We who have been around a while know a dirty little secret. The quickest way to fall short of a goal is to want it too much. Not that there’s anything wrong with desire or ambition, for they are both necessary in any competitive environment. But the best, most effective, and even sanest way is to throw all of that desire into the process; to fully invest yourself in being and doing the best you can.
Last month, this article in The New York Times brought it all home. It has nothing to do with opera and everything to do with audition season. In it, Daniel Gilbert writes about the path to Alex Rodriguez’s 600th home run:
One of the ironies of human psychology is that desperately wanting something can make attaining that thing all the more difficult. When stakes go up, performance often goes down.
The kicker is that this phenomenon goes into high gear when applied to something that is well-practiced:
This is because we pay close attention to what we’re doing when what we’re doing matters, and though close attention is helpful when our task is novel or complex, it is positively destructive when our task is simple and well practiced.
As if you needed any more reasons to get out of your own way.