Journey into your Mind: The Subconscious Journey
Everything that is automatic in your body comes from the “subconscious” part of your mind. Your subconscious mind controls everything that you do because like a computer, it is programmed to do so.
Understanding how your subconscious mind affects your STRONG/WEAK column is crucial and today you will take a journey into your mind and begin to connect the pieces of the puzzle from week one.
Subconscious vs Concscious
In simple terms your conscious mind commands your thoughts and your subconscious mind obeys by what it knows. As an example of your subconscious mind is your heart. The heart beats without you having to even think about it. It does that because the subconscious part of the brain is programmed to make that work for you no matter what, even if you consciously tell your heart to stop beating it will always beat. Conscious thoughts allow us to make changes to what we do or how we do it.
“You control your conscious mind just by thinking it.”
All your habits of thinking and acting are stored in your subconscious mind. It has memorized all your comfort zones. The subconscious mind also works hard to keep you in those comfort zones.
Your subconscious mind causes you to feel emotionally and physically uncomfortable whenever you attempt to do anything new or different, or to change any of your established patterns of behavior.
You can feel your subconscious mind pulling you back toward your comfort zone each time you try something new. This is the feeling you get when you when you get uneasy about something. Even just thinking about doing something different from what you are accustomed to will make you feel tense and uneasy.
People have been pushing the envelope of what makes them feel safe or how they react to fear. The difference between most people is that if you can push through your fears and you reprogram your subconscious to accept that what you are doing is the new normal, then you start to improve your abilities and you increase the levels at which you can perform both mentally and physically.
An old rule of thumb is that it takes 21 days to change a habit. That is because the average person must consciously think about the change for 3 weeks before the subconscious mind just reacts and makes it normal. By doing something the way you want to do it over and over and over, again and again and again, you eventually change the habit and it becomes automatic to you. So automatic that you never have to think about it again and it becomes natural.
That change is done consciously until the subconscious is reprogrammed to make it normal. You can change anything in your life you want to by consciously making an effort every single day until your subconscious makes it a normal habit.
STRONG vs WEAK: It is in your mind
Three weeks have gone by since I had you make your STRONG/WEAK columns. Did you catch that? Three (3) weeks! By now the thing you chose to work on should start becoming more natural to you and you should already start feeling confident about that item. If not then don’t worry, just keep working on it. Remember that 3 weeks is just an average and there is not rush on building confidence that will be with you forever.
Using imagery will help you keep a conscious focus on what you are wanting to change. Imagery will help speed things up and help teach your subconscious what it is that you want to be done. By physically practicing that change and feeling more confident you will be able to move onto your next item.
As I stated in the first article in week one, you will start to see how the pieces of the puzzle come together. I am sure you are still curious as to why we don’t erase the WEAK items and only cross a line through them so that we still can read them. Not to worry because next week you will learn why that is important and until then keep working on imagery and keep focus on reprogramming your mind so that you can physically make the change long term as well as feel confident about the changes.
I changed my subconscious to know that my Legend Archery Pro Sling will keep by bow safe and I don’t have to worry about it ever hitting the floor!
Follow back next week as I explain why we don’t erase WEAK items and I will start my series on using psychology to “psych-out” the competition.
How to on your Mental Game: Confidence Your Way
A month has gone by now since we started the articles on the mental game. I hope your training is seeing some improvements from using the STRONG/WEAK column.
Since day one you have been instructed to not erase the items in the WEAK column at all, and to just draw a line through it. If you are a curious archer and wondering why you leave it there and not get rid of it entirely, then you are not alone and about to learn why.
Bow Arm * Anchor
Grip * Release
Equipment/Gear * Crowds
Aiming * 3-spot target
Each time that you begin to move a WEAK item into the STRONG column you are not only changing how you see yourself but changing how your mind interacts subconsciously as you learned last week. You dictate what your subconscious can do so that you just naturally perform the way you want. What you can’t control is the past. It has already happened and will define you forever. Even when you change something on purpose there is a reason it was WEAK to begin with and that is the real you without any correction.
Remember how you were told that STRONG column items does not mean perfect but only things that you feel confident about and WEAK items were things that needed improvement in order to feel confident?
Those STRONG column items are not PERFECT! All the items that you move from WEAK to STRONG are moved because you purposefully worked on them and now feel confident in them. You feel confident enough to move onto the next item. The entire process is at your own pace and you have been given some steady tools like imagery to help move those items over one by one.
“I am confident in my release!” So why not erase it as a WEAK item for good?! The reasons are simple.
The past is a reminder of how far we have come. Progress forward builds confidence but if you were to erase the WEAK items then you could never look back and see exactly what has changed or in what order. Being able to see what you have changed is crucial in feeling more confident.
Back to the Future
Every archer will have a moment when things just don’t seem to go their way. Form feels good, equipment is tuned, you feel confident for now, but scores are starting to drop. This downslide is normal and is the hardest times to overcome mentally. You know you can do it because you had just been shooting well. This slump can be caused by many things but the top reasons usually start with something you moved over to the STRONG column. It could even be the very last WEAK item you crossed off your list. Slumps in sports are usually mental and require a spark to the subconscious to turn things around. By being able to see what WEAK items on your list you moved your subconscious will remember every little thing it took to move it over to the STRONG column. By not erasing those items we are forcing a connection with our subconscious mind without even trying. Since your mind will see the WEAK column item you crossed out, it will also see the STRONG column with the same item not crossed out. All the mind will see is the item. We consciously force our subconscious to relive what we did to move the item over. All of this without having to think about it or focus on it. The mind will do this all on its own and begin triggering events that took place during that time. Within almost no time at all your mind will start to point you down a path to repair what is going wrong. It is like a gentle reminder of the past and the future all in one glance of a word. It works this way because we trained it to work this way by using the STRONG/WEAK column from day one.
I promised to give you some weekly pointers on how to “psych” out the competition. So here is this weeks lesson.
The next time you are on the shooting line and have some close competition shooting with you, try this “psych-out” trick. Ask your competition if they think the target is really round or not. Look confused as if the target isn’t round to you at all when asking them this. The trick takes a few ends to kick in but eventually, no matter how strong willed they are mentally, their mind will notice the target was never round to start with but is actually square. This will make them focus on it enough to stop focusing on their shot and begin to over aim. Even a tough competitor will give up a few points due to this trick.
Not enough room in your head to store your tricks, try the Legend Archery Diamond Pack to store more tricks and gear!
Archery has Gone Mental: Part 2: Imagery
I hope your training is going well so far and that you made your STRONG/WEAK column this past week. If you still have not made the column list, then go back to Part 1 and be sure you do it. This process is in steps and in the end the parts will all come together. So do yourself a favor and don’t cheat, just give it a try and do it!
Bow Arm * Anchor
Anchor * Release
Grip * Crowds
Equipment/Gear * 3-spot target
Exploring the Imagination
Everything you do starts with an image in your head. That image you have of yourself doing anything is called imagery. Imagery is a picture or moving picture you have of something you want to act upon. The difference between imagery and dreams is that in dreams you are not always in control of what you see. Imagery is a conscious effort to see yourself doing something and is on purpose.
The concept of imagery is very simple. However it is the beginning of everything you actually do and if not taken seriously it can hinder what you are trying to accomplish. If you try to imagine yourself jumping off a cliff and then picture yourself with wings and flying, then you are just day dreaming and not using imagery correctly. It is important to understand that when using imagery you must picture everything you do as being completely real and not be unrealistic with it.
Every person is unique in the way they imagine the world around them. Some people have active imaginations and can picture themselves as Superman flying around and looking down at their house. Others struggle with an imagination like that and can’t even see themselves in their mind doing anything but what they already know they can do, like walking down stairs.
The difference between the two types is night and day, but by learning how to use imagery correctly it doesn’t matter what type you fall under. If you have an active imagination you actually struggle with imagery because you tend to lose focus and see yourself doing something unrealistic. While others dream and picture themselves in reality as seen through their eyes.
Active imaginations are great with imagery because you have the ability to see not only yourself but your surroundings as well as one image. You can easily change the background of where you are just by thinking it. This is a good thing, but needs to be controlled.
Have someone else read this part to you right now. Close your eyes while they read this to you.
Picture yourself flying through the air like superman. There are clouds all around with blue sky above you. Your arms are out to your side and your legs straight. Your head is up looking straight ahead. You lean to turn, right then left. Then you do a barrel role! Now try to picture yourself and what you look like. What color shoes are you wearing? (If you are the one reading this to them, did their body move to fly while in front of you? Did their head move down to look at their feet?)
Now put your feet back on the ground, we have stuff to learn.
When you were asked what color shoes are you wearing, did you stop flying and look down at your actual feet? Or did you keep flying and look at your feet in the air? If you looked at your feet while flying, how did you look at them? If you saw your shoes by looking at them then you are viewing in the first person. If you looked at your shoes from outside your body then you saw them as third person. Following so far?
Now ask the person who read that to you whether or not you just sat there or if you moved your head while looking at your feet.
If you just sat there and did not move it means that you are able to picture yourself doing something including a task without moving at all. Congratulations! You are able to perform imagery in public and not embarrass yourself!
For everyone else all it means is that you use your body to complete what you picture in your head. There is no right or wrong, just whether or not you don’t mind on lookers when doing it at the airport.
How to Visualize, You
Imagining yourself is not easy for everyone to do. Everyone can close their eyes and visualize seeing something from their own perspective. The hard part is being able to close your eyes and picture yourself from someone else’s perspective and not lose focus.
As an exercise to learn how to visualize yourself I have found that the easiest way is to have someone take a picture of you while shooting. Now take that picture and look at it. Look at every single inch of everything in it. Hold that picture in front of you and stare at it without blinking. Do this for about 5-10 seconds. Without blinking or looking away, close your eyes and visualize the picture. Don’t move, keep holding the picture, or at least don’t move the picture. After about 3-5 seconds open your eyes and look at the picture again. Do this over and over until when you close your eyes you can see the picture without your eyes open.
This is a way to train your mind to see what you want it to see. By memorizing the picture your mind is able to see it as if you were actually looking at the picture with your eyes open. This may take some of you a while to learn how to do it, but this is crucial for learning imagery.
Once you learn this, assuming it does not come naturally to you, you will be able to close your eyes and see yourself like a picture. If you struggle with being able to see yourself from different angles in your head, then have more pictures taken of you while shooting from different angles. I have found that making a video of yourself is the fastest way to see yourself in all angles.
What you want to be able to do is close your eyes and see yourself shooting. You want to be able to see yourself as if you were a camera from all angles. Being able to visualize yourself in your mind and moving around yourself is the goal. If you get frustrated trying to do it, just watch the video of yourself again and see what the camera sees. Once you can see yourself in that way, elaborate on it. Try to move your view to above yourself in your mind, looking down on yourself.
Being able to visualize every part of you is not always easy and takes practice. Once you are able to do this however, you will be able to see yourself in a different way and it will begin to help you understand your form and your surroundings better.
Once you grasp being able to see yourself and your surroundings with your eyes closed, you can begin to use imagery. Imagery is an ability to see anything you want from first person to third person point of views and change the picture you see to how you want it to be.
Assuming you can do this now, close your eyes and take a look at the field you are shooting on. Picture everything around you as you wish. The sky, the grass or dirt, the target, the trees, the wind, everything you would see when you shoot. You can use imagery in your mind to change the field and things like weather or time of day. You can picture yourself shooting on a rainy day and visualize the water running down the riser. Imagery can go even further with your senses and you can learn to smell the rain or feel it on your skin.
Imagery is a key ingredient to a stronger mental game because it allows you to create a perfect picture of what you should be doing and to find ways to fix problems before ever shooting a single real shot. If you feel comfortable in an environment before ever showing up to that place you will already feel more confident.
Never been to a specific tournament or location and feel anxious about it? Use imagery to calm yourself down. Find pictures on the web of previous tournaments at that location. Study the pictures or video. Look at how it is laid out, the grass or carpet if indoor, look at the targets and lighting, and find everything you can to picture yourself standing there. Imagine being the one who took the pictures or video. Close your eyes and look around the venue. Get a feel of the place. Walk around a bit in your head. Go stand on the shooting line and fire a shot real fast. Don’t worry, no one will mind.
You can even go online to see average weather of the venue or find the weather for that day you will be there. You will know if it is 70deg with sun or 90deg with rain. Visualize yourself on the shooting line knowing what it looks like and what the weather is like. Visualize and imagine the perfect shot. Picture how perfect you release the string and how strong your bow arm is. Visualize everything as if you were actually there right now.
Take a WEAK column item and work on it in your head. Visualize yourself doing it the right way, perfect. Picture yourself shooting with perfection. Work on it in your mind until you just want to pick up the bow and just do it right away. Build confidence before you even stand on the shooting line. Use imagery to curb your fears. Shoot strong shots in your head.
The mind has a wonderful way of helping us correct physical struggles. If we imagine it enough the mind will start to help our physical bodies perform exactly the way we picture ourselves. You can cut WEAK issues time in half by using imagery to correct the problems.
By using imagery, which you can do anywhere at any time, you can learn to shoot an entire tournament before you even get there. Imagery is nothing more than picturing the perfect you. Anyone can do it with some practice and advanced practice will let you close your eyes anywhere and shoot all your shots perfectly while feeling the rain on your skin and the push of the wind on your back. Remember not to day dream and keep it realistic. Feel confident when visualizing yourself, and always visualize hitting the X!
You want to use imagery before shooting every real shot. Picture your shot process and how you want to execute the shot before nocking the arrow. Then shoot it exactly how you imagined.
What are you imagining right now? For me I am using imagery to see myself preparing my gear with my Archery Backpack before heading to the field.
Weekly Challenge: Use imagery to help move a WEAK column item over. Remember that moving a WEAK item over is about confidence and confidence is all in your head.
See you next week when I take you on a journey with your subconscious mind.
Approaching the Mind: Part 1
Archery is a sport like any other. It requires immense physical abilities to repeat a set of steps to complete a task. Not every athlete is built the same and nor are they able to complete the task at hand exactly the same from person to person. What an athlete lacks in physical qualities, they make up for with mental strength and ability. Just the pure fact that someone never gives up is already their greatest strength.
Archers train their body to repeat every step exactly the same shot by shot. That is the true secret to being a great archer, being able to duplicate everything you do on every single shot. It doesn’t matter if it is perfectly executed. All that matters is that you do the same exact thing every single time. It doesn’t matter how much weight you can shoot or how fast the arrow can fly. A slow bullseye is the same as a fast bullseye.
Perfect form with more arrow speed will certainly help in many circumstances like shooting in the wind, but less than perfect form and a slow arrow can still hit the target where you want it to. Physical abilities are different from archer to archer and like any athlete in a sport everyone is different in that area. Better form only helps lessen the chance of a poor shot, but even bad form can still work.
Why all the talk already about physical ability and form? You thought reading this article would help your mental game, not tell you about good vs. bad form?
Within a few short paragraphs you have already learned more about the mental game of sports and archery than you realize. If you shoot a low poundage bow and always wondered how your bow weight affects a bullseye or if you have less than perfect form due to an injury and there is nothing you can do about it, then I know for those of you in those categories that I raised your heart rate slightly already and got you excited about the idea that none of that matters and you can still shoot a perfect shot.
Now let me take your heart rate up more and turn up your blood pressure. Unless you shoot 50+ lbs and can shoot 8 hrs a day with perfect form because you have a great coach, you will never win an Olympic Gold Medal. Ever!
Stirred up and mad? Did your stomach drop and heart rate jump up reading that? If it did then you are not alone and the next few weeks you will learn the basics of how and why that happens to you. Most importantly you will learn a few ways to curb those feelings.
Some of you reading this laughed at the comment and rolled your eyes thinking to yourself, whatever. If you chuckled at the comment then you have confidence. Confidence because you simply know it isn’t true or confidence because you can prove it wrong right now.
Confidence is Knowledge
It is not a secret but the biggest factor in having a mental game is confidence. Confidence is a learned trait for most, but some people are just naturally confident in everything they do. Those rare individuals just know they can do something before they even attempt it. If you are not one of those people then don’t worry about it because the key to confidence is knowledge. Knowledge gives us the ability in any situation to conquer fear. Fear is the number one distraction. We are only afraid of what we don’t know.
When you stand on the shooting line in a tournament and shoot your very first shot in practice rounds, do you shake or feel faint? That feeling is caused from adrenaline which is triggered by a certain emotion, fear. It is a normal reaction for most of us. The reason is simple. The reason you have fear is because you are not confident enough in knowing your abilities.
“…Confident enough in knowing your abilities.”
The reason seasoned archers or athletes are confident is because they know what they are capable of doing. They have knowledge of themselves and have performed in every scenario possible. They know the good and the bad. When the wind blows, they know how to aim or what to change to make the shot. When equipment fails, they know what needs to be fixed and how to deal with it.
We will get into how to gain confidence later on. The important thing at this point is to understand where you are in your mental game and work on your mental weaknesses.
As a positive booster to get you going keep this in mind every single time you compete. Every athlete has a breaking point mentally no matter how good their mental game. You will also learn in these series how to turn the mental game around and us it to “psych-out” your competition.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how confidence is knowledge, let us dive right into your first true lesson in any mental game. Fear.
Fear is a normal human reaction and is an emotion. Fear has many different faces and for most it is the fear of the unknown. Confidence is the ability to overcome fear. Knowledge is the key to confidence. See a pattern starting?
When we begin to shake it is because adrenaline is pumping through our system and fear is usually the cause. Anxiety is also fear and is hard to control unless you know what it is that is making you anxious in the first place. In order to conquer your fears, you simply have to face them. Over the years I have found this to be different for everyone, so everyone has a different approach but the results of what is next works regardless of your mental type (and by mental type remember that it is referring to whether or not you feel anxious or afraid, or if you already feel nothing) or ability.
Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. This is true no matter what you do in life or sports. Athletes practice and practice and practice to prepare for competition. We practice so that we can do what we want as we want at any moment. Being natural at what we do. We want to practice so that we get better. Practicing in a garage or in the backyard will only get you so far. You can practice your form for 10,000 shots and put years behind your practice. Let’s say that your practice is perfect every time. You shoot a planned practice with 100 shots each time. Each practice your form gets better and better and you get stronger and stronger. You can average 290s in practice for indoor, but when you shoot in a tournament your averages drop to 275s. How is that possible when you practice perfectly every single session? Your form is solid and the arrow flies so perfectly down range. The reason is because when you get to a competition you become anxious and the little imperfections start to come out when shooting. The bad shots go to your head and the score starts to drop no matter how hard you try. Be careful not to try too hard, you know what you can do. The 10s become 9s and you lose your confidence. You become frustrated and afraid of the next shot. The moment you let fear enter your mind, the damage is done. Or is it?
The first lesson in this mental game is understanding yourself. After reading this article I want you to grab a piece of paper and pen or something you can’t erase. Draw a line down the middle to make 2 columns. On one column side write STRONG and on the other column write WEAK.
Under the STRONG side I want you to write what you feel are your archery strengths, ie strong bow arm, solid anchor, etc. and on the WEAK side I want you to write what you feel you are weakest in doing.
Bow Arm * Anchor
Once you are done look at the weak column first. These are the things in your form or shot process that need work. They are not perfect but they are fixable. These are things you need to focus on each week in practice. As each part of the WEAK column improves and you feel they are STRONG, cross them out and add it to the STRONG column. DO NOT ERASE the WEAK COLUMN! You will see why later.
Your first goal is to improve one WEAK column item in one week. I call it WEAK for WEEK.
If you are unable to accomplish moving a weak issue over in a week then it is ok. It is simply a goal that has long term affects but can be corrected.
Example: You fixed your anchor this week so you can add it to the STRONG side. Don't erase it from the WEAK side. Just cross it out so you can still see it.
Bow Arm * Anchor
Anchor * Release
Now you can’t read the next part until you make this column. So do yourself a favor and don’t cheat. Just do it! Right now!
..... Waiting on you to make your columns....
You are now probably asking why would I make a column to work on my weak parts in my form when I am trying to have a better mental game in archery? The reason is because there is not a way to become confident in yourself if you still feel you have a weakness to overcome. The fact you wrote it in the WEAK column proves to yourself that you feel unconfident in that part of your shooting. The only way to overcome that part of your mind is to work on it until you can write this column later from scratch and put everything in the STRONG column. Remember that STRONG does not mean perfect. Hence the point of the exercise. The point of this is so you can see where your mind is headed. If you put anything in the WEAK column then your mind is already fighting a battle with confidence. I will say it again, STRONG does not mean perfect. It just means your mind sees it as a part of the process it is comfortable with and is confident enough to work with.
The goal this week is to know how your mind feels about your shot process. There is not a right or wrong answer, just pieces to a puzzle that you will soon learn how to put together. Without the confidence in the shot process there is not a solid foundation to build a mental game in competition. The STRONG column is your confidence and everything else is why you get afraid and anxious. By eliminating the items in the WEAK column you begin to build confidence in the entire process.
The confidence you gain from “knowing” your shot process is stronger is the beginning of a champion’s mind.
I added an item to my STRONG column for archery equipment / archery gear because being confident in your gear is half the battle. I am confident that my gear makes it safely to and from archery training because I know my Archery Recurve Backpack Akiles2 will safely carry my precious gear without worry.
Check back very soon for Part 2 of this series: Imagery. You will learn how to mentally visualize the shot process and shoot the perfect shoot without ever picking up a bow. You will learn how to build confidence without having to shoot a single physical shot.
Mental Game for the Week: When you are having a bad day shooting, stop and ask yourself what kind of pizza you want for dinner. Think about what toppings you want while shooting and drool over the idea of melted cheese. Try it and see how much better your shooting gets and then enjoy that tasty pizza!
Archery provides a recreational pursuit, a healthy fitness routine and provides a Zen for the wellbeing of the mind and soul. Of course archery gets you outdoors as well and that is a great thing to start with. As soon as you get outdoors with a bow and arrow it gets you moving. You find strength and as you get better at it, it boost your self-esteem. It can also help many people like me battle the effects of my mental health problems
The sport of Archery depends on caring, capable coaches who introduce the sport to young archers. In the United States, archery coaches and instructors are certified under a single regulating body, USA Archery. The USA Archery certification program prepares coaches to help athletes successfully and safely develop their skills and abilities as they progress in competition. Instructors who possess a certification have been trained and tested in archery skills and safety, and is an important credential for professional or semi-pro coaches to market their service. There are 5 tiers of archery instructor certifications, as follows: