By Lana Grasser

The incredible feat of a ballerina successfully completing 32 fouette turns requires strength, balance, and focus – not only mental but also physical. In order to maintain one’s position and prevent dizziness, a dancer selects a point straight out in front of visual field as his or her “spot”, the focal point he or she must always snap the fixation back to on each revolution. This one visualization is everything to the dancer.

In life too we must maintain a certain focus, keeping in line with our goals and aspirations. Sometimes, however, we fall off balance and lose perspective. I had such an experience last Thursday after a major snowstorm hit East Lansing. Frustrated that I still had to attend all my classes, including an 8:00am, while the city was under a state of emergency and the sidewalks were completely blocked in some locations, I felt the lazy pull of wanting to skip class. Unfortunately, missing an organic chemistry lecture means missing about ten new reactions so this certainly could not be an option.

As I mounted my bike and pushed through the snow, I remembered Beth – a young woman I had met at a leadership conference back in high school. Beth talked to us about how shocked she was as a foreigner in America to see how ungrateful and apathetic students were towards their classes and education in general. She told us that in many countries outside of the United States, getting to a school might mean walking for half the day through extreme weather conditions and even traveling along dangerous roads. However, education means everything to those students – school is the place where they can come to get a meal, learn, and have the opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their families. Suddenly, upon this recollection, I had found my “spot” again. My balance was restored, and I was off to make the most of my education.

Benjamin Yonattan captured the hearts of millions of Americans last summer on “America’s Got Talent”. He too reminds me to remain focused and grateful, yet he cannot physically focus himself. Benjamin is a dancer who is losing his vision to retinal dystrophy, a genetic condition that he was born with. Over time, the light-sensitive layer on the back of the eye degenerates so that visual signals can no longer be interpreted and transmitted to the brain. Upon diagnosis, it seemed as though Benjamin’s dance career was over. Yet he has relearned to balance and uses his pinhead sized field of vision remaining to spot. Even once he is completely blind, Benjamin is determined to continue dancing and believes that there is no reason why he should not be able to. He has kept focus, and he has maintained his “spot” even though it has slowly faded away from his physical sight.

As your daily trials and tribulations flow in and out like waves on the seashore, and as you find yourself at a turning point in life, try to just keep spotting like a dancer and embody the gratitude and perspective Beth and Benjamin remind us to have.  No matter what comes your way, with strength, balance, and a good spot, nothing can throw you off as you turn through life.

Watch Ben’s Performance!