The Problem With Expectations

We all have desires that go along with our goals. For example, I wanted to win tournaments, even when that desire was irrational as I was a middle of the pack archer. But there is a critical point where these things turn from positives into negatives and that is when expectations are created.

When we expect to shoot well, maybe expect to place or win, this can be a positive thing if we are close to a position to make that happen. In Tiger Woods heyday, he expected to win every time he entered a golf tournament. In this manner he put pressure on himself to perform and perform he did.

But if our expectations are not met, then what happens? You guessed it: disappointment, anger, or even worse: outright frustration. Well, these things are hardly scarring; they are just feelings, no? I suggest that they are a real problem. I can’t prove this, but I suspect it is true: when performing, if we feel intense disappointment or frustration, there are consequences. I think that when we feel disappointment or frustration while performing, we subconsciously reach back onto our memory shelf (my metaphor) and pluck off a solution in the form of a previous shooting technique that we experienced some success with. This is how we can find ourselves doing things like we used to do them, even years earlier. (“Gosh, I haven’t done that in a long time.”) That switch to a previous way of shooting cannot be successful as you haven’t practiced that in a very long time. (Those things, previous shooting techniques, never go away. Like bicycle riding (you never forget how to ride them) all physical techniques for complicated processes are stored in long term memory, awaiting just the proper stimulus to trigger recall.) But such a switch can thoroughly mess up your current technique, especially if you do not notice the switch.

What to do? I think you have to learn to leave your expectations in the car. You don’t need them on the range. Disappointment and frustration result from comparisons between how you have been shooting and how you expected to shoot. Without the expectations, the comparisons are much harder to make.

So, are we supposed to be robots? No, we just need to learn what it feels like to have goals and objectives, and yet at the same time have no expectations about what will happen today. Hall of Fame golfer Moe Norman referred to this as an Alert Attitude of Indifference. I think this mental state is a hallmark of “being in The Zone.” Again, something I cannot prove, but highly suspect. People who have had such peak performance experiences claim that they felt detached from the outcome while they were immersed in it. This is what I am addressing here. Help you students to find that mental state. A good time to start is when they admit to frustration as the topic comes up naturally.

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