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Self coaching is about training your mind to help you achieve success. By utilising simple techniques we can reinforce the behaviour we want and eliminate the behaviour we donít want.
Learnt reflexes. When shooting we find out pretty quickly that the conscious mind is not able to cope with all the things we need to concentrate on to shoot well. Fortunately we can delegate a lot of the simple repetitive tasks to the sub-conscious mind. We do this all the time, remember how difficult your first driving lesson was, changing gear, signalling, looking in the mirror - the list goes on. But now however you do all this without really giving it any thought - it has become a learnt reflex.
We need to harness this ability to take over all the repetitive tasks and leave our conscious mind to concentrate on overseeing the learnt reflexes and keeping track of external variables such as wind etc.
So how do we go about developing these learnt reflexes? Think about when you learnt to drive, you did the same thing over and over again and eventually it became automatic.
To shoot well we need to do the same thing. Get into a rhythm; start right from walking up to the firing point. Put out your mat, followed by the spotting scope etc, think about how you will use the area, how each item will be used, where it needs to be. Have a checklist if it helps you. (Checklists can also relieve stress as you do not forget things and then have to make do.)
Get yourself in position on the point and adjust your position until you are comfortable, make sure you put everything in the same place each time. Eventually you will get into the habit and, for example, will not have to look where the ammunition is. Your hand will go to it automatically, take out a round, reload the rifle and prepare to fire the next shot. Every time you do this you are reinforcing and refining the learnt reflex: each step required to fire the rifle will consistently follow.
So, you are at the firing point, all your learnt reflexes ready to step in as soon as you let them, and there is the rub: you have to let them take over. At first this is not an easy task, you have to empty your mind of the trivia, you might try physically relaxing your shoulders or relaxing other large muscle groups may help. Try to shut out any disruptions and become focused only on the important.
Advice and what to do with it. At some point someone (possibly yourself,) will give you some unsolicited and unwelcome advice. The advice may well be sound but it will break your rhythm if you let it. Remember the reason you shoot so well is consistency, so think about all the trouble you went to, to train those reflexes. The worst thing that you can do at this stage is throw that all away. If you do then you are back to basics and each action has to be instigated, checked and corrected and you are now dealing with the minutiae rather than the important and the quality of your shooting drops. If you notice this happening, stop, relax, clear your mind and then continue when ready.
The same is true if you drop a shot or two. The successful shooter will analyse the shot, identify what is causing the problem and eliminate it. He will then concentrate on achieving the best possible performance and follow through for the next shot, letting the learnt reflexes take over again.
Visualisation. The correct manner in which to use the mind must be learned and can only be achieved through the expenditure of considerable time and effort. On average it needs about 4-6 weeks reinforcement to produce a learnt response.
If you read any books on coaching you will come across visualisation being used, the reason being it is a very powerful method of training the mind for success. Before each shoot, you rehearse and visualise the actions and mindset required to produce a series of perfect shots. The idea being that when you come to shoot you have already worked out all the bugs and are following a well thought out plan. In your mind you have already eliminated previous errors, thoughts about possible scores and other extraneous subjects. Visualising the whole event is an important step in mental preparation.
Donít just hope for success, plan for it.