I think you'll get several opinions on this one. The most obvious being "I play to WIN". Sure, playing to win and getting into the bigger paydays is the overall objective. Fact is, FEW will make it that often in large MTT's.
Mine is a two-step approach, much like what you are asking about. Before I can make FT, I have to make it ITM. Driving along the 'highway of poker' on busy roads (an MTT) I have a destination in mind. If I don't suffer a breakdown (bad beat) I will flow with traffic in that direction. I'll move in and out of traffic along the way when the road allows. Once in a while I look a little ahead (and the cards/competition are running right) and the fast lane is wide open, I'll get in it. If not, I'll flow with 'closing the mileage' to the destination.
I try to stay above average in chip accumulation. That insures I seldom have to take an 'all-in' risk as a shorty to survive. I know where the ITM cutoff is and keep that in mind. Being within the reach of ITM, it opens up the range of hands I can play and the risks I will take to improve my position.
Think about it from another perspective. Good BR management says I shouldn't invest more than 3-5% of my BR in an MTT. That gives me some 25-30 or so shots at making a big payday. Along the way, some ITM wins allow me to extend that range considerably. Taking into account skill, variance, luck (or lack of it), bad beats and the 30% of the time my 70% odds
don't hold up, I need as many buy-ins as I can maintain in order to hit that right table, right situation, +variance, etc, to get that big payday.
If being 'good' and making the bigger payday were all that easy, why not take 25% of a BR and play 'to win' every time? I'll take all the ITM's I can get, and watch for the few and best opportunities to reach for the brass ring.
That's 'my' take on it. An old time conservative player who believes that old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill. ...