Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Lesson at the Shooting Range

There are certain experiences which if optimally exploited can evoke evolutionary changes in our lives. While some may push us into a zone of introspection, others may serve as self-edifying instructions. Certain others retain the humbling effect of having discovered the obvious by chance, after having laboured unsuccessfully for long.

I was on an official tour duty when I was informed of a competition being held to look out for talented shooters with the "10m air rifle" (an olympic event). Something prompted me to sign up. On the eve of the match all competitors reached the indoor shooting range where a coach showed us the rifles we would shoot with and gave us a detailed briefing about how to go about if one wished to do well. I was seeing these pneumatic rifles for the first time wherein one needed to manually compress the air in the cylinder before loading each pellet. I got a jolt on seeing the the target, which was of the size of a mini-postcard, the bulls eye (full scoring area) being of the size of a well sharpened pencil tip. After rehaearsing for a while the instructions received and after a few shots as practice, I got a hang of what the event would be like.

I was not much psyched up on the d-day ...."nothing much to loose anyway" was the frame of mind I was in. We were to shoot 40 pellets in an hour and a half. Even though we were allowed to see and analyse the target after each shot, I didn't think much of it and finished off without much thought about the results. To my surprise I did reasonably well and ended up with a bronze medal.

After a couple of months I was called up again for basic training in the event. All shooters now were of good standing .... the training was systematic ...... and to my surprise the check list before firing each shot was perhaps longer than that of a fighter pilot. From the tension level of each mucsle to the amount of air in the lungs ..... one needed to keep everything in mind while shooting. After a few days of reasonable progress my scores plummetted down to the bottom almost inexplicably and with it my self-confidence. I struggled on for weeks .... trying to do everything correctly .... but the pellets refused to reach that small dot in the middle. The seeds of self-doubt had sprouted and threatened to grow fast into a full grown plant. I was sliding into depression.

On the advice of a friend I kept off shooting for a while. During the break I analysed my shooting technique ..... I had learnt much after that competition but the scores refused to improve ..why? It was when I was travelling back in a bus from my uncle's house in mumbai that the answer struck ...... the difference was the "thought" in my mind at the micro-second when the trigger was pressed .... or rather when the pellet left the rifle. I remembered that in the first competition that I took part, I was never worried about the result and therefore concentrated completely on the procedure. Now, because of my anxiosness to hit the bull, my mind followed by the eyes reached the target before the pellet did ..... consequently the allignment of the sights got disturbed as the pellet left the rifle.......

I rushed back to the range .... while analysing the shots now, I realised that whenever my mind was in a thoughtless state as the trigger was pressed the shot never missed the bull ..... whenever the mind wandered, the shot got off the mark and when the focus was on the target it went further off the mark .....

On deeper thought one realises that this aspect is apllicable to all facets of life ... the anxiousness to hit the bull is nothing, but an offshoot of the fear of failure. Bekham would never have been able to bend it into the goal if he had been looking at the post instead of the ball as he kicked it .......... we wouldn't have been able to witness those glorious straight drives if Sachin had been looking at the boundary instead of the ball as he hits it ...........(did I carry it too far ?)

I didn't make much headway in shooting. However the lesson learnt keeps me in good stead in all my endeavours ........ as I concentrate on the process .. .and try to be indifferet to the results.