I have recently come to a new realization about myself. And across the board of my life. The issue isn't new, but the realization of it is.
I like to chart progress. I like to know where I am on the spectrum of moving forward (or backwards?). I want to know how far I've come and how far I have to go until I get "there," wherever that is. In many cases, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but when I dig a little deeper, I find the ugly root of this desire. And yes, this root issue is a bad thing.
An example: I am working up a new percussion solo that is quite difficult and takes a lot of time and practice to learn. As I work through the piece, note by note, measure by measure, I keep looking down to the bottom of the page to see how far I have till the end of the page, then I flip through the next couple pages to see what they are like.
How far until the end of the piece? Let's see...I am almost to letter B...okay, I am exactly three 17ths through the piece. Sweet.
But I can get so caught up in charting how far I am and how much I have done that I lose track of what I am supposed to be focusing on––learning the piece!
And as I mentioned, when I really think about what drives this behavior, I see a problem. The problem is that I want that feeling of accomplishment before it's really time. I want the result without the work. I want the trophy before I have earned it.
But the neat thing I'm learning is that when you simply focus on exactly what you're supposed to focus on, and not worry so much about how awesome you are or aren't, and keep plugging away at the right things, a time will come, not manufactured, but as a natural result of your commitment, when you can begin to see real progress. It might be several weeks or months. It might be a year or more. But the reward of seeing genuine progress is rich. It certainly beats the fabricated feeling of success for completing a measure of music.