This represents the opposite side of the coin to this whole blogsperiment. Knowing when to change what you don't like about your situation. How can you make a daily routine of appreciating/learning to care for who you are and what you already have, but still work to better yourself? How do you spend less time focusing on what you don't have and haven't achieved, while trying to achieve what you don't yet have? I've been pondering on this a lot today and learned thinking is hard. I did, however, scratch out two ideas.
Dwelling on shortcomings doesn't actually help achieve goals:As a musician, I'm hard wired for self doubt. Every day I'm faced with musicians who out-write, out-play and out-perform me (I'm also jealous of thicker beards and daintier ankles). Every day I'm faced with one more venue, grant application or investor who says no. At the same time, there's little to no chance I can even objectively look at my own music and know if it's any good. It's actually a bit ridiculous. It can be hard to understand, but I can easily rate one artist's song against another, even come up with really strong musical or logistic arguments to support my choice, but throw a tune in the line up that I've written myself? My proximity to the art makes perspective almost impossible.
A lot of musicians I know will take that whole mess so personally that it literally cripples their ability to learn and grow as their own musicians. They live in a world of success-by-comparison and it rather ironically makes them learn slower, learn the wrong things and ultimately poisons their ability to really create themselves as an artist.
The journey of your life should not be played as a competitive sport (unless you play competitive sports). We have seven billion people on this planet who have all tread VERY different paths. How could you really compare them? Have we all been training to play the same game? No. Our experiences have prepped us all for very different journeys, with different bars set, goal lines drawn and our own privately written rule book. In fact, this blog is part of MY rule book. If it doesn't suit you, neat! Invest time in writing your own. Though I sincerely hope that some part of my journey does help another or serve a greater purpose, I don't need it to because I know what it means to me. I think that's the fallacy of most who try to sell "wisdom" or "self-help", is their belief that they alone have the right answers for everyone. It's narcissism, bordering on lunacy, and is one of the many reasons you won't find me in a church/synagogue/mosque/auction house.
I personally think growth and improvement, reaching that next level then isn't about dwelling on what's missing or what someone else has achieved, but about finding the solutions to what you want for yourself. This concept brought me to another way of approaching it.
"Think of the problem, not the solution":This quote actually comes from a very cool series by an author named Terry Goodkind, and it's a quote I've taken every where with me. Seeing the negative? Seeing what's missing and using it as a crutch for self-pity? That's thinking of the problem. While everyone's entitled to a bout of self-pity now and again (and believe me, I've taken my share), progress comes from thinking of the solution. I have an example I can give from a gig I did a few years ago.
We're in Barrie, and it's my third time working with this band as a sub for their regular singer. It's been a fun run so far and the bars we have played, if not all fantastic, were all gracious hosts (except Sudbury. That place is horrifying). As the bass player and I approach the bar he considers whether or not he remembers this venue having a PA system (the speakers that amplify vocals).
"Well what do you guys normally do?" says I.
"Well, our old singer would bring his PA if the venue didn't have one" explains [bass].
"Well [bandleader] didn't tell me to bring a PA. I'm not even sure he knows I own one, so it shouldn't be a problem"
Long story short, the bandleader DID in fact expect me to bring one (as though I ever had before) and was furious I "forgot". He tries getting his yell on with me and I pass the cell to [bass] as [bandleader] continues to rage (and is on a home phone. He's been unreachable until about 1hr before we start playing).
It was like watching a train wreck in slow-mo, the gig about to crash and burn. I check my watch, it's 8:50pm, and think if there were a music store near by, the latest it'd be open is 9pm. I pull out my cell and call directory. I ask for music stores near Barrie. I find one right off the highway. I connect to the music store and ask if they have a PA system available for rental that night and were they still open. They're about to close but they'll hold the doors to help us out.
By the time I got off my cell, [bass] was still getting an earful from [bandleader]. I told him to just hangup and we sped off. We got the PA and did the gig, got paid and then [bandleader] stuck me with the PA bill (he was a grade-a dick mitten). All the while I thought to myself, thank you Mr. Goodkind. While others dwelt on the problem I put together a solution, just in the nick of time. Also thank you sense of self-worth, for reminding me I should've gotten off the bandwagon at the gig with strippers (Sudbury, obviously).
Today I appreciate solutions to problems and the ability to find them. I view self-improvement as a daily challenge of moving forward with those solutions, not a daily ritual of assessing what I don't have.
Which reminds me, I don't have a PS3. But my XBOX is dope on a rope! (miniature win!)