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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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    Last Updated on December 7, 2018

    10 Steps For Success: Applying The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind

    10 Steps For Success: Applying The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind

    How big is the gap between you and your success?

    What is the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people?

    It is as simple as this: successful people think and talk about what they are creating, and unsuccessful people focus on and talk about what they’re lacking.

    So how do you bridge that gap between wanting success and having your success? Let’s make an important distinction. You see, there is a big difference between “Wanting” and “Having” something.

    Wanting: means lacking or absent. Deficient in some part, thing or aspect.

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    Having: means to possess, to hold, to get, to receive, to experience.

    You can have one OR the other, but not both at the same time with any particular object of your desire. You either have it or you don’t.

    When it comes to your subconscious, if you’re focusing on the “wanting”, i.e. the not having, guess what, you will build stronger neural networks in your brain around the “wanting.” However, through the power of your subconscious mind, you can focus on the “having” as if it has already happened. Research has shown that your brain doesn’t know the difference between what you’re visualizing inside your mind versus what is happening out there in your reality.

    This is a regular practice of elite athletes. They spend as much timing creating the internal mental imagery of their success playing out as they do actually physically practicing. This helps create both the neural pathways in their brain and the muscle memory to consistently deliver on that success.

    Here are 10 “brain hack” steps for success that you can take to create your version of a happy life. Make these steps a regular habit, and you will be astonished at the results.

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    Step 1: Decide exactly what you want to create and have

    This is usually the biggest problem that people have. They don’t know what they want and then they’re surprised when they don’t get it.

    Step 2: Write down your goal clearly in every technicolor detail

    A goal that is not written down is merely a wish. When you write it down in full detail, you signal to your subconscious mind that you really want to accomplish this particular goal.

    Step 3: Write your goal in simple, present tense words

    …that a three year old can understand on a three-by-five index card and carry it with you. Read it each morning after you awake and just before you go to sleep.

    Step 4: Backwards planning

    See your goal achieved and identify all the steps required that it took to bring it to life. Making a list of all these steps intensifies your desire and deepens your belief that the attainment of the goal is already happening.

    Step 5: Resolve to take at least one step every day from one of the items on your list

    Do something every day, even if it is just one baby step, that moves you toward your goal so you can maintain your momentum.

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    Step 6: Visualize your goal repeatedly

    See it in your mind’s eye as though it were already a reality. The more clear and vivid your mental picture of your goal, the faster it will come into your life.

    Step 7: Feel the feeling of success as if your goal were realized at this very moment

    Feel the emotion of happiness, satisfaction, and pleasure that you would have once you have achieved your goal. Visualize and feel this success for at least 20 seconds at a time.

    Step 8: “Fake it till you make it!”

    Confidently behave as if your subconscious mind was already bringing your goal into reality. Accept that you are moving toward your goal and it is moving toward you.

    Step 9: Relax your mind

    Take time to breathe, pray or mediate each day. Disengage the stress response and engage the relaxation response. A quiet state of mind allows your brain to access newly formed neural pathways.

    Step 10: Release your goal to your subconscious mind

    When you turn your goal over to the power of the universe and just get out of the way, you will always know the right actions to take at the right time.

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    Starting today, try tapping into the incredible power of your subconscious mind.Start with just one goal or idea, and practice it continually until you succeed in achieving that goal. Make it a game and have fun with it! The more lightly you hold it, the easier it will be to achieve. By doing so, you will move from the “positive thinking” of the hopeful person to the “positive knowing” of the totally successful person.

    Hit reply and let me know what you’re creating!

    To your success!

    Featured photo credit: use-your-brain-markgraf via mrg.bz

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