Today we’re coming back to developing a proper mindset. Recently, at the day job, I was responsible for assembling new career path guidelines and expectations for my team. As part of that, I wanted to emphasize the importance of focus and attitude. I presented a nice little lecture on the topic, which was well-received.

The gist of the lecture focused on goal setting, focused practice, and reinforcement of success.

This isn’t the first time you’ve seen me talk about these things. If you recall, in my discussion of George Leonard’s MasteryI spent a lot of time talking about the importance of practice and reinforcement.

Also, in my review of Lanny Bassham’s With Winning in Mind, I talked a lot about similar concepts. You’re probably noticing a theme here.

I like to back and glance through these books for little tidbits of wisdom.

1st Lt. Crystal J. Sokoff, a judge advocate for Marine Corps Installations West and captain of the Camp Pendleton Shooting Team, adjusts her rifle sling during the National Rifle Association Match at the known-distance range at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.

Homeostasis

In Mastery, Leonard talks about the concept of homeostasis. Every living thing seeks to keep its environment stable. In complex organisms, like us, that includes body temperature, blood pressure, hormone levels, oxygen levels, muscle tension, glucose, and millions of other processes that must be kept in constant balance.

To these systems, survival means maintaining the status quo.  The challenge is that this applies even if we think the status quo is wrong.

This is why it is often so hard to pick up new “healthy” habits when we decide we need to live a better lifestyle. Our bodies recognize the change and trigger alarms to stop us from continuing down the difficult path. These alarms take many forms, from sore muscles to food cravings. 

Homeostasis applies to social pressure as well. Borrowing from the insect world, humans maintain social homeostasis with those around them. Again, our natural instinct is to maintain the status quo. We don’t necessarily like change, and very often find it threatening- even if it is someone else who is doing the changing.

Breaking the Plateau

Think of the times where someone has tried to quit smoking or drinking, and their circle of friends taunts them or encourages them to continue on with the old habits anyway. “C’mon mate, nobody here cares. Have a drink!

Backsliding is a universal experience. Every one of us resists significant change, no matter whether it’s for the worse or for the better. Our body, brain, and behavior have innate preferences to stay the same within rather narrow limits and snap back when changed.

Be aware of the way homeostasis work. Expect resistance and backlash. Realize that when the alarm bells start ringing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sick, crazy, lazy or that you’ve made a bad decision in embarking on the journey of mastery.

In fact, you might take these signals as an indication that your life is definitely changing. Given enough time and effort, the new pattern becomes the “norm” and your body will fight to maintain it instead. 

The result of consistent practice and focus

Be willing to negotiate with your resistance to change.

Dealing with Others

People challenge our decisions because they represent changes to their perception of us or the environment. The subject doesn’t really matter, people just don’t like to have their perceptions of us changed against their will. 

Maybe it came up because you decided to spend more time practicing marksmanship: “Why are you going to the range so much? You planning on killing someone?”

Perhaps it was when you decided to start spending more time with prepping: “Damn dude, how paranoid are you?!?”

It’s especially common when it comes to fitness goals: “I could never do that, I like sleep and food too much. Wanna get a beer?”

Left unchecked, these negative pressures dissuade us from continuing down our new path. Which is exactly what they are designed to do.

The trick, really, is to surround yourself with people and things that support you.

Barring that, try to change the minds of others as well. Help them accept your goals or even join you on the path.

The bottom line is that you will not engage in the required amounts of practice and focus required of you unless you overcome this tendency towards the status quo.

Tying it Together

You must become a constant student.

Accept that you will probably never truly master anything.

You will always be working on yourself. You may become better than most, or even be the “best” in some objective measure, but you will realize that there is always more to learn.

Really, that is the beauty of it all. If you challenge yourself in this way, you will see that the world opens up to you and begs you to engage with it.

Another quote from Mastery sums this up well:

Our preoccupation with goals, results, and the quick fix has separated us from our own experiences…there are all of those chores that most of us can’t avoid: cleaning, straightening, raking leaves, shopping for groceries, driving the children to various activities, preparing food, washing dishes, washing the car, commuting, performing the routine, repetitive aspects of our jobs.

Take driving, for instance. Say you need to drive ten miles to visit a friend. You might consider the trip itself as in-between-time, something to get over with. Or you could take it as an opportunity for the practice of mastery. In that case, you would approach your car in a state of full awareness.

We tend to downgrade driving as a skill simply because it’s so common. Actually maneuvering a car through varying conditions of weather, traffic, and road surface calls for an extremely high level of perception, concentration, coordination, and judgement.

Driving can be high art…Ultimately, nothing in this life is “commonplace,” nothing is “in between.” The threads that join your every act, your every thought, are infinite. All paths of mastery eventually merge.

George Leonard, Mastery

Don’t get caught up in the day to day status quo. Engage in the little things you do each day and make the pursuit of mastery part of your everyday life, not just marksmanship, health, or whatever your pursuit. Life continues to exist between those special moments at the range, or with your family- you just need to engage.

Build a Network

One of the reasons for The Everyday Marksman is to build a network of support. Find others along the journey with you and engage with them. Share the lessons learned for your successes, and ask for help on the things you’re still working on.

Tene Et Consta: Hold Fast and Stay True

Matt

Matt

Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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The 1st Looie pictured is my kind of woman. Of course, she would simply crush me with one hand without breathing hard.

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