There are many things a shooter can do to sharpen their mental skills, all of which would have a tremendous impact on their performance. Today, I want to focus on helping you with your ability to be focused and present. As you know, being focused and present is important to making good shots for any shooter. You see this with the Pros, while squadded with others, and in yourself. You must be focused and present if you expect to break the target well.
As we look to address this skill set using mental training, we need to first recognize that a correction needs to be made to the times in which you are not shooting focused and present. Take a moment right now to brainstorm and familiarize yourself with how you are thinking and feeling when you are not focused and present when shooting. Your thoughts can be on a discussion that occurred earlier in the day, on the squad mate that won't stop talking, or on chewing yourself out for missing an easy target at the last station. All these thoughts will cause anxiety in your body. We have to counteract this cycle by purposely thinking in a healthier, more productive manner. One of the suggestions I use with clients and in my clay shooting products is "I am focused and present on the current shot." We are going to break this down and expand on it as a way of helping you to improve your skills in that area.
As with all my teachings, I highly encourage you to practice mental training on and off the course. You will gain much more mastery over the skill in a shorter period of time. Look at your ability to be focused and present in any moment, where 'in any moment' can be anything happening in your life. You cannot expect to be able to easily pull this trick out of your pocket at a weekend tournament if you have limited availability to do it in life. If you practice what I teach you in life, then you will easily carry it into your shooting game. In shooting, 'in the moment' applies to whatever particular shot you are engaged in at any given moment in time.
I spend a lot of time discussing and teaching clients things like: the importance of being present, being aware of your 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 spend time on these topics is so they can have a more positive, effective, healthy and limitless way of experiencing life and their shooting game. All this is possible to you when you simply (easier said than done) learn 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 your shooting 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 round. Maybe they missed a target or pair on the last station, or it could have even been a few stations before that. What if they started an event and missed targets on the first peg or station, and carried into the third, fourth and fifth station, or each shot after that so-called bad station? Do you think they 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 station poorly. You can then have this doom and gloom attitude about what will happen on the upcoming stations or pegs, and maybe draw a gloomy conclusion to the entire tournament. Or, let's say you had a streak of perfect stations and 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... the longest streak I've ever had is four stations." You could also project: "at this pace, I could win." Or "at this pace, I could end up being in the top ten!" These can lead to pressure as fear or expectation creep in and cause you to fumble future shots.
These are a few example of the 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 shooting; that you are focused and present on the current shot. This is ultimately the biggest skill to learn. It's not really hard, but it can seem hard because it takes commitment and diligence. You will find, after learning this information and going into observations of this phenomenon happening, that your conscious mind wanders all day long, continually in the past or future. Your mind plays out different scenarios of what happened, what should have happened, what is about to happen and many other varying analyzations. You will see that everytime your mind does that, it takes you out of the present moment. But the good news is, you already know what it feels like to reel your conscious mind back in - to bring yourself present. I notice I do this when I am driving down the highway, it starts to down pour rain and I want to be safe; or when one of my kids comes to me with something important and I want to give her my undivided attention. You can train your mind to do this, with commitment and diligence, and you will see your performance improve as you do.
It's time to go to work! Start training yourself to be more present in life. Shift my suggestion so it pertains to whatever life event you are participating in. If at work, it could be: "I am focused and present on... this call, project, meeting, conversation, etc." At home, it could be: "I am focused and present on... cooking, dinner, conversation with loved ones, cleaning dishes." You can find opportunities all day long to practice this skill. The more you practice this skills, become aware of it, and commit to change; the more likely you will be in transferring it over to the shooting course, to your game and into each shot. Practice this mental training and you will definitely see significant increase in your performance.
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