Every so often, I like try new things and learn new skills. One that I tried not too long ago was archery. I’ve always thought it was a fascinating weapon and to see it being used is even more remarkable. It was by far more fun than I had imagined and rich in more powerful lessons than I had hoped for. Here’s what I learned in those 5 months of archery.
1. The importance of focus
We live in a time where focus is considerably challenging to cultivate. It’s not until you’re faced with an activity that requires an unwavering focus that you start to really appreciate and acknowledge the importance of focus. It was during those archery sessions that I truly became conscious of just how much I was able to focus.
The verdict: not much focus at all.
Focus is something that requires a conscious effort to cultivate and once you build it up, it’s easily fleeting. What I mean by that is that you have to keep putting that effort in to stay focused. It’s like working out a muscle. Every day, you just have to push a little past what you were comfortable with last time. You can do this with anything that requires focus. You can try this with studying, writing, or even training.
I’ve noticed myself that with every little bit more I get focused, I get more done in less time. Think of your focus as the rays of the sun. If it’s scattered, it won’t have much effect but when honed in by a magnifying glass, it can burn a leaf, cause an ember, and then spread to become a huge fire.
You’ll know when you’ve become focused because you’ll be in a state of flow and there won’t be any distractions to deter nor mental chaos to obstruct you from what needs to be done.
2. Intensity over repetition
Have you ever stepped into the gym and seen that one guy who you always see comes in around the same time you do but he looks the same even after months and sometimes even years of hitting the gym and you sit there wondering why but then you see him working out and you see that he’s only going through the motions and not really putting forth his maximum effort or any real intention. Then you go on YouTube ad Facebook and hear incredible stories of 6 month body transformations. So what’s the difference between the two? The intensity. The one who went through a massive transformation pushed his body every single day in the gym. The other merely went through the motions and didn’t move forward or push hard enough.
In the span of the 5 months, I noticed that the weeks in which I would put a conscious effort and intensity in practicing, I would improve and the days in which I would just go through the motions and not try to improve much, I would stay the same. It is much better to have just 20 minutes of deliberate practice than 2 hours of aimless repetition.
3. Mind off body on
I found myself having an influx of thoughts rushing through my mind and not being able to hit the target well. The body is much smarter than you think. It already does some pretty intricate stuff without your conscious effort. What I have found to be true time and time again through sports is that you must put a conscious effort on trying to perfect certain aspects of a skill set but when it’s show time- like a competition- you just have to trust that your body has embedded that information and will use it when you need it. There are so many times when I tried to micromanage the little details and have failed really badly. The body will remember what you taught it. Muscle memory is a great example of this. How is it that a guitar expert can go months without touching the instrument yet still be able to play relatively well considered all that time has passed. Once you learn something, you can’t unlearn it.
4. Leave your expectations at the door
From the minute I had touched the bow and arrow, I had this unrealistic fantasy in my head that I would be really good and if not that, then I would become really good really fast. It’s a very humbling experience to do something for the first time and suck at it. It reminds us that we are only human. We are not perfect, but we can seek to be excellent in all that we strive to do. Having no expectations and simply doing your best is the optimal approach for learning a skill. If you have high expectations and you’re performance doesn’t align with that, you end up with unnecessary disappointment that could’ve been avoided had you let go of all your attachment to the outcome.
5. Challenge yourself
You either challenge yourself or life will challenge you. When you continually challenging yourself to be better today than you were yesterday, there is no telling where you’ll be in a couple months. Continual small incremental changes add up in a big ways. Take for instance the following example. There are two boats that start in the same starting point. One has a 2 degree bearing to the right and the other has a 2 degree bearing to the left. After just a couple miles, there will be a significant difference in where the two boats will be by the end. Challenge yourself today and reap the benefits tomorrow.