Getting prepped for competition requires an intense amount of work, commitment, emotion, time and energy, and when it is all over, whether or not you achieve your goal, there can be a profound sense of “let down”. It is important to recognize and deal productively with this “let down” as it can reflect in individual and group apathy, drained energy, loss of focus, lack of motivation and uncertainty about the future. For the director, these “post-contest” symptoms may be further amplified by a feeling of responsibility both for what happened on the contest stage and for how the group is feeling.
Three Stages of Post-Contest Recovery
Stage One: Reflection and Acknowledgment
It is important to openly acknowledge and allow expression of the feelings that you and your group may be experiencing (whether or not you achieved your competition goal). Emotions might be wide-ranging and contradictory. Share with the group how you are feeling. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, and real.
When a goal has not been met there is often an initial reaction of searching for a reason that may result in blaming something or someone else outside oneself. This is part of the grieving process and precedes the stage where we accept personal responsibility and begin to move forward. This is a time, as a chorus leader, that we must take a deep breath and not take our members’ comments personally. Listen to them, consider them, but don’t dwell on them – there is a difference between denial and transcendence. Recognize that you also need to process and be sure to give yourself adequate nurturing time and space to replenish your energy.
Stage Two: Acceptance and Ending
According to the ”transition model” coined by author William Bridges, one must adequately “end” something to have a new beginning. We must let go/or leave behind where we were in order to move ahead. We must be cognizant that everyone in a group may be transitioning at different paces and as director, we must understand that although we may be mentally and emotionally ready to move on to the next great thing, our chorus members may not be.
There are two key questions to ask both ourselves and our chorus members in the “ending phase”.
1/ What is it time for me to let go of right now? (Be sure to spend enough time on this first question. Our tendency is to want to move forward without properly grieving.)
2/ What is standing backstage, waiting to make its entrance? (This second question is critical to follow the first.)
The key point about then ‘letting go’ is to mark the ending officially and be sure not to rush through the ending. Until you complete – you won’t move into the future as successfully (or as quickly).
Stage 3: Re-ignition and New Beginnings
When you think of new beginnings, be sure to build on your past successes. What worked about the journey that just ended? What might you want to build on? What were the elements that contributed to your success? Remember those elements, because they form the foundation upon which your future can be built.
When you plan the exciting things for your future be sure to keep your thoughts and discussions very firmly in the what you WANT for the future rather than what you DON’T want. Before you set specific chorus goals, re-ignite your and your group’s passion by creating a forum to hear everyone’s voice as they dream of the future possibilities without limits. What is their biggest future vision? What is yours? What feels connected and aligned with the chorus vision?
Remember: Achieving a goal is a finite moment in time. Success is a journey, not a destination.