In case you didn’t know, the story of Robin Hood is only a legend. Perfect people, perfect shots and perfect hunts don’t exist 100% of the time. Unlike Friar Tuck, we haven’t been given the privilege of living in a fairy-tale world. Humans who hunt are prone to error.

Today’s hunting culture puts a great deal of emphasis on making accurate shots and rightly so. As hunters we owe it to the animal we hunt to make sure our shots are ethical and within our optimum effective range. Unfortunately, the ethics police seem to stand guard on every blog and forum to enforce standards of “how far is too far”, dish out “would’a, should’a, could’a” and gladly heap criticism on the man or woman who might have blown it. The only problem with our trend toward perfection is that it doesn’t exist. Even the best of archers and marksmen can make a mistake.

Although it takes time and effort to build self-assurance with a bow or gun, a missed shot can destroy a hunter’s hard-earned confidence in a matter of moments. But a slow walk and long sulk from the tree stand to the truck does nothing to rebuild belief in one’s own ability. So how do we deal with the destructive thoughts and emotions that come with a missed shot on a trophy animal?

Moving through and getting beyond our errors is the key to rebuilding confidence. It has been said, “errors become mistakes when we perceive them and respond to them incorrectly. Mistakes become failures when we continually respond to them incorrectly.”

Knowing what steps to take can help to insure that we don’t fall into the failure trap.

Forfeit the Blame Game

When a miss occurs there is a human tendency to place blame on anything that will exempt us from responsibility. In an effort not to look bad, we blame a jumped string, twig, branch, sun, wind… anything to avoid putting blame on the guilty culprit known as me, my and I.

It’s no secret that blame never rebuilt anyone’s confidence. A bold face admission of a miss will be the fastest way to regain your confidence. As Eloise Ristad emphasized, “when we give ourselves permission to fail, we at the same time give ourselves permission to excel.”

For the hunter who spent countless hours preparing, practicing and making sure he and his weapon of choice were ready for season, it’s tough to swallow your pride and say, I blew it. Just remember, there have been great men such as Fred Bear, who missed plenty of shots and were humble enough to simply admit, “I missed.”

Slay the Second-Guess Syndrome

Hunters (myself included) could learn a lot from the old adage, “to over-analyze is to paralyze.” Missed shots walk the human mind through the dangerous mine fields of, “what if,” “how come,” “maybe,” and so on. This analyzing generates scenarios and questions that we could dwell on ad infinitum. The only problem with second-guessing oneself is that it provides doubts and apprehension, not the necessary encouragement to rebuild confidence.

Be aware that second-guessing is nothing more than self-criticism in a more rational form. It’s okay to learn from cause and effect, but allowing your mind to dwell on hindsight and self-judgment is a confidence killer.

In order to put confidence back in motion there comes a time when we man up, put on our big boy pants, stop second-guessing and refocus on the next opportunity. This is the defining moment that will either make you an achiever or a failure.

Achievers have the ability to put past events behind them and move on. No one goes forward by second-guessing.

Isolate the Incident

You might have missed this shot, but you haven’t missed every shot. Walk yourself down memory lane to the hours spent practicing and relive the shots that were perfect. Focusing on past success is an important factor in regaining your confidence.

Bob Butera, former president of the New Jersey Devils hockey team, was asked what makes a winner. He answered, “what distinguishes winners from losers is that winners concentrate at all times on what they can do, not what they can’t do. If a guy is a great shooter but not a great skater, we tell him to only think about the shot, the shot, the shot – never about some other guy outskating him. The idea is to remember your successes.”

Don’t allow one miss to define you as a failure. Keep in mind the many perfect shots you’ve made and allow those successes to define you.

Cancel Your Ticket to the City of Self-Pity

As James Allen writes, “a man is literally what he thinks… .” So beating yourself up over a miss will do nothing to reconstruct the necessary confidence you need for your next shot opportunity. Resist the temptation to internalizing your mistake and continually dwell on thoughts of how worthless you are. Those thoughts are simply not true.

Remember, you’re involved in a sport that attempts to tackle nature’s elements and match wits with its instincts. You have enlisted in the ultimate mind game. Staying focused and believing that you have the ability to succeed is a self-fulfilling necessity to overcome any adversity.

Psychologist Simone Caruthers says, “life is a series of outcomes. Sometimes the outcome is what you want. Great. Figure out what you did right. Sometimes the outcome is what you don’t want. Great. Figure out what you did so you don’t do it again.”

A miss does not make you a failure. Don’t take the miss personal. Non-personalization is the secret to rebuilt confidence. As has been said, “get over yourself – everyone else has.”

Step Back Up to the Plate

Your attitude after the miss will become the very emotion you put into the next opportunity. This is no time to climb down from the tree stand or leave the ground blind (unless you have to fix a malfunctioning weapon). This is the time to vent your emotions, grit your teeth and go right back to hunting.

Pushing the resume button will insure you continue to push through the emotions. The feelings will come and go, but learn to separate feelings from reality. As J.I. Packer said so well,  “a moment of conscious triumph makes one feel that after this nothing will really mater; a moment of realized disaster makes one feel that this is the end of everything. But neither feeling is realistic, for neither event is really what it is felt to be.” Failure is not a feeling; it’s an act of refusing to try again. You’re not a failure, so learn, endure and press on.

The greatest of hunters have had their misses. They became even better hunters by learning how to move beyond the miss and keep trying. There’s no shame in a miss. The shame is allowing the miss to define you as a failure.

Featured image by Randy Hynes, slider image copyright iStockPhoto.com/Paul Tessier

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