- On September 11, 2017
I recently got a lesson in archery from a good friend and former Marine, Mike.
Doing anything for the first time is humbling. I watched Mike gracefully pull the bow and arrow up to ready position and smoothly fire this shot group. Then watched his wife Linda with a bit more deliberate but almost ballet-like pull, release, and follow through.
On my attempts to mirror them, my mind was running through all the things I needed to remember—
- gentle grip on the bow and the string
- straight arm
- cant head
- eyes on the target
- steady smooth pull using my back not my arm
- string in front of my dominant eye
- middle finger at mouth no further than eye tooth
- gently release and follow through pulling shoulder back
Inevitably I got one or two right and the rest somehow went awry. Thankfully not enough to send an arrow flying over the very large triple hay bale target!
Learning archery is a lot like working on your personal leadership.
The best shots were the ones I didn’t think too hard about.
When I focused my effort on the key performance indicator (having the bow string in front of my eye) and keeping my eye on the target, not the arrow, I had a decent delivery and was much more accurate. When I tried to think of everything, my shots went way off course.
In life, listening to your gut often leads to a better outcome. Too much analysis can paralyze us into indecision and put too much weight on ‘facts.’ Logic does have its place and is an important component of decision-making. The problem we tend to rely on it as the only component and ignore the ‘gut feeling.’
When I’m stuck on something, I try to take a 10-minute meditation break. Clearing my head that way leaves room for the ‘how I truly feel’ to come through. Then I can integrate the logic and the feeling to make a choice that is more resonant for me. If it’s not something that is really going to get me energized and engaged (the feeling) is it even worth spending my precious time on?
Focus on the target, not what’s in between.
When I focused on the end state–the little yellow square of tape on the hay bale that was my target–my body and mind more or less aligned with where it was supposed to be. The times I focused too much on what was in between—looking at the arrow–I went way off target. I got in the weeds and that threw me off course.
In life, there’s a lot that can get in the way of achieving what you want. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the steps, trying to control each piece of the journey. That happens often in delegating, whether at work or home. We focus on how it needs to be done, instead of what needs to come out at the end: arrow on target. Keeping your eyes on the target, and not worrying too much about what’s in between, cosmically draws you towards it.
Not getting it right is just as important as getting it right.
It’s those times I thwacked my elbow with the bow string that I learned the most about proper form. That thwack meant I was not pulling the bow string cleanly back close to my mouth. The two fingers ratcheting the bow string back were a little bit away from my face, instead of right next to it. And when my arrows hit to the right, it was an indicator I was not standing squarely. I was twisting my head ever so slightly to get my eye on the target but when I released the arrow it found its path to where my body was facing, not my head.
In life, we’ll fail at many things and that is even more important than succeeding at everything. For me, I know that my perfectionist tendency—which fueled my competitive spirit when I was younger—can also make me feel quickly defeated when things don’t work out as I planned. I have learned to consciously put that gremlin on a ‘time out’ and be curious about why that action didn’t work out for me. Is it something I can control? If it is, what do I want to about it? Try to make it better or go on to something else?
What helps you to stay ‘on target’?
Photo credit: JMaliszewski, 2017