I am again being forced to confront the inadequacies of my lifestyle. There is a continuous process of refining my routine, and my level of success seems to rise and fall as the weeks go by. Although I've been very disciplined lately, I'm not getting the results I need because I'm spreading myself too many directions. This has created a cycle of self hatred which aggravates a frantic rampage of pushing myself as far as I can go.
The tools of psychoanalysis and developmental psychology have enabled me to take a step back from this whirlwind and rationalize what is happening to me from a different angle.
The way I experience my self hatred is not by feeling failure because I've missed a goal. I remember that dynamic from my early childhood. For example, when I was in middle school, I remember not making the cut for the basket ball team. Back then, that was a huge disappointment.
Today, things are more sophisticated. The only reasons I ever feel emotions like guilt, anger, frustration, and impatience are because I feel like I am failing to move into higher levels of achievement. I understand that the lofty goals I intent to achieve require an incredible amount of discipline, focus, and effort to achieve. It is only when I'm not pushing forward to my maximum capacity that I feel anxiety.
I feel as though I'm the very bottom of an intense cycle of positive disintegration. In short, I'm realizing my personal shortcomings which I have chosen to neglect for a period of time. However, my desire for higher levels of accomplishment force me to confront these shortcomings through intense negative emotion followed by acute self analysis.
What's interesting to me is how I felt so comfortable with my routine and had deluded myself to think I was making progress for so many months. Certainly, I was making progress, but not in the areas of my life which are most urgent. Now, I've realized the time I spent neglecting these important problems and feel guilt. The next step is to make adjustments to correct the behavior and move forward into higher states.
The Problem of Measuring Success
Of course, this is a problem which has no simple resolution. How can one gauge their level of progress in the activities they participate in? As an adult, it's not easy. In my final year of college, for example, I worked on a research project as part of my goal to go to graduate school. Although I was making progress towards that goal, my grants were cut and I lost my ability to stay in school. So, does that count as a success, or as a failure? On the one hand, I was successful in what I was doing. In the other, I had allowed myself to become dependent on a bureaucratic system which has no regard for whether I was good at what I did, or not. In the end, that was a mistake which undermined my achievements in a very real way.
This song really encapsulates the way I feel about my betrayal as a student. On the one hand, I was successful at what I was doing, which means that I learned a lot and gained a substantial amount of confidence. On the other, I had become so dependent on logistical circumstances that I could not control that all of my success as a researcher ultimately amounted to nothing tangible for others to see. It's a lot like being laid off from a large corporation, except I was spending more money on school than I was earning as a young scientist.
Another great example of this problem happens behind the drum set. But, the dynamic is a bit different here. Because I've chosen to isolate my drum practice to be a very personal achievement - absent a band, absent a school, and absent a fan base - it's very hard to know how well I'm playing. Sure, on those occasions where I play for others, I get great feedback. But, it really doesn't mean much to me because my standards are usually much higher than those of the people who see me play.
It's not that I'm snobby about it (OK, I am VERY snobby about my drumming), but it takes years of focused training to understand the nuance of my performance on the instrument. Not very many people can see that. It's really only professional drummers who I trust on this topic. Although the pros I've met tell me that my playing is great, it's still hard to just accept that and move on. Because I'm playing at such a high level, the road marks of achievement are either impossible to identify or so far off that they are discouraging to even think about. Really, the only goal left is to perform with the musicians who inspired me to play in the first place. And, that goal has no longer has anything to do with my ability to play the drums - it's completely logistical and financial. Now, when I sit down to practice, the drive is missing because I know that I either need to dedicate 15-20 hours per week to keep my chops up and continue making progress, or I need to be happy with where I am and focus on other aspects of my musical career.
Sharing My Achievements with Others
But, it's not just my drum career which seems complicated. Working as an internet professional presents its own unique challenges. Because I didn't have the opportunity to finish my degree, it's hard to portray my developmental potential to employers. I know that I have the ability to be very good at what I do, but the traditional method of formal education has been denied to me. On the one hand, this is liberating because I have learned very early in my career to never become dependent on an uncontrollable organization for my financial (and psychological) well being. On the other, I'm facing tremendous pressure from myself to continue moving my skills to the next level. But, it's not as easy as just signing up for the next class in the curriculum like it used to be: Instead, I'm plowing through books in the library and trying to build my portfolio to display what I learn. I've literally spent more time studying from books since I left school than when I was in school. But, there is no grade achieved or credit awarded for my work. So, how do I display what I have learned?
The truth is that nobody can understand my progress except myself. I'm the only one with the context of my past who can really grasp how I have made progress. The problem is that I'm not seeing the results I crave. It's making me anxious and frantic - two things which I haven't experienced in a long time. Thankfully, I know that I have the capacity to improve my skills because I have a sharp mind and obsessive work ethic. But, those skills don't mean anything unless I see the results of my creativity coming to fruition.
The primary concept I'm beginning to understand from all this is that there is no easy way to measure achievement. That seems to put me in a continuous psychological crisis because of my high level of self criticism. It's this sensation of relentless drive which separates gifted individuals from those who are average performing. But, due to the sudden shift in my goals (going from a research career into entrepreneurship), I haven't even been showing up on the scale. This creates even more drive which, absent reflection, can create discomfort. Now that I see the nature of the problem, I know that the key to moving forward is to create results as quickly as possible.