Don’t aim at success — the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued. It must ensue. It is a side effect of being dedicated to a course greater than oneself.
— Victor Frankl, Men’s Search for Meaning.
An experiment. Starting with archery.
In order to serve the non-german speaking folks, I decided to have pieces of an old blog of mine from back in 2016 published here. The first one is about the archery metaphor. Translations to come.
What they don’t teach you at law school
Not so long ago I finished law school. It took me quite some time to attain my bar exams and I faced a lot of frustration and set backs down the road. There were plenty of times when I genuinely hated it. That was not because of the topic itself. Law is interesting and powerful and one might even find beauty in the sometimes strange intricacy. But I struggled. Repeatedly running into the same obstacles. Until I began to embed the wisdom of archery in my work. It is the structure of how I made things flow. And the same structure and I found that it can help in a variety of situations. So without further ado, here it is.
The problem: the bee, the swimmer and the saw.
An exaggerated metaphor and the opposite of archery is a bee trying to fly through a window: It crushes against the glass wall again and again, making no progress whatsoever. It drains all its energy and puts maximum effort into something it cannot achieve. The poor thing ends up fully exhausted with no positive results. It gives its all without getting anything.
Or look at a swimmer who has a powerful body but has not yet learnt to breathe properly. It won’t be long time through the waters before he has to take a brake to fill his lungs with some oxygen. Lastly let’s take a look at the guy in the woods who wants to cut a tree. He has a a perfect cutting technique, a high end saw and a gorgeous cheerleader squad (maybe?) but one problem — his saw is blunt. The man can go on forever and ever. He will be utterly unable to cut that tree.
While being focused only on results can lead you down the same road those three fellows found themselves on. There is the danger of forgetting about crucial preconditions which have to be met in order for the result to become a possibility. The bee has to find a route that is flyable in order to achieve freedom. The swimmer has to acquire a proper breathing technique in order to be sustainable. The man in the woods has to sharpen his saw in order to make progress.
So look at your goal. And look at your situation. What is the route that takes you from here to there? What are the preparations that you must do now in order for your achievement to become a possibility?
Solution — the archery metaphor
When you do archery, you do not focus on the target. Instead you focus on the current step. You focus on your posture, on your breathe, on your holding the bow, on the wind around you, on your stance. That way you become as aware as possible. Every single step taken with maximum attention. You make yourself flow into your target. You go through the whole process with mindfulness. Thereby you lay your ground, you build your bridge. Create the wave that carries you into your goal.
Eventually, hitting your target becomes a no brainer. Now you can use the archery metaphor on situations that require distinct action taking in order to achieve a certain goal. If you want to have more friends but face a challenge at meeting new people, put yourself in social situations on purpose and get used to talking to strangers. If you want to get fitter but seem to be unable to find the time and get started, shape your environment in a way that makes taking action easy: Block the time to work out, replace all your junk food with healthy alternatives, go to bed with running clothes on so in the morning you have no excuses and just start to run.
In short: reshape and establish the infrastructure of your life so that your dreams and goals emerge at the horizons of your reachability and thus become accessible, ultimately inevitable. Notice, if you will, that the act of reshaping and establishing is the process of achieving your goal and the most vital and efficient path of action taking.
The archery metaphor is actionable:
In order to put the archery metaphor into practice follow those three simple steps:
- Destruct your desired achievement and thereby attain precise knowledge about the process that will lead you to it. What milestones do you need to reach? Which habits are necessary? What ressources will you have to tap into? How can you shape your environment in a way that it lifts you into your goals?
- Make a list of baby steps to shape your environment so you will kick of the process. Steps that you can put into your calender and execute on. Those won’t make you achieve immediately. But they will move you forward. Most important: By taking them, you gain momentum and begin to grow. That’s where the fun of achieving goal unfolds.
- Now put those steps into your calender and make sure to execute fast. The sooner the better. No more than 72 hours before you get going.
(Truth be told – My experience at practicing the art of archery is humble. 3 hours maybe. Completed at various amusement parks. Yet the wisdom worked for me. I became a lawyer.)
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