As a young violinist, most of my pleasure from music came in the form of relief.
I’d prepare for a concert, perform and then feel a sense of relief that faded by the next morning. I’d also experience a small feeling of contentment that would carry on for about a week.
Working towards a goal and achieving the goal makes us happy in 2 distinct ways: the positive feelings we experience as we get closer to a goal and the feelings we experience after we reach the goal.
The post-concert feelings I had when I was younger are similar to making it to the top of a steep hill on my bike. I anticipate the top of the hill as it gets closer and closer and, when it happens, I simply stop and breathe a sigh of relief. The joy of the climb is greater than the pleasure of cresting the hill.
Psychologists and research have confirmed what has been said for thousands of years about his sort of experience: The feelings of reaching a goal are outweighed by the cumulative feelings of working towards a goal.
I still perform music, but it happens differently now. I only learn songs that I enjoy playing. And they become performance-ready through a little practicing on my own and a lot of playing with friends.
Performing is no longer a goal for me as it was when I was younger. It is a result — a nice bonus, even — of something that I enjoy doing everyday.