Performance psychology: we’ve talked about why it’s vital to dancers as well as how to gain emotional control. Next up: How to harness your ability to focus for better performances. Focus and emotional control affect each other massively. If your focus in on the wrong things, frustration can flood in, if you focus on the correct things, training sessions and performances go much smoother. Here’s what expert Clay Frost shared with us on the subject.
There are two main concepts when it comes to focus: direction and intensity. The key is to find the balance between direction and intensity that will help you learn faster and perform at a higher level.
- Direction = focusing on the right things at the right time.
- Intensity = how much you’re able to focus on those things.
“Our emotions and our focus work hand in hand. When we focus on the wrong things, our emotions start to get out of hand,” Frost says. “When we focus on the right thing, we can remain in control of our emotions and continue to perform well. When you are on fire your focus is right where it should be, when you are performing poorly it isn’t.”
Here are a list of questions that you should ask yourself when it comes to focus:
1. What should I focus on?
Shift your focus from outcomes (statistics, results, points, wins/losses) to the process (what it takes to get there, skills, techniques, choreography, etc.). You’re in control of your process, not the outcome. Focusing on the process is staying on the road of the things that you can control. This also allows you to stop comparing yourself to external factors and focus on your best performance. Another bonus: it helps you stay in control of your emotions.
2. What is my focus?
What we focus on truly shows ourselves what is most important to us. Performers have goals and dreams they want to accomplish but many people fall short of those goals and dreams. Sometimes that means we have the wrong goal and sometimes that means we lost focus along the way.
The phrase: “You can do anything, but not everything” shows us that our focus, when placed on something, means that we will have to lose focus of everything else. The more time you spend in the studio working and training, is less time you spend anywhere else. Our mind works in this exact way. You have to train your mind to stay focused on what is most important to you, and because you are always training your mind, you need to constantly remind yourself of what you want to achieve and your plan to achieve it.
3. Why is that my focus?
Our focus will stay unbreakable if we know our why. When you know your why, remaining focused is easy. This is what drives us, it is the reason we started in the first place. When we lose our sight of this, we feel lost and unsatisfied and our motivation will fall, right along with our passion. Why is that your focus? What is your why?
4. How do I reset my focus?
Sometimes we need to reset our focus, luckily there are a few ways to do so. Deep breathing, this is a really great way to reset focus (read all about it here). Another way is to develop a mantra or affirmation. Frost recommends following these steps to develop a focus-resetting mantra or affirmation:
Disconnect from technology and distractions to think about:
- What do I need?
- What’s in my way?
- What needs to go?
- After answering the questions, look for common themes and ideas to find a single word that will guide your actions.
- Identify potential distractions and obstacles. The more specific, the better you’ll be at resetting in those difficult moments.
- Decide on three visible places you see regularly and that will remind you of your word. Then, identify three people that can help you remain accountable to live your word and stick to your plan when distractions or obstacles come.
Focus is a mental skill and is developed just like any other skill, with practice! But more important than just practicing is practicing on purpose with purpose. In this article we have talked about remaining in the process, determining your focus, finding your why, and resetting your focus. This is the process of improving your ability on purpose with purpose. Remember, focus has two main concepts: direction and intensity, once you have chosen the direction, it is your job to make sure that you can keep the intensity as high as the situation requires. You’ll need to make sure that you are using your one word and purposefully training your mind to increase your focus.