Sometimes when I’m dancing, I see other people in the class doing something else with the movement—maybe adding a turn or a leap—that I hadn’t thought of. When you are used to creating choreography a certain way, it can close your mind to other ways of doing it.
It’s natural to become caught up in our own experience of the movement, the music, our own feelings and perceptions. Sometimes a bomb could go off during dance class and half of us wouldn’t even notice because we are focusing on what we are doing.
It can be a bad thing to be so absorbed that we don’t perceive what’s right in front of us. But I would argue that it can also be a good thing. When I am focusing on doing something the way I’ve always done it, in some ways it can limit me, but in other ways, I really take pleasure in trying to perfect and truly enjoy what I already know.
It’s a choice.
There was an experiment conducted by psychologist Daniel Simon, called The Monkey Business Illusion*, in which subjects were asked to watch a video of two basketball teams—with one team wearing white shirts and the other black. The task was to count how many times the white team passed the basketball. Halfway through the video, a woman in a gorilla suit came into the frame, beat her chest, and walked off the screen. Fifty percent of the subjects literally didn’t perceive the gorilla.
It seems that we narrow our focus so much that we miss a lot. And this study reinforces the idea that in every moment there are many possibilities that we don’t see because we are choosing to believe in limits – we think that there are only one or two possible outcomes to any situation. Therefore, we don’t see the gorilla. There are probably solutions that we could never imagine, even though they are, literally, right in front of us.
I know people who are resolutely fixed on the positive, and it’s possible to become exasperated with such optimists. (“Do you see what’s really going on here??!!??”). But these people usually seem happy. So how bad is that?
If your world is falling apart, it is impossible to focus on what’s good. We’ve all been there. But I wonder if focusing on what’s good and real now – like practicing a dance combination – doesn’t make us better at experiencing the good stuff as we go on into the future.
What we focus on is what we experience. We can choose to widen our view of what’s possible, embracing the uncertainty. Our point of focus can change from negative to positive, from worry to trust, from fear to love.
So, what else do we need to see?
*Here is a link to The Monkey Business Illusion: