Is There A Road Map Into The Subconscious?
While driving home from a frustrating practice session, I had an epiphany. It hit me like a ton of bricks! But before I get into what I discovered, let me back track and tell you how my practice day went.
A buddy and I decided to set up a simple 6 target stage with 2 double stacked barrels as vision barriers. We planned to run the stage from left to right then right to left, alternating the order in which we engaged each targets. The goal was simply to see which way would be most efficient. I decided to approach my first run as if it was a stage at a match. I walked through it a few times and committed to a plan that I felt was the fastest and suited my skill set best. My first run felt great! I saw the sight lift on every shot made and I hit my shooting positions quickly with zero hesitation. This is where my frustration begins…
I did not realize it at the time but I fell into a trap most shooters will encounter while practicing or at a match. I looked at each target verifying what I “called” to be all alphas; they were all alphas. I heard the time of 5.76 seconds in which I ran it in. Was that fast? Was it slow? Not sure if it was either but a bar was set. A measurable objective was now in place to beat. A few hours and 300 rounds later, my first run was the only one I felt good about. I was plagued with trigger freeze and runs consisting of charlie and delta hits scattered on multiple targets. I failed to remember the objective of the day, “simply to see which way would be the best.” Nothing regarding my shooting should have changed except the ways and routes in which we shot the stage.
To elaborate on my “driving in my truck epiphany”, let me ask a few questions: When you are driving, are you actually thinking about the act of driving? When you approach a stop sign, do you think about applying pressure to the brake pedal or does it happen automatically? When the road curves slightly, do you think about gripping the steering wheel tighter and turning it or do you simply observe the front of the car staying within the lines on the road? Simply put, one is conscious and the other is subconscious.
We shoot in our purest form while in the subconscious state. Nothing is forced or tried. Everything is a reaction to an observation. In other sports, this is also known as “the zone”. I have experienced this numerous times, not only in shooting but in other sports as well. Early on, I was just happy to be in that state and never wondered how I got there. Recently this has been the focus of my development as a shooter and it has played havoc on my performance. I was trying to discover a way to enter “the zone” on demand, like it was some switch I could flip.
Let me be clear. Anyone at any skill level can shoot while in the zone. The reason why it may seem only the upper echelon of shooters can do it on demand is because of their preparation. Preparation is bred in practice. Practice raises one’s level of confidence. Confidence allows us to trust in our abilities. This next sentence applies to everyone: to shoot in a subconscious state one must submit to their level of preparation. If you do not believe this, you will find yourself trying and thinking when you should be observing and reacting.
The last few months I was searching for an answer that doesn’t actually exist. I was so infatuated with this phenomenon that I failed to see this state of mind in everyday life. Other than being safe behind the wheel, I place zero importance in driving. I had an objective of reaching a destination and I simply observed what was in front of me. Having 100% confidence in my driving skill and experience, I adjusted and reacted accordingly until I got there. Our shooting should be approached in the same manner, simply observe and react.
“Try” when improvement is the goal but when a clear reflection of your current skill level is what you want to see, do it by having the utmost trust in your current abilities.
~ Leo Deleon
“Libertas Vel Mors”
USPSA Grand Master