but if you head to the Oireachtas expecting to win and then receive 25th place, you’ll walk away from the competition feeling like a failure. You might even question your ability to Irish dance, thinking all your practice was for nothing since you worked so hard to win.

So the real question you should ask yourself is: what is the difference between a healthy, challenging, realistic goal and an unrealistic goal? It’s quite simple, really. An unrealistic goal is based almost entirely on luck since what you wish for is 90% in the control of someone else’s actions. In this case, the judges decision and the performance of the other dancers is something you cannot control. If you set a goal to win and then it doesn’t happen, there are a lot of people to blame besides yourself. If you fail, you’ll probably spend the entire flight home trying to figure out who is to blame for your failure. That’s why it’s so important to set realistic goals instead of unrealistic ones.

A realistic goal is one that pushes you to the limit, yet in order to accomplish it, no action from anyone else is required. There’s only so much you can control when you can compete. Understanding that is key when setting a goal for the Oireachtas. You can perform your absolute best, but you can’t control what marks the judges decide to give you or how well the other competitors dance.

Instead of setting a goal to win or recall, I suggest focusing on a realistic goal. For example: setting a goal to practice 5 times a week until the Oireachtas so you’re sure when you get on stage you’re ready to give your absolute best. A goal like that is challenging, but the ability to accomplish it is entirely within your control. Unless you skip practice sessions, you WILL reach your goal and whether you win or not, you will go home happy. A goal like that also provides daily stepping stones that help you to enjoy regular success.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s foolish to HOPE that you will win. Every Irish dancer should hope for the best. Just because you’re setting a goal to do your best rather than setting a goal to win, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t WANT to win! Your goal simply gives you a chance to reach your full potential, something that is necessary to win that trophy. Even if you never place, at least you know you gave your absolute best. You can leave the Oireachtas with no regrets and a smile on your face because you never gave up.

So this Oireachtas, set a goal that pushes you hard, yet is within your reach. There’s no need to wish you had control over what the judges decide. If you set a goal that you can accomplish on your own, it won’t matter what the judges have to say. You’ll go home happy, knowing you’re a better dancer than you’ve ever been before. That’s why we set goals in the first place; not to win, but simply to become better Irish dancers.

What is your goal for the Oireachtas this year?

Article written by Shelly Allen
Photo by Shelly Allen Photography

TAGS: accomplishment, adjudicator, canadian, challenge, challenging, championship, compete, competition, dance, dancer, eastern, failure, feis, foolish, goals, hope, impress, improvement, Irish, judge, lose, motivation, Oireachtas, Open, points, potential, prliminariy, realist. hard, realistic, Region, southern, success, trophy, unrealistic, Western, win, winner, wish, work

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