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The Secret of Getting Good Is Not Focusing on How Good I’m Getting

by David Milgrim

I’ve started noticing the astonishing extent to which I’m busy worrying about how well I am doing instead of focusing on the task at hand. 

Not to brag, but I can distract myself with angst-ridden self-evaluation while doing almost anything, including writing cartoons, playing guitar, doing improv, fixing the toilet, ordering dinner, and even talking to my closest friends, just to name a few. I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember.

Not only is it perpetually exhausting, but it prevents me from giving my full attention to what I’m actually doing. This, of course, impedes my progress, further rubbing my face in the lack of achievement that I’m already panicked about which, in turn, gives me even less focus. 

One particularly interesting place I’ve noticed this is in my healing work. 

Lately, my therapy has involved learning to tolerate my feelings enough to explore what’s actually going on inside me. One of the things I realized as I poked around in there is just how relentless and pervasive my self measuring is.

Fortunately, as I become aware of where my attention is and isn’t, it naturally shifts to where I want it to be. Suddenly, I’m finding access to a world of focus, immersion, discovery, experience, and fun waiting to be ripped open and enjoyed.

Instead of thinking about how well I’m singing while I’m singing, for example, I’m listening to the sounds I’m making. I’m noticing the way the intervals relate to each other and how melodies move through them. I’m surprisingly more available and focused on what’s in front of me.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to be experiencing this change. It’s freeing me from my lifelong prison of chronic doubt. And, as I worry less about how good I’m getting, I’m getting better at all kinds of things! Including what I need to do to get better.

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