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Road to Nationals – Part 3: Mental Prep

"We are really competing against ourselves. We have no control over how other people perform."

Pete Cashmore
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The raw skills and all of the gear are arguably the easiest part of this game to master, the mind has always been the biggest challenge to winning. 

Today I'm going to share with you 5 tips for improving your mindset for competition regardless of whether it's Nationals or a local. 

If you missed the emails about Skill Prep and Gear Prep you can check them out here: Part 1: Skill Prep and Part 2: Gear Prep

Now, diving into the mindset is a bit of a challenge since everyone is different, but I'm going to share 5 things that have worked really well for me starting with my number one piece of advice: 

1. Have fun. We spend way too much money on this sport to be miserable doing it. There are a few of you (you know who you are) who just get pissed off during the match and want to complain about your performance, gear, the weather, or anything else you can think of. Don't be that guy. Find the joy.

2. Trust the process. Like I said in part one about your skill prep, a match is simply a chance to test where you are as a shooter. You're not going to suddenly rise to a new level of expertise so the best thing you can do is go out and shoot at whatever your ability is on that day. 

3. Visualize the goal. As kookie as this sounds, there are hundreds of books out there that dive deep into visualization, goal setting, manifestation, etc. 

The bottom line is this: "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” - Napoleon Hill

I'll add to that: "With the proper foundation of work and equipment". If you want to win, you have to put in the work, but ALSO set the goal and visualize the outcome. 

*MUST READ: With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham. This book is a mindset game changer and covers shooting from the point of view of an Olympic gold medalist* 

4. The 5 minute Rule. When I'm shooting any match I have a "5 minute rule" which means if I royally screw something up, have a malfunction, or downright sucked on a stage, I have 5 minutes to be frustrated with the situation before I have to snap out of it... 


Meaning, if I crushed a stage, performed the perfect transition, or won a shoot-off, I still only have 5 minutes to relish in that good feeling. When the shooting is done you can do whatever you want, but as long as there's another stage you won't find me nursing frustration or riding a high for long. Leave it in the past and focus on the process.

5. Stay positive. This piggybacks on the 5 minute rule but it's deeper than that. If you go into a match with the mindset of "I hope I don't get DQ'd" or look at a stage thinking "Man, I suck at moving target", that's is already setting you up for failure. That's not to say the little doubts won't creep into your brain, they do for all of us, but you have to redirect immediately and focus on the positive. 

Bonus tip... Don't be a dumpster! During the course of a match I talk to dozens of people and most of those interactions are great! That being said, I have a huge issue when someone wants to immediately start telling me how they messed up a stage, ran passed a target, or had some crazy malfunction that cost them a higher place. It's not that I don't care, because I do and I'll happily help if they're asking for help, but most of the time it's their failure to abide by the 5-minute rule.

Not only is it bringing down their mental performance, but now they are unconsciously dragging me down with them. Don't allow that to happen to you! 

My favorite deflection for that situation is "But are you having fun?" and that generally does the trick. If it doesn't, set a boundary and politely excuse yourself from the conversation. Negativity is contagious, don't let someone else's crappy match affect your mindset. 

Alright, that's it for now, time for me to go pack my gear and get ready to crush Nationals! I wish all of the shooters a great match and I'm truly excited to see how it shakes out. 

I have two goals for this match

1. Win (duh)

2. Have the most fun out of anyone else there. 

I'll see you on the range!

- Joe

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