TRAINING TIP TUESDAY: Split Concentration
There is a great deal to learn about any one thing, particularly something as articulated as shooting. The many moving parts we have to perfect and align into a single, effective process require all of our concentration during their building. Distractions rob us of this in almost every conceivable way (and some that we can’t really intuit).
I was recently being filmed for a video series intended for professional end users. I was on camera, shooting a static target at 10 yards or so, something I regularly do and almost think nothing of. My performance was off… not dramatically, but off enough that it shook me. I couldn’t imagine myself not delivering under these conditions. (I went as far as questioning the ammunition.)
It wasn’t that. It was me. My attention, my “profound” attention was being argued for between all of the other deeply mechanical processes going on around me. That conflict was enough to remove a performance quotient from me, and I could see it on my target. If I had to put a number on it, I would say it reduced my ability by 15 percent and in my book, that’s substantial.
The more I considered this problem the more it brought home something we’ve been talking about here for a while now: There is a difference between training and measuring. When you are training, you should be focused on the skill you are attempting to improve, with as few distractions as you can get away with.
If we aren’t doing this, we aren’t allowing ourselves to fully develop the skill. The competition for our attention will rob us by some percentage as I mentioned above. If we are training to that standard, we are teaching ourselves an already diminished capacity. Distractions rob from the goal while we are perfecting our process or even reenforcing it. Training, actual training… should be a focused series of events that produce greater efficiency in developing (or exceeding) an intended performance outcome.
This is why libraries are quiet places. As we read, we develop ideas based on the information. Distractions intrude on the process.
Let’s talk specifics: There are many, many drills out there that require us to process other information. I’m not calling them into question. I’m suggesting that they may be better used for something else… like measuring. Or perhaps they can be used to condition us to the “task switching” required to accomplish the things we need to in the environment we are employing our tools.
What is certain is that we will only take from ourselves if we are attempting to improve our mechanics while simultaneously (and purposefully) distracting ourselves from that process. All of the evidence available suggests that we are overwhelmingly single minded. This single-mindedness is a good thing in the big sweep of things, but we should understand it as it relates to improving our performance.
Single minded focus is very good at identifying the small things that make us better. Skill improvement is made up of these small things. Think of them as “bricks” each brick contributes to the fundamental stability of the structure. Miss a few bricks and you begin to lose the structure.
One of the best ways to miss these bricks is to practice them badly. Either by going too fast or by taking your mind off of the specifics of what you are doing enough to allow error to slip in. Like I did while filming.
When we are training to a skill, we should get as close to single minded purpose as we can. This builds performance. Leave distractions for the measuring days or the conditioning days. You’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish.
Until next time…train smart.
Duane “Buck” Buckner
After spending 25 years in the USCG, Duane “Buck” Buckner is now the U.S. Director of Training for Aimpoint. The Aimpoint Training Division conducts training courses for military and law enforcement agencies up to the Federal level as well as for the prepared civilian. Buck is widely known for his emphasis on brain psychology as it relates to combat and survival.
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Posted by Duane Buckner, Aimpoint US Director of Training on Dec 27th 2022