Which do you notice more...?

Updated: Aug 14, 2019

...the five hundred things that are going well, or the one thing that isn't?

I'll never forget a live performance by a professional harpist who of course played at a tremendously high standard. Partway through a demanding show-piece, she made a tiny slip that hardly anyone in the audience would have even noticed. She evidently took notice, however, and became palpably upset and furious with herself. In fact, the poor woman's fury grew so quickly and powerfully that within a matter of seconds her face was pure thunder. Everyone in the audience noticed this and was practically cowering for the rest of the concert.

I remember thinking what a superb illustration of 'the art of joyless music-making' this was and how glad I was not to have pursued the kind of classical music education in which perfectionism and self-criticism are held up as ideals.

I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to strive for perfection; but if you fall a little short of your target, what good can possibly come of berating yourself and being angry about it? And yet perfectionists do just this and it seems a rather sad way of living.

Our education system as a whole tends to encourage fear of getting things wrong and to always try to 'get it right'.

Focus on the negative even filters into everyday life: letting the flaws in the otherwise-great movie 'ruin' your enjoyment of it; only remembering the rain on a wonderful wedding day; dwelling on the single grumpy face in a day full of smiley ones.

Is it not important to recognise and celebrate successes and positives? This seems so alien to our culture that you may call it or hear it called 'weird', 'hokey' or even 'icky'.

But isn't it more weird to disregard what's going well? It's a bit like going in the direction you want to be going in, then stopping, turning around and gazing and gazing at that little stone you tripped on a few yards back, wondering why it was there, why you tripped on it, why you are persecuted by little stones, and so on, when you could been miles further along by now.

It's quite common in an Alexander lesson for a student to do some excellent thinking and make phenomenal positive physiological changes, then only talk about the remaining bit of remaining tension. I've been guilty of this myself on many occasions, though nowhere near so much these days.

Which kind of focus do you think is more useful to follow?