My daughter and I have been taking group tennis lessons. It wasn’t until lesson 6 of 8 that I began to enjoy them. Lesson 6 was a private lesson because my classmates were absent that evening. I only had me to focus on – no watching my classmates, no joking with my daughter, just me and my tennis game.
My teacher also had more time to focus on me. We were practicing volleys – where you hit the ball before it bounces – and I was consistently missing them. He told me to keep my eye on the ball. For some reason I had not connected “eye on the ball” to tennis – golf yes, but not tennis. There is so much to watch in and around a tennis game – your opponent, the people playing in the next court, the people outside the court. I realized I had been spreading my attention over all those things and not focusing on the game.
Once I started keeping my eye on the ball and ignoring everything else going on around me it made a huge difference. It wasn’t until that one comment that it became clear how distracted I had been. I also realized that I hadn’t been really enjoying the lessons because I wasn’t making any progress. I wasn’t improving because I wasn’t focusing. I read a book recently that said if you are not focusing you will “get half as much done in twice the time with quadruple the stress”. I was just showing up and it wasn’t working for me.
The experience made me think about other areas in my life where I may be just showing up – not focusing on the goal or the task at hand. Marianne Williamson describes it well in her book A Return to Love when she speaks of an acting teacher she once had, “By teaching us the truth about acting, he taught us the truth about life. Once you know: 1. Leave your personal problems at the stage door; 2. Treat the material with honesty, dignity and without embellishment; 3. Show up fully no matter how many people are in the audience, then you know everything you need to know in order to have a powerful professional career. To know the real truth about anything is to know the truth about everything.”
Hopefully my discovery of the real truth in tennis, keep your eye on the ball, will help me fully show up fully in everything I do. If I choose to play tennis, I will focus on playing tennis. If I choose to work, I will focus on work and the task at hand. Not only will I get more done, hopefully I will enjoy the process and the results more. Eye on the ball!