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The Happy and Disciplined Shooter

If you actually read through last month’s novel of a blog I wrote on discipline, then congratulations. If not, go back and read it right now. Just kidding. But here’s a quick synopsis: there’s a difference between willpower and discipline. While willpower might allow you to identify talent quickly, it is unpredictable and cannot be improved through time and effort. Discipline, on the other hand, takes more time and energy to develop, but has a much higher chance of producing positive results. Discipline is identifying your weakness and taking the initiative to address it with forward planning.

In shooting, this weakness could be a variety of things. Here’s a few:

  • Pessimism. Routinely surround yourself with positive input (podcasts, books, coaches, friends) and dedicate yourself to the idea that something good is coming, no matter what just happened. Take ownership of your attitude, and realize that if you’re not having fun, it’s your own fault. Be determined to enjoy the moment.
  • Overworking. Not only does this eventually result in burning out of the sport, but it is also the perfect recipe for mediocrity. It takes discipline to realize when you need to take a break and to stop using the guise of passion for your sport to avoid reflecting on yourself and addressing your weaknesses. It’s easier to shoot another bullet than it is to stop and analyze how to improve that last shot. This is what a lot of coaches label “throwing lead downrange” as opposed to quality hours on the range.
  • Excuses. Rifle shooters often take the definition of self-critique to another level. But even when a competition doesn’t go well, there is a time to stop trying to find reasons why and move forward instead. It’s easy to cross the line between being analytical and being a complainer—I know firsthand. And as a teammate, it can be beyond irritating to listen to someone else time and again blame things beyond their control for a bad result—the coach, school, parents, gun model, stage of the moon…you get my drift. To counteract this, make sure every time you find a reason for why something went wrong, you also have a plan of action on how to avoid it next time.

If you think of the most disciplined people you know, there’s definitely some key themes you see in all of them. First, they’ve developed a realistic set of rules that they always follow. For shooters, this set of rules often looks like a shot routine, as well as a match plan for every competition. Once that set of rules is created for the optimum shot, it becomes easier to follow during every practice, and consequently every big match. I highly recommend writing down your shot routine—that way you have to use even less brainpower to remember what the “rules” are.

Which leads to the second thing disciplined people have in common: a way to hold themselves accountable. This is what I’ve found junior shooters avoid the most–the dreaded shooting diary. Since I’m lazy and don’t write much when I have to use a pen, I now keep a running Google document for each month of training, writing out what I learned from that day of training and what I want to try next time. Coaches can also be extremely valuable in this area, even if they don’t have tons of experience in the sport. Just asking a developing shooter what they learned and how they plan on using it in the future can be an invaluable resource to developing good habits in an athlete.

Finally, disciplined people are determined to enjoy the moment since they have a vision for the future. If you don’t enjoy something and it’s supposed to be fun, there is no sane reason to continue. That’s why disciplined people set both short and long-term goals. It’s easy to continue something if you consistently get the satisfaction of progress.

Hopefully this gave you a few ideas to brainstorm as you strive to become a more disciplined marksman (or markswoman!). Have other thoughts on how to be disciplined? Comment below>>>