Inside-Out Process-Oriented Attention
An inside-out approach can change the way you think about your distractions.
A common concern among dance students is that they lack focus and concentration. Many students claim they get easily distracted, either when learning a new combination or doing the exercise.
Those distractions can take many forms. Some I’ve heard about are voices coming from outside the studio, having the artistic director suddenly walk into the studio, or letting your mind wander when watching your peers do the steps.
It happens to all of us, and as long as it’s rare, it shouldn’t worry you too much. But if you find that you are consistently distracted when you would like to be focused, then you might want to consider reframing your approach.
The outside-in approach to focusing means that your attention is directed outwards, away from you. That means that you are highly influenced by what is going on around you.
You might be hyper-attuned to what other people are thinking when they watch you dance. Maybe you want approval from your teachers and peers, so you actively notice whether they are watching you or not while you’re dancing. Your attention is not on what you’re doing, but on what’s happening outside of you.
It can be very easy to get distracted or to lose focus when your attention is directed outwards.
The opposite, recommended approach, is to work inside-out. Inside-out means that your attention is focused on what you are doing in the present- right now. You are focused on the process of learning the combination, taking the correction, or doing the steps. Being process-oriented means being in the moment, rather than outside of it.
When you are process-oriented, it is amazing what can happen around you that you are totally oblivious to. For example, can you recall a performance or audition when you were “in the zone”? Maybe someone told you there was a crying child in the audience, or a problem with the sets, but you never noticed. That’s focusing from the inside out.
As an exercise, try to notice what distracts you and how often. Sometimes just recognizing it is a big eye-opener. Stay tuned for tips on how to be more present and get that inside-out approach.