The art of FOCUS…like a ballerina

Many of you may not know that I was a music major in college…Trumpet Pedagogy Major. I even have the Pink Tassel to prove it (talk about adding insult to injury…why don’t they give the pink tassel to the PE or Business majors). So, to use an analogy of a ballerina is not that far outside my comfort zone as it may be for many of you…but in this case, there is a very poignant principle that can be best explained in this way.  It is the principle of FOCUS….based on a dancer’s skill of “spotting”.

Have you ever watched a ballerina, professional dance or figure skater spin what appears to be endlessly?  Round and round and round they go…and the most proficient ones never seem to fall down or loose their balance or direction.  How do they stay focused?  How can they be spinning at such incredible speeds and yet be so focused?  This is a principle that Dr. Henry Cloud addresses in his recent book – “Necessary Endings“.  I never knew that there was a discipline or skill that dancers needed to master called “spotting”…so I did some research.

According to Wikipedia –

Spotting is a technique used by dancers during the execution of various dance turns. The goal of spotting is to attain a constant orientation of the dancer’s head and eyes, to the extent possible, in order to enhance the dancer’s control and prevent dizziness.

As a dancer turns, spotting is performed by rotating the body and head at different rates. While the body rotates smoothly at a relatively constant speed, the head periodically rotates much faster and then stops, so as to fix the dancer’s gaze on a single location (the spotting point). Dancers will sometimes focus on an actual visual spot if one is available (e.g., a light or other object).

As part of my research, I surfed several websites that gave instructions about dancing and spotting (I did this while having Rambo on in the background so as not to have any one think less of me).  I found a set of step-by-step instructions for proper spotting.  As I read these, I saw incredible similarities to our need to stay focused…on our personal walk with Christ…our families…our work and vocational efforts…and frankly, every aspect of our life that we take seriously and want to better.

Here they are:

1. Find a large, stationary item to focus on.

2. Focus your eyes on the spotting point. Start to turn your body in the direction of the turn. Keep your head pointed towards the spotting point.

3. Rotate your body until you have to turn your neck. Quickly turn your neck and find your spotting point. Continue to rotate your body until your turn is completed

4. Turn and spot slowly when you are just beginning. Move on to fast turns and spins only after you can spot flawlessly when turning slowly.

5. Practice turning quickly while spotting. Do one turn to begin with, and practice until you can execute the turn.

6. Increase the number of turns you can perform as you practice spotting. Do not increase the number of turns if you get dizzy or loose your balance.

I could continue to write on all the analogies and similarities of a dancers focus/spotting to what we need to do in our spiritual, personal and professional lives…but I think you get the point.

What are doing to stay focused?  What is the “spot” you never loose sight of?  Are you spinning aimlessly flailing as you go,  or in a controlled and focused manner?

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