Being “In The Zone” is a state of mind that so many athletes aspire to reach. It is eminently achievable. If you’ve been there, you can credit your best performances to those days where you just COULD NOT MISS. Athletes, musicians, speakers, and others have experienced the Zone during their greatest performances. Those subconscious performances take place in a “mindless state” or state of “no mind.” The Japanese term for “no mind” is called Mushin.
Recently, we discussed The Elusive Mental Game and the critical importance of familiarity. Familiarity with your skill level; Familiarity with the target presentation you are facing; and Familiarity with unconditionally surrendering your swing to your subconscious mind – which is the Peak Performance process. That article was so important, I thought a follow up would be helpful.
Please take a few minutes to consider the truth and logic in each of the following concepts – steps that will lead you to a Peak Performance.
Here's the first rung on your ladder…the foundation.
1. The PHYSICAL SKILL SET – the gun control Basics in the correct order – must come first. Those skills are your required foundation.
Learning and developing these skills will be an ongoing process, not an event. Advancement will take a commitment to time, work and patience. There is no elevator to superior skills! These physical skills can be thought of as…where you are going to break the bird; positioning your entire body to allow it to be in harmony with the bird in flight; locating where you will place your muzzle to begin your dance with the target; making that first matching dance step; seeing the window; and then wondering where the bird disappeared. If that sounds somewhat confusing, consider purchasing my first Book – a very easy to read primer – Take Your Best Shot.
2. In my experienced opinion, I believe it's also impossible to overestimate the importance of developing your Shotgunning Mental Skills - both on and off the clays course. These are the skills that ALLOW the prior physical skills to take place with MUSHIN, the state of “no mind.” The state of MUSHIN which propels you DIRECTLY into the “Zone.”
Once the gun skills are firmly in place, the # 1 primary component of your performance success is mental – from day one to each and every day thereafter. It is your mindset that not only controls your body, it controls your actions.
Roll over and sleep in – OR get up and go practice?
Get upset over missing – OR accept that learning is a progression, find the problem, adjust it and optimistically move on.
Believe you will perform well today – OR spend the day drowning in self-doubts?
Are you totally focused on the shot process directly in front of you – OR are you worrying about your final score.
In each and every example – you may only choose one! It’s your choice – your mindset – the same mindset that will elevate or lower your performance today.
3. Your mind is like a flashlight – it can only focus in one direction.
As I’ve been saying in my lessons, articles, and tips for many years now, those who are focused on the outcome of each shot are not focused where they should be – and that’s on their TASKS.
A) You have no control over outcomes that are on the other side of your muzzle.
B) You do, however, have complete control over your Tasks – on this side of your muzzle – and where your attention must be.
C) Execute your Tasks correctly and the outcome will, predictably, take care of itself.
D) Tasks. Keeping your mind on the task in front of you – in the now – will simply not allow your conscious mind to replay past disappointing outcomes or worry about what is – or is not – about to happen. This staying in the now allows your subconscious mind to take the helm and control your performance. XX XX XX.
4. Unfortunately, our champion-adoration culture believes successful athletes don’t ever struggle or fail. The truth is, just like we do, these athletes fail as well. From Michael Jordan, NBA legend: "I've missed more than9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost300games. For 26times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life.”
Meaning? There can be no success without failure. And accepting that unavoidable failure is NOT a weakness, it’s a mindset that builds tenacity and toughness.The very heart of our game is knowing how to respond to our inevitable mistakes and misfortunes. Another mindset. Make your emotions an asset to your game through patience and FORGIVENESS, and watch your scores go up.
5. “Getting better” is a worthwhile goal, but it is a process, not an event. Despite our daily expectations – the truth is – our “getting better” always takes place in the future. We, however, are firmly stuck in the present – everything we are doing is in the now.
At this moment, standing in the shooting box,
you can’t “be better” than you are right then.
Think about that and consider curbing some of those unrealistic expectations. And why I’m suggesting your attention should be on what you are doing NOW – so your score will be better next week and the week after. Be it practice or competition – each of us should be focused in the now where step-by-upward-step we make our way towards our destination which is improvement.
If our attention is on what might happen – or what we don’t want to happen – which are FUTURE outcomes – missing is now LIKELY INESCAPABLE.
6. While I can’t prove this with statistics, I do know that the level of confidence can separate two shooters of equal abilities. The more confident a shooter’s subconscious mind and body – the one who is more at ease – frees their superb rhythm, their most precise swing. Being tense, the less confident shooter will lose his/her timing and stumble due to a raging case of self-doubt, effectively deteriorating gun management into a be-careful-don’t-miss flail. 00 0X 0X 00.
Confidence comes from knowing you can absolutely trust your swing – and then unconditionally letting go and allowing it to happen. Stay in the now and focus on the task in front of you, NOT THE OUTCOME. XX XX XX. This is another example of why your mindset is so important.
The 6 insights above aren’t meant to be a checklist. They are, however, a few of the proven concepts that I assure you will move you closer to the entrance into the Zone. And it is there where you can join with your subconscious to perform, instead of using your slower, more problematic conscious mind that is constantly whispering that nonstop diatribe of distractions and insecurity.
“Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, We are free at last.”
Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Seriously folks…this works. Make the concepts work for you. Until next time, be safe, and Bob and I hope to see you out on the course shaking your head in disbelief and laughing.
Dan Schindler is one of only 50 worldwide members of the Guild of Shooting Instructors (UK) and is one of the most highly respected Sporting Clays and Wingshooting Instructors in the US. Dan is an NSCA Level III Instructor (since 1995) and founded the Paragon School of Sporting with one goal in mind. Whether it be for the advanced competitor or providing the basics to the entry-level shooter, Paragon provides the simplest, most practical and most effective Instruction, Coaching and Mental Training for the Sporting Clays, Skeet, Trap & Wingshooting enthusiast. Dan Schindler helps shooters alleviate a lot of their frustration by taking the mystery out of breaking targets, calling their own misses and make their own corrections. Lessons are fun, enlightening and our clients learn to shoot better in minutes! Dan teaches locally at River Bend Sportsmans Resort in Inman, SC.
Shooters from around the world read Dan's books 2, 3, 4 or more times and refer back to them often. These three EXCELLENT books - Take Your Best Shot, To The Target and Beyond The Target take the MYSTERY out of missing targets so you can shoot more CONSISTENTLY! Order Books!
Newest Release...Take Your Best Shot (Book I), 3rd Edition isTHE Gold Standard Primer for shooters of ALL skill levels...
Solid, valuable, concise informationthat has helped thousands of shooters shoot more consistently with higher scores. It provides the steps and succinctly lays out the fundamentals required for good shooting. This book is used by recreational and competitive shooters...high school and college shooting teams from around the world.
To The Target (Book II) Builds on the steps outlined in Book I. Emphasises Gun Management skills when the trap fires, creating a consistent, reliable, trustworthy swing.
Beyond the Target (Book III) is for shooters of all levels, filled with valuable information, clay target truths. Entertaining and a culmination of 3+ decades of Dan's life's work as a teacher, competitor, published writer and much more.
"Take Your Best Shot is the best clay and wingshooting shooting primer on the market that I have ever seen. The brilliance of its simplicity aids in getting across the correct messages for successful shooting for ANY clay/wingshooting shooter, let alone a new shooter. As a master instructor, founder/Head Coach of the Jacksonville University Shooting Team (a national championship program), and JU faculty member, Take Your Best Shot is standard reading for ALL of our varsity shooters. Dan has managed to capture the basics beautifully, and he has placed them in an easy, simple-to-follow, witty presentation. My students love the book and read it time and again. Highly recommend, no matter what your level of shooting experience and expertise."
Mark EngenThese three books are a must-read for all clay target shooters. They are clear, concise, logical instructions on how to shoot clay targets and how to improve your scores. Taking a lesson from Dan would be very advantageous & help hasten the learning process. He has been my instructor for 15 years. With each lesson, I always come away amazed at how much I have learned & how my scores improve. He also emphasizes how important it is to practice regularly & stay with his advice & recommendations to really learn new skills to improve your scores. He has helped me tremendously & I highly recommend him.