Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Attention Please!

I spoke to Mik3 for a while about the match - he's busy editing video - but we talked for a while about losing "focus". Additionally, Caleb talks about losing mental focus during the same match.

It is interesting that two excellent shooters are faced with the same predicament - the particulars don't much matter, e.g., "Which stage" or "Which targets" - but the effect matters: How much did losing "focus" or "attention" disrupt your consistency and your capacity to shred?

So what to do?

My background has been in the hard sciences and corporate IT - during my college years I, regretfully, never got to explore many humanities courses in the vein of sociology or psychology. Sometimes, I feel like their job is more difficult than that of a scientist - most of our answers compute, or at least have a measure of error tied to 'em, where their premises must draw on some pretty intangible gooey "humanness". The end result is that I'm fascinated by the topics of Performance Psychology and Positive Psychology - a real bonus is that much of that applies nicely to staying motivated in a match. (Many of you who know me know that I have a method, but that between applications of my "checklist" I'm busy flap-jawing, hamming it up, spacing out, etc…) The good news is that this stuff has really works, the bad news is that you could scour the sources for a while and get frustrated that there isn't a clear method/process that you can simply understand…

I too floundered for a while, trying to figure out why I was "blanking" and I read Brian Eno's excellent "Beyond Fundamentals" book a while after I started shooting seriously. I'll save the review for another day - but suffice to say that one of the most amazing parts of the book was the discussion about what I'll collectively call "mindset". The sooner someone realizes this, the sooner they begin to perform better. Since Brian is in business, I decided to call him and pick his brain - to which his response was: "Buy Olympic Gold Medalist ('76 - Rifle) Lanny Bassham's book, "With Winning in Mind". Preferably from my store…"

Enter The "Bassham Method"

The book is very compact - 162 pages - and where many pop-psych books focus on a discussion of the problems, e.g. "Danny keeps losing his focus because [INSERT 20 PAGE HORROR STORY].", Bassham's book focuses on solutions - It is refreshing to not concern oneself with meddlesome particulars, but rather, focus on the concrete things that you could start doing right now to get better.

The idea is simple - and Caleb touches upon it in his post - you can only hold, in your conscious mind one mental image. Your subconscious will direct your actions towards fulfilling that image. If you hold a negative image in your mind, you will most likely have a negative outcome. If you hold a positive image, you will most likely have a positive outcome.

There are some details about how one can maximize holding a positive image in the mind, and the book delves deep into building that skill, but the material is presented in such a way that makes it fairly simple to put into practice.

Other cool stuff…

I stumbled upon an excellent video that looks at the question of motivation. While we're on the topic of mental voodoo, take a look - it won some awards and is perfect for you short attention span folks:

Last night, WBEZ 91.5, Chicago's National Public Radio had an excellent rebroadcast of Canadian Public Radio's program "Say No to Happiness".
Happiness is a perfectly acceptable emotion/response, but life is suffering and sometimes what is good in life isn't merely "being happy." I mean, Conan was crushing the enemy like Bob Vogel crushed the Carolina Cup in his hand like a deadbeat redneck crushes spent beer cans on a forehead - were they necessarily "happy", or were they brining their own particular brand of "order" to the universe by ventilating targets in a ballet of gun-smoke and lead?