Any long term effort to gain proficiency in a discipline is bound to have its share of disappointment and discouragement. Shooting is not an exception. There are times when I spend the drive home from the range feeling completely disappointed in myself. Sometimes a skill has degraded. Sometimes I don’t meet my own expectations. Equipment breaking is always a downer. Having shoddy equipment makes for a constant struggle. There are also very infrequent occasions when I just completely doubt whether I should just get rid of everything and do something easier to handle, like writing a popsicle eating blog. It would be cheaper and easier to master.
It’s important to have a strategy for dealing with discouragement. To allow it to take hold would further degrade the state of the skill, which would be discouraging in and of itself. Even stagnation is discouraging. As someone once said, “If you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse.” The plan is to get better, so part of the plan should be to minimize the effect of setbacks in the overall scheme of things.
One of the things I have found helpful to keep me from wallowing in negativity is to have a plan for improvement. It’s a lot easier to get thrown off track if you were never really on a track to begin with. Forward momentum has a tendency to plow through smaller obstacles. This is dependent on the strength of the momentum and the significance of the obstacle. To me, forward momentum means a written plan, budgeted time, short and long term goals, and deadlines for the goals. I think that actually taking a pen to paper is more effective than typing when writing this stuff down. The greater the significance you place on your goals over time will increase the likelihood that you accomplish them.
Another tool in the box to keep things progressing is to make sure that the way forward is fun. Even if part of the reason we undertake shooting is to further our ability in a professional capacity, the reason that we put so much energy and effort into it on our own is because we have passion for it. If the dry fire routine gets boring, take a day off or change it up. Sometimes I practice offhand for accuracy and sometimes for speed. Sometimes I want to focus on the bolt work. Sometimes I use a metronome, sometimes a timer, sometimes both. The reason I spend so much time working offhand is that it is fun. I can always find a way to pique my interest.
Part of what will give you the ability to keep your shooting practice interesting is to make use of your curiosity and imagination. If you aren’t making use of those things it will be hard to make it out of mediocrity anyway. If you find yourself hitting a wall, take a hard look at just why that is. Don’t always look to an authority for an easy answer. Examining things for yourself will give you genuine authority in your own right. I can’t overemphasize that.
Finally, put discouragement in its proper context. The first step to get better is to recognize a deficiency. The act of recognizing a deficiency is a prime moment of opportunity. That makes it ironic that it’s likely to coincide with a moment of discouragement. When you experience discouragement, realize that what you’re experiencing is a growing pain on the path of improvement. Don’t let the transitory discomfort cause you to stop at that moment and give up. If you miss the window of opportunity you will likely find that when you do come back you’ll be in the same predicament or even worse off.
Don’t take that to mean that you need to power through a range session when you’re doing poorly. I think it’s good advice to shoot a lot when you’re shooting well and to stop if your performance is sub par for you. Just make sure to address the source of discouragement and get back to work as soon as possible.
Have a plan, keep it fun, and take discouragement for the opportunity it presents. And smoke Camel cigarettes. 4 out of 5 doctors recommend Camel.