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The Key To Hit Your Targets In Life, Learnt From The Legendary Archer

The Key To Hit Your Targets In Life, Learnt From The Legendary Archer

In the 1920s, a German man named Eugen Herrigel moved to Japan and began training in Kyudo, the Japanese martial art of archery.

Herrigel was taught by a legendary Kyudo master named Awa Kenzo. Kenzo was convinced that beginners should master the fundamentals of archery before attempting to shoot at a real target and he took this method to the extreme. For the first four years, Herrigel was only allowed to shoot at a roll of straw just seven feet away. (1)

When he was finally allowed to shoot at targets on the far end of the practice hall, Herrigel’s performance was dismal. The arrows flew off course and he became more discouraged with each wayward shot. Herrigel was convinced his problem was poor aim, but Kenzo replied that it was not whether you aimed, but how you approached your goal that determined the outcome.

Frustrated with his teacher, Herrigel blurted out, “Then you ought to be able to hit it blindfolded.”

Kenzo paused for a moment and then said, “Come to see me this evening.”

Archery, Blindfolded

After night had fallen, the two men returned to the courtyard where the practice hall was located. Kenzo walked over to his normal shooting location with the target hidden somewhere out in the night. The archery master settled into his firing stance, drew the bow string tight, and released the first arrow into the darkness of the courtyard.

Herrigel would later write, “I knew from the sound that it had hit the target.”

Immediately, Kenzo drew a second arrow and again fired into the night. Herrigel jumped up and ran across the courtyard to inspect the target.

In his book, Zen in the Art of Archery, Herrigel wrote, “When I switched on the light over the target stand, I discovered to my amazement that the first arrow was lodged full in the middle of the black, while the second arrow had splintered the butt of the first and ploughed through the shaft before embedding itself beside it.”

japanese-archers-kyudo
    Three Japanese archers circa 1860. Photographer unknown. (Image Source: Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan. Smithsonian Institution.)

    Everything Is Aiming

    Great archery masters often teach that “everything is aiming.” Where you place your feet, how you hold the bow, the way you breathe during the release of the arrow – it all determines the end result.

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    In the case of Awa Kenzo, the master archer was so mindful of the process that led to an accurate shot that he was able to replicate the exact series of internal movements even without seeing the external target. This complete awareness of the body and mind in relation to the goal is known as zanshin.

    Zanshin is a word used commonly throughout Japanese martial arts to refer to a state of relaxed alertness. Literally translated, zanshin means “the mind with no remainder.” In other words, the mind completely focused on action and fixated on the task at hand. Zanshin is being constantly aware of your body, mind, and surroundings without stressing yourself. It is an effortless vigilance.

    In practice, though, zanshin has an even deeper meaning. Zanshin is choosing to live your life intentionally and acting with purpose rather than mindlessly falling victim to whatever comes your way.

    The Enemy of Improvement

    There is a famous Japanese proverb that says, “After winning the battle, tighten your helmet.” (2)

    In other words, the battle does not end when you win. The battle only ends when you get lazy, when you lose your sense of commitment, and when you stop paying attention. This is zanshin as well: the act of living with alertness regardless of whether the goal has already been achieved.

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    We can carry this philosophy into many areas of life.

    • Writing: The battle does not end when you publish a book. It ends when you consider yourself a finished product, when you lose the vigilance needed to continue improving your craft.
    • Fitness: The battle does not end when you hit a PR. It ends when you lose concentration and skip workouts or when you lose perspective and overtrain.
    • Entrepreneurship: The battle does not end when you make a big sale. It ends when you get cocky and complacent.

    The enemy of improvement is neither failure nor success. The enemy of improvement is boredom, fatigue, and lack of concentration. The enemy of improvement is a lack of commitment to the process because the process is everything.

    The Art of Zanshin in Everday Life

    “One should approach all activities and situations with the same sincerity, the same intensity, and the same awareness that one has with bow and arrow in hand.” – Kenneth Kushner, One Arrow, One Life

    We live in a world obsessed with results. Like Herrigel, we have a tendency to put so much emphasis on whether or not the arrow hits the target. If, however, we put that intensity and focus and sincerity into the process – where we place our feet, how we hold the bow, how we breathe during the release of the arrow – then hitting the bullseye is simply a side effect.

    The point is not to worry about hitting the target. The point is to fall in love with the boredom of doing the work and embrace each piece of the process. The point is to take that moment of zanshin, that moment of complete awareness and focus, and carry it with you everywhere in life.

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    It is not the target that matters. It is not the finish line that matters. It is the way we approach the goal that matters. Everything is aiming. Zanshin.

    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    FOOTNOTES

    1. When Herrigel complained of the incredibly slow pace, Kenzo replied “The way to the goal is not to be measured! Of what importance are weeks, months, years?”
    2. The actual phrase is “katte kabuto no o o shimeyo,” which literally translates to “Tighten the string of the kabuto after winning the war.” The kabuto was a helmet used by Japanese warriors. As you would expect, it looks incredible.

    Featured photo credit: Kalvicio de las Nieves via flickr.com

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    James Clear

    James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.

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    Last Updated on November 9, 2020

    10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

    10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful

    Habits are behaviors and patterns that you showcase by default. Many good habits to have will enable you to carry out crucial activities like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, and getting ready for work. 

    Interestingly, you follow this routine every day without thinking twice. Your unconscious daily habits create room for your brain to perform more advanced activities like problem-solving and choosing what book to read.

    Everyone has habits, and several of those habits are activated every day. I would classify them into three groups:

    • Habits that you hardly notice as they have become a major part of your life, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed.
    • Good habits to have to be more successful, like eating healthy, exercising, and reading books.
    • Habits that are harmful, like procrastinating, smoking, or overeating.

    Good habits are fundamental to becoming successful in life. Yet, as significant as habits are, some lack the knowledge of their capabilities.

    While much of the emphasis falls on bad habits to break, it’s just as important to focus on good habits to have and cultivate in your daily routine.

    Here, we’ll talk about 10 good habits to have to be more successful in life.

    1. Begin Your Day with Meditation

    I recommend mindful meditation early in the morning. This practice helps you to place yourself in the present moment. Consequently, it enables you to be mindful of challenging situations during the day.

    Different stressors may trigger as you go through the day; meditation helps you to remain calm before taking on the challenges.

    Personally, it helps me to devise strategies and think about ideas. Meditation is a good habit to have if you want to be connected to what’s significant in your life.

    2. Be Grateful for What You Have

    It’s not uncommon to waste time thinking of what’s not enough. You become immersed in those daunting challenges. However, challenges justify the presence of hope. The only strategy you have to stop focusing on your problems is to focus on what you have.

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    Gratitude is a time-tested pathway to success, health, and happiness. It redirects your focus to what you have from what you lack. Try writing a list of things you’re grateful for each day in a gratitude journal, or make it a habit to say one thing you’re grateful for when you sit down to dinner with your family.

    3. Smile

    Can you pause and smile before you continue reading this?

    Now, here is what just happened based on research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science; you set a pace for living a happier life when you smile. A genuine smile, or what’s called a Duchenne smile, is a good habit to have if you want to find spiritual, emotional, and mental peace of mind.[1]

    Smiling induces the release of molecules that function towards fighting stress. The physiological state of your body determines the state of your mind. When you slouch or frown, your mind takes cues relating to unhappiness and depression. However, once you adjust yourself by putting on a smile, you begin to feel a new level of excitement and vibrancy.

    4. Start Your Day With a Healthy Breakfast

    Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is a good habit to have and forms a crucial part of your life. Nevertheless, about 31 million Americans skip their breakfast each day.[2]

    If you are fed up hearing that breakfast is a crucial component of your day, you are only fighting the truth. If you want to become more successful, you need to “break your fast” with healthy foods every morning.

    This habit is not difficult to form if you usually rush out the door every single morning. You can wake up earlier to fix yourself a meal so you don’t break down during the day.

    Get inspired by these 20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time.

    5. Exercise Daily

    One of the good habits to have is to exercise your body and muscles on a daily basis. You don’t have to run a marathon or lift tons of weights. You only need to engage in activities that oxygenate your blood and inject endorphins in your body, trying to squeeze in at least 15 minutes every day.

    Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, classified exercise as a good habit to maximize his already jam-packed schedule.[3] He said:

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    “I wake up by 5, meditate for 30 minutes, seven-minute workout times three, make coffee, and check-in.”

    He said on Product Hunt that he follows this routine every day as it gives him a steady-state that empowers him to be more productive.

    6. Manage Your Time

    Another good habit is the act of managing your time effectively. This goes a long way toward impacting your achievement.

    Time management is what separates the successful from the rest of the world as we all possess the same amount of time. How you leverage time determines your potential to succeed in life[4].

    Good habits to have: Time management tips

      So how do you manage your time effectively?

      Here’s Jack Dorsey’s recommendation in one of the Techonomy events:

      “I accomplish effective time management by theming my days and practicing self-discipline. These themes help me handle distractions and interactions. If a request or task does not align with the theme for that day, I don’t do it. This sets a cadence for everyone in the company to deliver and evaluate their progress”.

      And this is Dorsey’s weekly theme layout:[5]

      • Monday – Management
      • Tuesday – Product
      • Wednesday – Marketing and growth
      • Thursdays – Developers and partnerships
      • Fridays – Culture and recruiting
      • Saturdays – Taking off
      • Sundays – Reflection, feedback, strategy, and preparing for Monday

      No wonder he was able to run two companies when others were struggling with one job.

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      Check out more time management tips here: 7 Effective Time Management Tips To Maximize Your Productivity

      7. Set Daily Goals With Intentions

      Everyone has goals, whether they relate to business or personal life. The truth is, we’re all tending towards a particular direction. Nevertheless, while long-term goals can offer you direction, it’s your daily goals that help you develop short-term goals that are essential for your success.

      Long-term goals may not give you the motivation you need to keep on, but when you implement your short-term milestones daily, you become fired up, and you can overcome the challenges that come with taking on bigger tasks.

      Here’s the main truth: Successful people don’t set goals without establishing their intentions. According to Jennifer Cohen of Forbes,[6]

      “What helps you to achieve your desired expectation is ensuring intentions accompany your daily goals.”

      8. Seek Inspiration

      It is usually difficult to be inspired for a considerable length of time. Sometimes, you become discouraged and feel like giving up on your goals when things are not working out as intended.

      A practical approach to stay on top of the situation is to inspire yourself each day. When you wake up in the morning (after meditation), watch some motivational videos, and let the story of great leaders inspire you.

      Establish what Anthony Robbins called the “hour of power.” Determine how many minutes you spend, but make it count. Inspiration is the fuel for achievement because when you can conceive it in your mind, you can accomplish it.

      Michal Solowow, an investor and the founder of Mitex, puts it this way[7]:

      “The problems I encounter in everyday life motivate me to find solutions. This is a self-propelling mechanism. Becoming a billionaire was never a motivating factor.”

      9. Save Steadily, Invest With All Prudence

      I can’t exhaust the good habits to have without talking about saving and investing. Most times, you overlook the significance of saving for the future when you are living in your present moment. According to CNBC, a $1000 emergency will propel several Americans into debt.[8]

      However, it is not enough to save, and you must invest your funds and be wise with them. If you pay attention to this now, you will set yourself up for a life of success in the future. Ensure you save at least six months in your emergency account so you can be prepared for any future emergency.

      If you’re looking for a simple way to save money, check out the following video:

      10. Budget and Track Your Spending

      Benjamin Franklin warned of taking the precaution of little expenses. He said:

      “A small leak sinks a great ship.”

      It is easy to discard little expenses, but the truth is they always add up. This happens when you fail to budget.

      Budgeting is a good habit to have, and it can impact your financial life significantly. The money you spend on extravagant lifestyles can be saved and invested in your future instead.

      The Bottom Line

      Endeavor to start developing good habits to have to become more successful as you journey through life. The quicker you cultivate them, the faster you will achieve your goals.

      More About Cultivating Good Habits

      Featured photo credit: Andrijana Bozic via unsplash.com

      Reference

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