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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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    Published on June 19, 2019

    Your Beliefs About Success May Be Holding You Back

    Your Beliefs About Success May Be Holding You Back
    Pause for a moment and think about how you would describe success.

    If your description is dominated by money or status, then your image of success is faulty.

    For example, there are countless people who have these assets but don’t feel successful. Some of these people have enormous amounts of disposable income, but work so many hours during the day that they have no life beyond their work.

    Would you regard these people as successful?

    At first glance, I likely wouldn’t.

    And, then there are the endless celebrities who go from fame to failure (think bankruptcy, addictions and worse).

    Are they successful?

    Probably not.

    In truth, success is about happiness and fulfillment in life.

    But, there is more than one definition of success. Just look at the above example of the person who worked too hard to spend their money. If they’re happy with their life, then we shouldn’t criticize their version of success.

    So how about you? Do you have a clear definition of what success looks like for you?

    If you don’t, you’ll be constantly chasing someone else’s idea of success, and could find yourself totally unfulfilled and miserable.

    The good news is that over the next few minutes, I’m going to give you the tools you need to build a crystal clear picture of YOUR SUCCESS.

    Positive Thinking

    With the right attitude, anything can seem possible.

    For instance, if you’re fed up with your job, but do nothing to change it, then you’ll likely be stuck there for years to come. But, if you see the job as a stepping stone to something bigger and better, then not only will you enjoy your work more, but you’ll have something positive to aim towards (e.g., a promotion or new job).

    The example above demonstrates a little-known factor of success… suffering!

    Yes, suffering may be a negative thing that most people go out of their way to avoid; but successful people use suffering as a springboard to big achievements. Mindset really does separate the losers from the winners.

    Another thing you can do, is to gradually build up your positivity and confidence by tracking your progress towards your goals. And, each time you accomplish something – however small – be sure to celebrate it!

    This is a great way to propel you towards success.

    The Purpose of a Purpose

    What is your purpose in life?

    These are questions I suggest you spend some time thinking about. To help you find the answers, consider the following:

    If you just seek a career, all you will find is a career.

    But, if you seek a purpose, you’ll find something much more than a career – you’ll find your calling. And when you’ve found this, and you begin following it, you’ll be firmly in the middle of the happiness, satisfaction and success zone.

    This is backed by science, with research showing that people who have a purpose and meaning in life have an increase in:[1]
    • Overall well-being
    • Mental and physical health
    • Resiliency
    • Self-esteem

    But, don’t mistake seeking happiness and success as your purpose. These things are a natural result of following your purpose – but shouldn’t be your focal point.

    Austrian Neurologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said it well:

    “It is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness.”

    What about YOUR purpose?

    If you’re struggling to identify it, look for the things in your life that you’re good at, enthuse you, and provide a benefit to the world.

    Becoming a Better You

    Are your beliefs holding you back?

    If yes, here are three things you can do RIGHT NOW to break out of your mind trap:

    1. Boost Your Confidence: you can do this by overcoming challenges that come your way. For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, face this challenge head-on by agreeing to do regular presentations for your company, or by joining a public speaking organization like Toastmasters International. Speak in public often enough, and your fear of it will plunge like a river going over a waterfall.
    2. Develop Healthy Habits: I’m talking about positive habits that will serve you day in, day out. Habits such as lifelong learning, eating well, and waking up early. When these things are automatic for you, you’ll reap incredible benefits from them. Take eating well, for example. You’ll feel better. You’ll look better. And you’ll have way more energy to make things happen in your life.
    3. Invoke the Magic of Goal Setting: Without goals, you’ll drift through life like a plastic bottle in the sea. But with goals, you’ll be like a 100m sprinter running towards the finishing line. Goals really are powerful tools. They’ll direct your focus and energy, and will allow you to track your progress in life. I recommend the SMART goal-setting method (find out about this here).

    And, always remember… don’t compare yourself to others; only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.

    Each step you take forward is making you a better version of you.

    Success Is Self-Love

    I encourage you to take the tips I’ve shared in this article and put them into action in your life. Ideally, starting right now!

    Firstly, transform your mindset by facing up to challenges and overcoming them. Then spend time to discover your purpose. And, once you’ve found it – start following it.

    Becoming a better version of you will take some time, but will be worth the wait. Not only will you reach into untapped potential in your life, but you’ll also develop respect and love for yourself along the way.

    So don’t let your beliefs hold you back anymore. BREAK FREE from them and start enjoying a happy, healthy and successful life.

    Featured photo credit: Razvan Chisu via unsplash.com

    Reference

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