The paradox of trying less to achieve more

Have you ever had the feeling that the harder you chase something, the further out of your reach it becomes? We are told that to achieve something great in life, we need to obsessively and relentlessly  pursue our objective, sacrificing all else along the way. And that makes sense. Every day we hear inspirational success stories about athletes who have made it to the top, the endless hours in the gym when nobody else is watching, putting in the thousands of hours of deliberate, focused practice. Yes, there is no doubt about the physical effort and hardship required, pushing yourself past the physical limits, enduring more than what you thought was possible. As they say, if it was easy everyone would be doing it. But paradoxically, it seems that the more you depend on achieving your goal, the less likely you actually are of getting there. This seems to hold true whether in relation to sport, music, careers, or relationships. I have pondered over this for years, wondering if it a real phenomenon or mere illusion, as I chased my own hurling dreams. My brothers and I were hurling in nappies, I remember well my first training session in St Paul’s when I was 8. Hurling, like for many in Ireland, was woven into the fabric of our lives. We could name every player of ’89 All-Ireland team by nickname, and dreamed of Croke Park decked in Saffron. Every summer the stack of video cassettes in our house grew, as we recorded every All-Ireland championship game off the teilifís for repeated viewing, cursing the tall trees across the road for our grainy...