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

It’s paying attention to what I’m actually doing

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 but not limited to, writing cartoons, playing guitar, doing improv, fixing the toilet, ordering dinner, and even talking to my closest friends. 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 found as I poked around in there is that I am constantly measuring myself. I’ve always done this, but never realized how relentless and distracting it was.

Having already spent decades discrediting my false narratives of worthlessness, I am now able to see the feelings that spawned them for the childhood vestige they are. Without continuously getting sucked down into the rabbit hole of self-doubt, I am better able to simply watch where my attention is and isn’t, and it is naturally shifting to where I want it to be! Finally, I’m finding access to the 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.

4 Responses

  1. Wow! David it feels like we are living parallel lives! I recently had a major light-bulb moment and truly understood why I’d been loathing myself all my life, I wasn’t perfect in all I said or did. I was never ‘in the moment’ because I was afraid of messing up. Inner work is so hard and I admire your bravery in exploring this challenging landscape. I’m taking out my art supplies after year of neglect, I couldn’t stand being a beginner! This time I’ll be present and embody the ink blobs, feel paint smears and laugh at the torn paper, without fear and without judgement. Here’s to personal growth!

    1. Hi Silvie! Thanks for the comment. Yay! It sounds like you’ve had some exciting success in your growth. I’m interested in what helped you the most. Your site looks lovely.

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