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Updated: Apr 28, 2020


With most people learning how to navigate working from their home space after the lockdown measures put in place by the government, I thought I'd write this blog to encourage you to continue your artistic work at home and to also hopefully provide you with some inspiration in how to keep working and improving your craft during this unbelievable time.


Whether you are a student, recent graduate, working professional, or teacher, productivity at home and during this time, in particular, can be extremely challenging. I've put together my list of what I believe to be useful ways of working from home based on research, interviews, and my own experience in the past with working from home. While performing in London's West End over the last several years, I have developed curriculums, launched a business, been a motivational speaker, and completed an MA from home. I have not always done it well, and with the most grace and sense of balance, but I offer you some description of my own experience. Hopefully, you will find it helpful.


Firstly, I understand that most of us may be experiencing anxiety and confusion during this time. We can move forward by taking care of ourselves and by accepting our own emotions. Reach out to others through text, messages, FaceTime, or phone calls if necessary. Research shows that social exclusion can leave one feeling without purpose or that life is losing meaning. Look at the positives, and then take action. We can confront the anxiety that we are feeling and move past our pervading sense of loss


To improve productivity at home, create a morning routine.


HYDRATE


When you wake up, drink a tall glass of water to hydrate yourself. Drink water at every break throughout your day to maintain levels of energy.


MEDITATE


Deep breathing exercises, and light movement or stretching to wake up the body will help with your energy and has effects with keeping you focused for the rest of the day. I suggest downloading the Wim Hoff app for some cool breathing exercises, physical actions to reset the nervous system. Try the cold shower challenge. Cold showers have many physiological benefits.


JOURNAL


In my morning routine, I set up my mindset for the day by journaling the answers to the following questions with a nice cup of coffee.


1. What is something I can get excited about today?


Finding something to get excited about sets your brain toward future positives rather than the automatic habit of our negativity bias or considering all the things that are wrong with a situation.


2. How do I want to show up today?


What are the feelings that I want to have today? Do I want to be at peace? Do I want to feel joy, excitement, or committed to some particular task? By asking this question, we become deliberate about setting our emotional intention, and we start to bend our will toward an intentional mindset.


3. What are the top 3 goals/tasks that I need to do today?


Becoming clear about how you want to spend your day and what you need or want to achieve gives us a sense of purpose and this sense of purpose helps us to take action.


4. What are the possible obstacles or hurdles that I need to be aware of today, and how can I handle or overcome these challenges?


By acknowledging potential challenges, we are not thrown off so much emotionally if/ and when they happen. We are better prepared to meet these challenges and continue completion of tasks for the day instead of becoming distracted and losing momentum and motivation.


READING


Read about someone or something that inspires you or gets you excited about your work for the day. By doing this, you are setting your focus toward the positive and establishing a mental framework. The beauty of reading is the learning we gain from any master that you like. Imagine Uta Hagen, Merryl Streep, Bill Gates, Stanislavski, Meisner, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandella, or any other great teacher coming into your home and sitting with you for a morning chat before your workday. This is the power of reading. Make it a habit and continue to do it throughout your professional career. I make sure to read for at least 20 minutes or more.


A positive about during lockdown is that I can read for much longer if I like it because I have a little more time. A morning routine will help you toward daily progress in the work that you do by establishing a routine that sets you up for good working habits.


The Work


"Let us choose the strenuous life, taking pride and finding honour in our struggles and our contributions. We will not fear the exhaustion and anxieties that magnificent dreams and unceasing hard work can bring. We will keep a joyous heart even as we toil, for our toils bring us toward that which we find meaningful. Let us make ours a higher cause than comfort, a greater call than mediocrity. We have duties to complete, initiatives to begin, battles to fight, real victories to celebrate. And so forward we go with strength and fire."

- Brendon Burchard, Motivation Manifesto


I used to do work for a reward. Everything that I did for anyone related to work was about seeking approval, recognition, or praise for it. This worked well for me as a young student, because my passion for hard work meant that I was able to excel and achieve in academia and in pretty much any activity I put my mind to do. However, as I began a profession in musical theatre, an industry so rife with rejection and competition, I realised that I would never receive enough recognition and approval to make me happy. Even when the support comes, the satisfaction from it is fleeting. Emotions are temporary, and the feeling of excitement from compliments and the approval of others will never be enough to inject you with the kind of grit and determination that it takes to succeed in the musical theatre industry.


Real breakthrough happens when we can get involved in the work for the enjoyment of it. When you begin to grow the skills that are necessary for your primary field of interest, and you commit to the work for the sheer engagement involved in that task, you will begin to develop the quality of work that is necessary to become a master and a high performer in your area of interest. Anytime that you start your work session, or even think about your work, you need to have clarity around what it is you want to achieve. You can do this by setting the intentions and goals of the work that you do. For example, "At the end of this work session, I will know the lyrics to this song, or I will remember the melody to this song. I will feel clear about my actions and objectives in this particular scene….etc.


As you go about the rest of your work during the day, make sure to focus on the task and commit fully to the process of whatever it is you are doing. I suggest using the Pomodoro technique of alternating 45-minute intense intervals, and then taking a break and coming back to the material at another time or after a small 10 break.


Turn off your phone, and get rid of all distractions. Sometimes I've had to hire out a dance studio or a practice room for this, but since this is not possible, it may be necessary for you to have conversations with your family members, housemates or whomever it is that you live with so that you can avoid interruptions. When you do take a break, repeat deep breathing exercises, do some light movement or stretching and then go back into another intense 45-minute session. Make sure to release the negativity, stress, and whatever emotions associated with the work session by turning on light music or concentrating on your breath.


You may simply want to repeat the mantra 'release'. I used to turn on an interlude song of India Arie's that states in the lyrics "I release all disappointment from my mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional bodies. 'cause I know that spirit guides me, and love lives inside of me. That's why I take each day as it comes."


It doesn't matter what you do, really to release as long as it clears your head and you feel set up to begin sessions again when once your break is complete.



As a musical theatre performer right now, we have the benefit of all kinds of free dance classes, online modules, training sessions, and discussions as performers, teachers, and creators take to Instagram to provide value, stay relevant, and influence the industry.

You can take advantage of this time by setting up a work plan for yourself and even a training regimen so that you feel ready and equipped once the strict measures for lockdown are lessened. Why not set up a daily routine of dance, singing, and acting exercises from all of the free offerings and content available on the different social media platforms? Or perhaps you may simply want to take action on a creative project that you've been putting off. Whatever it is is you are working on, full engagement in the task at hand requires skill and focus. But with practice, you can learn to have intense, productive sessions in the comfort of your own home.


Do the work in any situation that engenders fear and continue the work with present moment awareness and great care.


This is how we bring quality to what we do. Bringing present moment awareness to our work sessions gives our work the quality that brings value and excellence to what we are offering. The art that we provide has the potential to heal. The quality of our work reverberates out into the Universe in ways our minds don't fully comprehend.


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THE ABC’S OF CREATING BOTH HIGH QUALITY AND HIGH QUANTITY OF MOTIVATION

Young people enter the performing arts classroom for a number of reasons including fitness and health benefits, enjoyment, escapism, connection/community, creativity, growth, and other emotional and psychological benefits. However, some research shows that many learners find the training stressful and dread making a mistake in performance. Other performers have diminished feelings of low self-worth as they compare themselves to others and believe that being the best rather than doing their best is what matters.


What is the motivational climate in your classroom? In other words, what are you doing or saying, and does it follow a philosophy, vision, trajectory that helps keep your training and social environment clear to everyone? Creating an empowering climate in the classroom will encourage the following:


1. Confidence and self-esteem

2. Appreciation of and for the arts

3. Ability to work as, and enjoy being a part of a team

4. Respect for others

5. A higher level of cognitive functioning important in problem-solving


This blog provides some information on how performing arts teachers can effectively optimize the climate and enhance the quality of young performers’ motivation in order to promote a healthier learning experience in the classroom. As a teacher, it is important that we are effective as we set out or follow a vision and inspire the importance of that vision within our students. Through communication, motivation, and guidance we can empower our students in performing arts success.


Motivation


The quantity and the quality of motivation are important in helping maintain a mind-set around the learning experience that inspires and empowers students. Differences in motivation are reflected by how learners behave, think, and feel in the performing arts classroom.


Quantity


If the learner seems to perform well and seems engaged we might think that this learner has HIGH Motivation based on our observation. However, this is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. High-performance levels right now cannot inform us if performing is truly beneficial to the learners’ sense of “self-worth” and overall well-being. Therefore, we must also consider the quality of motivation of the learner.


Quality


Intrinsic motivation is when the learner is participating because they themselves enjoy performing. But if they are being compelled by outside forces, then this is extrinsic motivation. With extrinsic motivation, even if the student is a high-performing student, there is still the possibility that they may have low self-esteem. In this case, the learner may be in high-performance, because the student feels guilty for not participating.


The A,B,C's of CREATING BOTH HIGH QUALITY AND HIGH QUANTITY OF MOTIVATION


A = Autonomy


You can give learners a voice and a choice in the performing arts classroom. For example, most of my classes include a creative collaboration element where learners are given tasks work out with other dancers in the classroom. Also, you can ask learners to pick between exercises so they feel they have some choice and say in certain aspects of their training.


B = Belonging


No one likes to feel alone and isolate, and connection helps to give a sense of meaning and safety so that young performers feel safe enough to allow their special qualities to bloom and flourish. It is important that no matter the learners’ ability, they believe they matter. Intrinsic motivation is more likely when we have a sense of belonging, and if we feel we are part of a team that works well together our sense of self-worth will improve as a person regardless of our performance in the classroom.


C = Competence

Competence refers to the ability of the performer to meet the demands of a task, skill, or performance situation.


Two Ways to think of Competence


1. Task Focus


Task focused learners are likely to try their best and feel good about performances whether they themselves feel confident or not. This is because in spite of obstacles or challenges, the focus is not on the external.

  • Self-referred

  • Success based on personal improvement and mastery

  • Trying hard is important ( remember growth-mindset? )

  • Trying hard is important for improving? How can I get better?


2. Superiority Focus/ Ego Focused


Superiority Focused dancers have high motivation extrinsically (externally), but they may be fragile and dependent upon outside circumstances. Thus their motivation has not much to do with themselves but how they are being judged.


  • Competence other-referenced - (focused on others)

  • Success entails out-doing others, showing superiority

  • Being the best is important

  • How are others doing? Am I good enough? How can I not look bad?


By using certain teaching strategies, you can ensure that young performing arts students will feel empowered. Learners will feel they have a choice if their voice is heard. Belongingness will be created if students feel they are respected and connected as a relevant member of a group. They will feel confident and competent when their effort is acknowledged and embraced without having to seek the approval of others. By maintaining open communicating between the learner, instructors, parents, and engaging in the community, we can help to enhance the quality of motivation in order to promote a healthier learning experience for all in the performing arts classroom.


Seven Strategies for Creating an Empowered Climate for Your Students


Cooperative Contribution


Learning emphasised


Intrinsic Focus


Mastery orientated


Authority with autonomy


Taking others’ perspective


Evaluation (of effort and improvement)

1. Cooperative contribution

  • Learners work together to help each other improve together

  • All learners believe they contribute.

WHAT DO TEACHERS DO?

  • BUILD TEAMWORK PRACTICES INTO THE CLASS

  • MAKE SURE PERFORMERS FEEL THAT THEY HAVE CONTRIBUTED

Teacher: “Hey, everyone, let’s get together and give feedback to one another so that we can help our teammates get better!”


Teacher: “What do we think we did well this rehearsal?


2. Learning emphasised

  • Learning and improvement are constantly emphasised even after success and failure

  • Teachers ask dancers – What went wrong and what could be better? – HOW

  • How can temporary setbacks be turned into positives for the future

WHAT DO TEACHERS DO?

  • REVIEW LEARNING POINTS

  • ENCOURAGE THE TRYING OUT OF NEW SKILLS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE

Teacher: “Let’s review today’s lesson. What are two things that you remember about today’s lesson?


Teacher: “What went well for you? How do you think we can improve?”


3. Intrinsic Focus

  • Class activities can be challenging and fun and promote the innate ability for enjoyment

  • All students enjoy creativity, solving problems and humour

  • Use rewards sparingly

WHAT DO WE DO?

  • ASK THE PERFORMERS TO CONSIDER WHAT THEY CAN DO TO BE THEIR BEST.

4. Mastery orientated

  • All performers have the chance to feel successful when we support ‘doing our best’

  • Teachers can work with dancers to set individual improvement goals for specific classes.

WHAT DO WE DO?

  • BRING UP TOPICS ABOUT THE ENJOYMENT OF DANCE.

Teacher: “Did you have fun today? What did you enjoy?


5. Authority with autonomy

  • Dancers encouraged to make decisions and to have input

  • Dancers are provided with meaningful choices

  • Teachers provide a rationale (reasons) for their requests.

WHAT DO WE DO?

  • INVOLVE THE STUDENTS IN THE LEARNING.

  • CREATE ACTIVITIES FOR THIS, AND DON’T BE AFRAID OF OPEN DISCUSSION (One Dance UK, 2016).

Teacher: “We all know what we have to achieve by assessment time. What do you all think we could do today to progress us toward our goals?


Teacher: “Who can give me some ideas to make sure we all have some input today?”


6. Taking others’ perspective

  • Acknowledge students' feelings and views

  • Encourage young performers to see their classmates perspectives also

  • Recognise that the learners are not performing robots but humans with thoughts, feelings emotions

  • The performers' worth is not equated to class or stage performance (Duda & Quested, 2014).

WHAT DO TEACHERS DO?

  • HAVE CONVERSATIONS WITH STUDENTS THAT DOES NOT CENTER AROUND PERFORMANCE.

  • TAKE A MOMENT TO ENGAGE WITH THE PERSON INSTEAD OF THE STUDENT SINGER, DANCER, OR ACTOR. GET SOME PERSPECTIVE (Sanchez, 2017).

Teacher: “How do you think he/she felt when they made a mistake? What can we do to make them feel better or help them?”


Teacher: “I know the audition can be scary, and sometimes our performance doesn’t go as planned. What can I do to help you when this happens?

7. Evaluation (of effort and improvement)

  • Teachers’ feedback is primarily tied to “task-focused” goals an individual’s own effort

  • Encourager performers’ own self-evaluation of their own performance

WHAT WE COULD DO

  • ENCOURAGE SELF REFLECTION AND EVALUATION

Teachers: “How do you believe you have improved over the last few weeks? What do you really want to work in the next class that will help you improve from today?

The performing arts classroom should be a place where all ages shapes and sizes learn to dance, sing, and perform. And where courage, creativity, self-expression, and communication are encouraged. Remember, it is the teaching values, beliefs and standard of behaviours that guide our teaching practice. This climate develops you as a leader and impacts students’ motivation. By creating a more empowered climate in a class where intrinsic motivation is high, all levels and abilities of performances will improve. The talented performers in your class will have a greater chance of developing their own talent and continuing when training is complete to move to excellence. Those with less ability will be able to maximise on the skills they have and realise other healthy aspects and abilities they have gained from their performing arts training.


References for further reading:


Bates, B., 2016. Learning Theories Simplified...and how to apply them to teaching. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.


Cohn, D. P., 1996-2017. Self Esteem in the Performance Arts. [Online] Available at: http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Cohn1.html [Accessed 25 12 2018].


One Dance UK, 2016. Dance Teaching and Learning: Shaping Practice. 3rd ed. s.l.:One Dance UK.


Quested, E. & Duda, J. L. (2010). Exploring the Social-Environmental Determinants of Well-and-Ill-Being in Dancers A Test of Basic Needs Theory.


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Motivation is normally based upon the desire to acquire more of something new and then to use that in the future to bring deeper happiness and contentment and pleasure.

Motivation comes after inspiration, especially when it is intrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within. With intrinsic motivation you will be compelled to stay on the road to success longer. Commitment to the journey is easier to endure when the reason you are committed is known deep within you.


There will be people and external things on your path who play an active part in your growth and evolution by directly affecting your motivation. Sometimes they will give you the motivation that you need. In this case, the motivation is extrinsic or from outside of you. You do not want to rely too heavily on extrinsic motivation, because the world we live in is temporal. Expectation of motivation from outside sources will eventually cause you to be upset, because change, is the Universes mechanism for our highest evolution. The only constant sources of motivation will remain from within you.


Sometimes on our journey toward achieving our dreams, we may lack the inspiration, because it may no longer be present in this moment. You will need to make a decision, either rationally, or by renewing some sense or spark of inspiration to develop the motivation you need - either to the same goal or to take a different path. Whichever bend in the road you take will be for your highest good. You determine the life you lead.


If your reason for choosing that path comes from within you, you will far better understand the guidance, help, and healing, for your evolution and creation. You have a choice, and to know that you have a choice is extremely valuable for you when considering your level of motivation. This is autonomy, or independence. You have helped to decide your life’s curriculum, and in deciding the curriculum you will eventually come to comprehensively understand the learning aims.


When you accept responsibility for the choices you make, then you will begin to understand experience what it takes to be successful. Your rational mind and emotions may not fully understand what is happening as your life changes and will seem to actively fight against it. This is what is meant when people say, “We are afraid of success,” or “Change is hard.” You must remember the habit that we humans have to resist with our minds the change that is necessary for our personal growth.


We must understand the autonomy that we have in guiding and directing ourselves on the path to success. When our motivation is intrinsic and we understand our choice in the process, we begin taking risks. We can actively seek out those opportunities our minds and emotions will inaccurately perceive to be detrimental or destructive. We will happily and joyfully jump at chances that previously we were fearful of, and in enjoying those experiences that seem to lack comfortability, we will no longer allow fear to stop us from accepting those opportunities that are most beneficial for our growth.


Jump head first into those situations you fear. In becoming acquainted with growth we reverse the habit of actively seeking out comfortability resulting from fear, and instead we actively seek out those opportunities to overcome our ego’s fears. This is where the ‘magic’ happens. This is when we begin to know success.



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