Perfectionism: A Blessing and a Curse
Precision shooting, as a sport, is basically doing the same exact thing, the same exact way, 40-60 times, over the course of one to two hours. Now, some of you may be thinking, "That sounds like the absolute worst torture I can imagine!" or “That sounds almost as enjoyable as watching paint dry!" Well guess what ladies and gentlemen, you're right! It is— unless, you’re a perfectionist.
Ultimately, shooting is a perfectionist's dream. Everything must be done exactly right and exactly the same way every single shot. If it's not, your mistakes are immediately shown to you in the shot you produced. Even better, your shot helps you figure out what you did wrong and how to improve it for the next shot. The instant feedback and proof of error is basically magic, as far as a perfectionist is concerned.
If you’re not feeling the magic here, you're probably not a perfectionist, or at least not a perfectionist to the intensity of many shooters that I know. From my experience, most shooters are perfectionists in at least some way, if not in pretty much every aspect of their life. Whether it’s perfectionism in schoolwork, musical abilities, general athleticism, public speaking and word choice, etc., most shooters show their tendency towards perfection on and off the line.
The problem with perfectionists is we often take our mistakes to heart. Letting go is not in our natural mindset. We can get stuck on a single mistake and harp on it until we feel that we have fixed it. I have a problem with fixation. When I find something I really love and that I'm pretty successful at, I tend to allow that thing to define me. I feel like a lot of shooters can relate (What’s that saying? Pot calls the kettle…). . Therefore, when I have a poor score in shooting, for example, I have a tendency to get very upset about it. Tears have been shed. I will sometimes even consider myself a failure, based on a single score, regardless of anything and everything else that I am currently succeeding at in life. I become fixated on the one, single mistake and it can haunt me for the rest of a day, even a week or a month sometimes. It drives my parents and coaches nuts. A single shot can throw off the scales.
But that falls into Shooting 101. It's been said countless ways: "Every shot is a new match"; "Compartmentalize your shots"; "Give every shot the chance to be a 10"; "Stay performance focused over score focused." And that’s all really good advice. Shooters generally hear these mantras from day one. It’s easier said than accepted.
Even Olympic-level shooters sometimes struggle with this concept. Interestingly, the thing that makes many shooters great also seems to be one of the major things that can knock them down. Perfectionism is a blessing and a curse, but I wouldn't give it up for anything. It can drive people to greatness in not only shooting, but throughout life in general. I think shooting is the best way to learn how to both embrace it and control it.
Kelly Bogart is a Film, Television and Digital Media and Political Science double major at Texas Christian University. Bogart has seven years of shooting under her belt and currently competes on TCU’s Women’s Rifle Team. Bogart is traveling the country this summer as a coach teaching high school students across the country how to improve their shooting skills. In addition to coaching and competing, Bogart is a freelance blog writer working with The Mako Group.