Don't think about pink elephants

Now what are you thinking about?

I’ve had some difficultly lately with my mental game.  My head is an interesting place and sometimes I just don’t want to leave.  I used to have the same problem when I was shooting skeet down at Mitchell’s in Salem, OR.  For me shooting is a constant struggle against my own propensity to over-think the situation.

As a skeet shooter I’ve taught myself that there is only one thing I need to see: that chunk of orange clay.  I have discovered that if I just let myself see the bird and stop thinking about everything else it tends to end up a cloud of dust.  It took a lot of training and time for me to stop thinking about how I was standing, where the bead on the gun was and, what I struggled the most with, to stop staring at the space between the gun and the bird – you look at the space, you shoot the space.

I’ve discovered the same mentality rolls over into shooting handguns and rifles.  All I want to see is the front site.  On days when I’m not stressed out and thinking about recoil and having a smooth trigger pull I tend to put the bullet where I want it to go.  While these days are getting more common it still takes a lot of effort for me to clear my mind enough to only worry about seeing that front site, and the problem is that a lot of time that effort just results in a downward spiral where I’m thinking about not thinking about it and therefore end up thinking about it.  It’s the “Don’t think about pink elephants” concept that Insight’s Training Center’s John Holschen espouses.  The idea is that as soon as you hear “Don’t think about pink elephants” you are thinking about pink elephants.

I’ve found that the best thing I can do for myself is just not worry about it.  If I think about over-thinking I’m already over-thinking.  When I was running a DA revolver, I wasn’t worried about anything other than the front sight and a clean trigger pull.  I ended up being much more accurate than I was used to, specifically because I had less expectation of my performance than I would normally have.

I guess it’s time to get out of my own head and stop thinking about those pink elephants.


  1. Negative thinking such as ‘don’t think about the space between the barrel and the clay’ is always detrimental. You can still think about a lot of stuff during a training session that is positive. Think, front sight. That is all, it’s almost as good as clearing your mind. In order to have a negative though, you must first formulate the thought, then set it aside. It’s a lot more mental effort than just thinking about positive points of training.

  2. Shooting is alot like driving, if you look at the side of the road you will steer toward the side of the road.
    if you look at the space you will aim at the space.

    And yeah, just like someone up high, on a ladder or rooftop, they could have been there for hours, but if you tell them not to look down the first thing they do is look down.

    The mind is strange like that…….

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