There are many things shooters can do to sharpen their mental skills, in order to improve their performance. I have covered some of those things in other articles, teachings and sessions with clients as we work together, and they are all available in my clay shooting products. In this particular article, one thing I want to focus on helping you with – that is so important to making good shots for any shooter – is the ability to be calm and relaxed. You must be calm and relaxed if you expect to hit the clay targets well.
I want to help you improve on your skills. I initially intended this suggestion to apply to shooting, but you can really apply it to everything you do. It is: “When taking a shot I am calm, relaxed, and focused on the present shot.”
So what I want you to look at here, is your ability to be more calm, relaxed and focused in the moment, and ‘in the moment’ can be anything happening in your life. Specifically in shooting, though, ‘in the moment’ applies to whatever particular shot you are engaged in at any given moment in time. I know this is hard for some of you. I was recently at a competition and saw a ton of ways a shooter can get distracted, from your station mates chatter to those noisy polaris vehicles buzzing through the courses.
Some other things I have spent a lot of time discussing or teaching are: the importance of being present, being aware of negative thoughts, being aware of your reactions to some of those thoughts or old programming, and being able to feel confident that you have the tools to shift away from those old ways of responding or thinking. The reason I have spent time on those topics is so you can have a more positive, effective, healthy and limitless way of experiencing life and any of your competitions. You can do that as you recognize how to stay in a present moment, and keep your mind from wandering out of the ‘here and now.’ Staying focused and present are critical factors to improving performance.
All shooters know the importance of being present in that moment, but they struggle with their mind taking them into the past…into a past shot, a previous station or a missed target. What if you started an event and missed a target on the first station, and carried the frustration with you on the third, fourth and fifth stations, or each shot after that so-called negative experience? Do you think you would perform well if that is all they thought about?
Another tendency is to allow your mind to take you into the future, with ‘projections’. Let’s say you missed a few targets or played a few stations poorly. You can then have this doom and gloom attitude about what will happen on the upcoming stations, and maybe draw a gloomy conclusion to the whole competition. Or, let’s say you have been performing really well. You might get to a point of concern about whether you can carry that on, where you may think: “I can’t do that very much longer…this is the most targets I’ve ever broken.” You could also project: “At this pace, I could win. At this pace, I could end up being in the top ten or the leader!” and potentially have fear or expectation creep in as you worry about future stations.
So there are all these different things that can happen, if you allow your conscious mind to wander into the past or the future. It becomes imperative, then, that you learn how to keep your conscious mind present and stay focused in each moment when you are taking a shot; that you are calm, relaxed and focused on the present shot. This ultimately is the biggest skill to learn. It’s not really hard, but it takes commitment and diligence because after learning this information and going into observations of this phenomenon happening, you will see that your conscious mind wanders all day long continually into the past or future. Your mind plays all different scenarios of what happened, what should have happened, what is about to happen and all sorts of different ways of analyzing them. You will see that every time your mind does that, it takes you out of what is real – and the present moment is what is real. You probably already know what it feels like to reel your conscious mind back in – to bring yourself present. You can train your mind to do this, with commitment and diligence, and you will see your performance improve as you do.
I refer to being calm, relaxed and focused on the present shot in my statement. The calm and relaxed part comes from having a mindset of confidence and feeling like you have clarity; that you trust in yourself and your abilities, and can shovel out the old negative ways of thinking. You can remain calm, in spite of whatever happened on the last hole (meaning you can let go of the past). You can have confidence in your skill and belief in your abilities as you move forward, but not to the point that you are creating anxiety over expectations of what is yet to come.
So think about my suggestion: “When taking a shot, I am calm, relaxed and focused on the present shot.” You can start training yourself in this way, by shifting this statement a little bit to something pertaining to what you are engaging in life. It could be at work: “I am calm, relaxed and focused on the present project, meeting, conversation, etc.” Any of those scenarios will work. At home I am calm, relaxed and focused on family, conversation with loved ones, or I am engaging in the chore in the house. You can find opportunities all day long to practice this skill. This is a skill where the more you practice it, become aware of it, and commit to changing it, the more likely you will be in transferring it over to your clay shooting, to your game and into your shot, so you will experience greater success.
I wish you well this week as you apply this in your life and clay shooting. If you need any extra help, please contact me. I think the information from this article will help you make profound change by shifting your thoughts toward being more calm, relaxed and focused. So have fun shooting and watching your performance improve! Thanks for reading. InJoy, your day!
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