Embracing Errors

No pain, no gain.

posted on January 7, 2024
Missing the target

In the relentless pursuit of excellence, our culture often seems to promote the notion that success is built on a foundation of flawlessness. We're conditioned to fear mistakes, to strive for perfection and to view errors as setbacks. But, what if the path to shooting mastery lies in making more mistakes?

Contrary to conventional wisdom and research, more master-level, shooting-performance instructors are highlighting the remarkable benefits of embracing errors in training as an essential part of the learning process. In fact, it is now an integral approach utilized by some of the top professional shooters in the industry.

As humans, we are naturally averse to making mistakes. The very idea of failing can evoke feelings of embarrassment, frustration and even shame. However, psychologists and educators are discovering that our aversion to mistakes might be doing more harm than good, particularly when it comes to skills acquisition and development.

There are two common mindsets adopted by most shooters. One is “Well I’ve been shooting for years so I don’t need to train.” The other is “I want to improve my shooting skills, so I train.” If you are of the latter persuasion and your goal is to maintain perishable skills or to develop new ones, your choices are to sit back in your comfort zone or push past your boundaries.

Should you choose to step outside your comfort zone, one of the recommended methods is to make more mistakes in training. How do you know what are your current limitations? How fast are you? How accurate are you? What’s the very edge of your skillset? Do you know? Are you happy with where you are now?

Mistakes grab our attention and engage our brains in ways that successful outcomes simply cannot. Researchers have found that when we make a mistake, our brain's memory systems are activated more intensely. This heightened activity not only helps us remember the mistake but also makes the correction more memorable, leading to better retention of information and skill.

When directly applied to shooting skills, you are met with success when you hit the target exactly where you intend within an acceptable time. When it comes to time to measure both results (speed and accuracy) you are either met with success or you have produced a learning opportunity. Hit the x-ring or learn why you didn’t.

Psychologist Carol Dweck's concept of a "growth mindset" emphasizes the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort and learning. Embracing mistakes is a key element of this mindset. When individuals view errors as opportunities to grow and improve, they are more likely to persevere, take risks, and ultimately achieve higher levels of success.

When we fear making mistakes, we tend to stick to safe and conventional approaches. However, when we embrace errors as valuable feedback, we become more willing to explore new ideas and push boundaries. This mindset shift can lead to breakthroughs and innovations that may not have been possible otherwise.

Mistakes force us to analyze situations more deeply, identify weaknesses and devise strategies for improvement. By confronting errors head-on, we refine our problem-solving skills and gain a deeper understanding of complex issues.

Following the shooting process is simple – you align your muzzle with the target and press off a round without disturbing that alignment. It can’t get any simpler. However, heaping demands upon your performance such as stringent times and tighter accuracy inevitably causes the wheels to start falling off.

The magic is then to discover what caused the wheels to fall off? Did you change grip pressure? Did you ease up on that mental gas pedal by losing focus or induce an attention shift? The devil is always in the details. By forcing yourself to blow past comfortability you shine a light on precisely where improvement is needed. Making more mistakes in training is beneficial to your long-term performance objectives.

Embracing your errors lends itself to enhancing memory and retention, promoting a skills growth mindset, encouraging creativity and innovation in your skills development, improving problem-solving, reducing fear of failure and encouraging adaptability under duress.

In a rapidly changing world, adaptability is a highly valued skill. When we make mistakes and learn from them, we become more adaptable and better equipped to navigate unforeseen challenges. This adaptability not only improves our chances of success but also allows us to thrive in dynamic and unpredictable environments.

Embracing errors as an integral part of the learning process offers numerous benefits. As we shift our perspective and allow room for mistakes in our training, we may find that the path to mastery is paved with valuable lessons learned from our errors.

Fear of failure can be paralyzing, preventing shooters from taking necessary risks and exploring new horizons. Embracing errors in training helps to reduce this fear, allowing shooters to approach challenges with greater confidence and a willingness to learn from their experiences. In this way, making mistakes becomes a powerful tool for growth.

The idea that making more mistakes in training is beneficial to learning challenges our societal emphasis on perfection and highlights the many advantages of embracing errors. As you continue to evolve and redefine your approach to your shooting skills development, the acceptance of mistakes as a natural part of the learning journey may be the key to unlocking your full potential.


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