Don’t learn from your mistakes!

by Pat Moore

I know, I know that sounds ridiculous, but that is exactly what you need to do. Archery is a game of repetition. You are most successful when you are able to repeat the same thing over and over. Focusing on doing it the same way every time will help you achieve that ability to do the same thing every time.  So when you step up to the line focus your thoughts on the inside out X you shot and all the other positive good shots you’ve made. Those thoughts will make you much more prone to doing it again.

Ok let me see if I can illustrate this point more clearly. If I tell you don’t think about a cold winter day where your hands were cold and your nose was running.  What pops into your head?  Now let’s try this. If I said think about how you feel on a warm spring day with the smell of freshness in the air and the warm sun on your face, which command were you better able to execute not thinking about something unpleasant or thinking about something pleasant? I’m sure when I told you not to think about the winter day, a cold winter day instantly popped into your thoughts. Now let me ask you this, which one made you feel better?  The warm spring day right? So if it’s easier to think about something positive and harder to ignore that which we want to avoid why do we constantly say learn from your mistakes? Thinking about positive wonderful things improves our demeanor and promotes positive results.

Part of what makes us human is the ability to learn and most of what we have learned is through trial and error. This works well when trying to develop a huge variety of skill sets and general knowledge. However, it sucks as a technique to use to master a single repetitive task. This is what makes not learning from your mistakes such a difficult idea to accept, it’s counter intuitive to our basic learning structure. None the less we need to shed that basic paradigm in order to maximize our ability to achieve perfection in repeatability.  If you are concentrating on doing a task right you are far more likely to succeed then if you are trying to avoid doing it wrong.

A prime example of promoting repeatability is written instructions. Think about written driving instructions.  They tell you what to do and seldom tell you what not to do. I expect instructions to get from Seattle to Bellevue would be something like take I90 east exit onto 405 north go 2 exits. Can you imagine driving instructions written in the negative? OK to get to Bellevue don’t take I5 north or south. Avoid downtown. Don’t drive too fast. Once you find I90 don’t go west. Don’t exit at either of the Mercer Island exits. Don’t get confused about the HOV lanes, if you see a boat on the water ignore that…  I think you are getting the picture they are very difficult instructions to follow certainly not very affective or efficient.

Well if we’re not learning from our mistakes how do we learn to shoot a bull’s eye and become better? This is exactly the point, if you hit the bulls eye more than 50 percent of the time YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW TO DO IT!  The hard part is doing it again and again and again.  You learn how to do that by concentrating on what you did before, so you can do it again. Follow the instructions from the previous successful shot. Now if you don’t hit the bull’s eye 60 or 70 percent of the time get a coach or a friend to help you by showing you and explaining to you what to do. If your coach tells you what you are doing wrong either retrain your coach or get a new one.

Shoot straight and enjoy!   Shoot straight and enjoy!   Shoot straight and enjoy!   Shoot straight and enjoy!