How To Cultivate And Keep A Winning Mindset


Your big moment has arrived; you step inside the studio for the biggest audition of your life… you’re warmed up and ready…

if only you could make your hands stop shaking and remember how to breathe.

Make no mistake, going for your dreams requires bravery– lots of it– whether you’re attending a cattle call audition, making a video to wow that top dance company in Europe, or picking up the phone to ask if you can take company class. Stepping out of your comfort zone can feel like taking a leap off into the dark. Whether you realize it or not, your thoughts and attitude make the critical difference between failing or flying.


"Champion" by Gordon is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0 [cropping, text added]

“Champion” by Gordon is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0 [cropping, text added]

Here’s how to cultivate and keep a dancer’s most important tool–a winning mindset–so you’re at your best every time.


Clarify your vision

When you activate your imagination and visualize your success, you’re onto one of the best-kept secrets of Olympic athletes and high-level sports coaches. Visualization is the first step to creating anything, so it’s the first thing we need to implement. If you think about it, anything that exists began as an idea first, whether it’s the chair you’re sitting on, the clothes you’re wearing or the transportation you use to get around.

Take a moment to close your eyes and clarify your vision.

Consider these questions: What does it feel like to live your dream? What do you see yourself doing? Where are you? Who are you with? Sketch in the details until the vision comes alive in your mind.

Once you get a clear picture in your mind, take a few minutes each day to revisit your vision, either just before you go to sleep or first thing in the morning.


Create affirmations

To affirm something means to declare it’s true. Affirmations are positive statements you repeat to yourself in order to impress them in your mind.  They are written in the present tense, as if they are already happening, using simple language that is easy to remember and repeat. For example: I bring my best effort to all that I do.

Write your affirmations down (get creative–make them artsy!) and post them where you can see them first thing (the bathroom mirror is a good choice), and throughout the day. Keeping your mind filled with positive thoughts is powerful; tell yourself something often enough and it becomes a belief.


Focus on your process

When you’re in the middle of an audition it’s easy to get distracted. Being thrown in a room with a bunch of strangers is disorienting and uncomfortable by definition! You may wonder who has better turns, or the highest jumps, or how your extensions compare. But every time you fall into the trap of comparison you get pulled from your process. When your focus wanders, you’re no longer paying attention to what you’re doing…which means you aren’t giving your best effort.

Keep our your attention on what you are doing and nothing else. No distractions, no comparisons.

Instead of watching other dancers when you’re not dancing, use the time to go over the choreography, repeat affirmations, or take a moment to visualize yourself doing the combination perfectly.


Positive thinking

During an audition it’s understandable to wonder about what others are thinking, particularly the people who have the final say in whether or not you’re chosen. You might catch yourself thinking things like,”They’re not paying attention to me. They hate me. I’ll never get picked.” But it’s impossible to know what others are thinking, and while you can’t control outer circumstances, you are in control of your thoughts.

Remember, the thoughts that flicker through your mind will either be helpful or hurtful, so strive to keep your thoughts positive.

If you catch yourself slipping down the rabbit hole of negative thoughts, take a moment to silently repeat your favorite affirmation or flip the offending thought on its head and think about what you want to happen instead of what you don’t.



Let yourself shine

Even though auditions are nerve-wracking, you never know which one is going to be the one that could change your life. Don’t you owe it to yourself to dance your very best and enjoy the moment?

Instead of worrying, think instead about how you can fly, then spread your wings and go for it! Smile, have fun and be yourself.

You’re out there doing it, taking the next big step to live the life you dream about. It can be uncomfortable not knowing what will happen…will they hire me or will they hate me? No matter what the outcome may be, a winning mindset guarantees you’ll be at your best. Put these tools into action and take your first leap toward success today.



Grier Cooper

Grier Cooper

Grier Cooper left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet. She’s performed with San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and many others, totaling more than thirty years of experience as a dancer, teacher and performer. She blogs about dance and has interviewed and photographed a diverse collection dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of the Indigo Ballet Series ballet novels for young adults. Visit Grier at

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