I take my position at the line, trying my best to stay relaxed and focused. The nock of the arrow makes a satisfying click as I position it on the serving, just below the nock point. I raise my left arm, careful to hold the bow just so; elbow pointed out. I inhale as I align the sight with my target, my fingers draw back the string to the familiar position along the bottom of my jaw. What comes next is no surprise. A click. A release. An all too familiar THWAP as the arrow impacts the target.
A little over a year ago one of my New Years goals was to learn the sport of archery, specifically recurve shooting. At the time I really didn’t know what it all entailed. All I knew was that I wanted to return to one of my most favorite hobbies from the summer camps of my youth. Today I do not shoot, I do not have a specific range I frequent, and I am not sure I can even pull my bow back to full draw anymore. I started archery as a hobby, to have something to do, and to have fun. Beyond that, my goal was simply, “do archery.” So at the end of 2016 when my instructor left and my home range closed I took a break. Then, as my transition began to get very, very real, my past time took a backseat.
The reason it is so important to give yourself specific and concrete goals is because without them it is all too easy to lose focus and drift away from your task. I love archery. I love my bow. The world fades away as I pull the string back. The sound of the arrow as it sails through the air and hits its target sends a thrill down my back every time. I had the passion, I even had a very small amount of skill, but neither of these could sustain my hobby without a larger goal. A target to aim at.
I can list hundreds of goals that seem specific that really aren’t. Write a book, eat healthy, run a 5K, learn to cook, learn to dance. While these goals seem clear at first glance, they are just the roughest of sketches. These are not goals that will be achieved without a bit of guidance. What book will you write? Fiction? Non-fiction? Autobiographical? How long would it need to be? Is the goal to just write it or get it published? How can you eat healthy? Fewer grains? More fruit? No meats? Vegan on Tuesdays and Thursdays? And to what end? To lose weight? To have better heart health? Running a 5K sounds great! But when? What race? Running without stopping? What if it rains or you get injured, is there a backup race? These are questions that help us specify our goals, the more specific we are, the clearer our target. The clearer the target, the more likely we are to hit it.
Now it must be stated that a clear goal must be something you can hit. A person will not run a 5K by sitting at home and doing nothing. An archer who has not touched her bow in over a year cannot set her sights on qualifying for the Olympics. Our goals need to be both specific but also attainable. In a recurve archery tournament the targets can be set out 70 – 90 meters from the archers, almost the entire length of a football field. Right now, I cannot hit a target at that range let alone the yellow 10 ring. I will need to practice by aiming at something closer first. Then, as mastery of the mechanics set in, I can work my way up towards longer and hard distances. This also should be the case for your goals. Set goals that are just out of reach and you will increase your odds of success. If you hit your goal to soon, you can always make a new, better goal to chase at any time.
This year there will be a lot taking place in my life. Even so, I am going to find the space and the time to reacquaint myself with the sport I love so much.