Lanny Bassham originally wrote this article for shooting sport competitors - but it is applicable to anyone! The information in here is solid and if you are a competitor in another area you can still use this information - just apply it to your sport!
Jim just finished shooting in the most important event of the year for him and is looking at his place on the leader board. Frustrated, Jim finds he is out of first place by two targets. This is not the first time Jim has lost in a competition like this – those lost targets were caused by a mental error!
It’s one thing to lose a shot due to not being able to hit a certain target. You know just what to do. Take a lesson if you need to, learn how to crush it every time and then you’re done. But what if targets are lost to mental error? How do you know which non-hits are “mental” errors and which ones are not? More importantly, how do you prevent these errors in the future?
This is not going to be an article listing all of the mental mistakes you can make with a shotgun. I’ve two good reasons for this. First, it would make the article longer than you would want to read and secondly, you do not need the imprinting of all of those mistakes. We all make more than enough on our own. But I would like to give you some insight in what to look for when you lose a target in a tournament that you can normally hit every time in practice. I do not believe that there is such a thing as an easy target. All targets lower your score the same amount when you miss them. There are certainly EASIER targets for us to hit. It you suspect that a lost target is a mental error it probably is. Thinking about score, trying too hard, over-thinking and beating yourself up are common mental errors that are normally easy for us to detect and they are prevalent in almost everyone. We will look at ways to help prevent these easier to detect errors in this article.
However, there are some very subtle mental errors that most people commit that are not so easy to detect. Comfort Zone correction is certainly one of them. We all have a comfort zone about everything we do. It defines the limits of what is “like us” in our Self-Image. Let’s say it is “like me” to shoot between 80 and 90 on a 100 target event in good weather and average targets. That’s my comfort zone. That is like me! If I shoot 49 out of 50 on the first half of the hundred my Self-Image will notice that I am not shooting LIKE ME. I’m shooting much too high and I need correcting so to get me into my comfort zone I need to shoot a 39 on the last 50. I have the ability to shoot two 49s but it will probably not happen if it is not “like me”.
Your Self-Image is there to make you act like you. When you are shooting within your comfort zone, the Self-Image does not interfere; but shoot better than it is like you to shoot and the Self-Image creates error in your form to bring you in line with your comfort zone. This is really frustrating to shooters. But if you think about it, the Self-Image correction is a really a good thing. If there were no Self-Image correction you would not know who you were from day to day. One day you would like shooting and the next day you would not. One day you would like that new car you purchased and the next day you would wonder how anyone would buy that model. So the Self-Image keeps us acting like the person we believe we are. Self-Image correction is normal and usually unavoidable.
You cannot prevent the Self-Image from correcting BUT you can do something about the size and limits of your comfort zone. If we raise the lower and higher boundaries of the comfort zone we can increase our performance significantly while using the Self-Image correction to do it. What if your comfort zone limits were 85-95? Now, I’m going to say something that may surprise you. Moving competition scores up past 90 percent has more to do with what you do with your mind than what you do with your gun. Below 90 percent - the mental game is equally important and you are losing mental target there as well. The difference is that you are also losing technical targets and it is difficult to know which is which. The more mistakes you make the more difficult it becomes to know why you are in error. Above 90 percent most of the targets lost are not a result of not knowing how to break them or not knowing what to do. You normally find that above 90 percent mental targets make up the greatest number of non-hits and that may be why intermediate to elite shooters appear to be more interested in Mental Management® than most beginning shooters.