6 life lessons from learning how to shoot guns

I grew up in the suburbs of North Carolina–not exactly the gun capital of the world.  I grew up with disassembled guns in my dad’s closet: simple enough that he knew how to put together in 5 seconds if anyone broke into our house and tried to harm us but complicated enough that my brother and I couldn’t accidentally injure ourselves while we played high-and-go-seek inside when it was rainy.

But once I grew up, knowing how to protect myself became a necessity.  Learning how to shoot a gun scared me at first; people use machines like these to kill people.  That’s a lot of power for a teenage girl with barely-there biceps.  But, as the shells spat out of the barrel, my anxiety slowly subsided.  It’s power, sure, but it’s a power that can be controlled.  It’s not like a volcano-type of danger; the gun doesn’t shoot itself.  To me, half the trouble is knowing how to handle it.  A couple of the things my mentors said got me thinking about how shooting guns translates into bigger lessons… here’re a few of them.

1. Focus

Sometimes, you think too much and wig out.  It’s easy to psych yourself out for what you’re about to do: shoot a gun, take the LSATs, go skydiving, whatever you’re about to do. But focusing only on what you’re doing at that moment is what’ll give you the best result… not about being scared to fail or predicting the outcome of the situation.  When you’re not focused while you’re shooting a gun, chances are, you’ll miss your shot.

2. Recognize when you need a break

When you feel yourself getting tired, take a break.  Listen to yourself: if you continue with whatever you’re doing, your precision and accuracy will be off.  Sometimes, you just need a break.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a time-out to chill out and regroup, whether it’s from physical exhaustion or mental fatigue (or really sore arm muscles from holding a heavy gun).

3. Take your time

You don’t have to be in such a rush–you need to take some time to compose yourself before taking the shot.  You need to get into a state of mind where you’re not frazzled and nervous; you’re ready and confident.  That’s when you get your best shot.

4. Don’t do something before you’re ready

Let’s take 2 skills as an example: painting and shooting guns.  They’re both great to know, but a big difference between the 2 is that one can kill you.  For some skills, you need to have developed a couple more skills before you’re ready: discipline, responsibility, and a steady hand.  You need maturity and situational awareness to be able to handle a gun, and that can take some time to develop.

Don’t do something before you feel comfortable, especially if it’s something dangerous.  If your instincts are shouting at you to stop, listen to them.  They’re the same things that are telling you to avoid that tarantula or the month-old Chinese food in your fridge.  Usually pretty accurate.

5. Be mindful and know the consequences

You’re holding this big chunk of metal with the capability to kill someone. You need to be extra aware of your surroundings and the consequences of your actions.

This applies to the bigger picture: everything you do has repercussions, positive and negative.  Awareness of these before you act can help you to layout your future and what you want to accomplish.

6. Even if you don’t hit the bullseye…

So you don’t hit the bullseye… big deal.  You still hit in the center 3rd of the target! Sometimes, even when you don’t hit exactly where you wanted to, you still did really well. You could’ve completely missed the target altogether.

Even if you took a shot and didn’t get it perfect, more often than not, you’ll have another shot at it.  Just keep practicing and focusing on your goal.  Look at how far you’ve come from the beginning, and celebrate how well you’re doing, even if it isn’t flawless.



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