When you think about training to use a firearm to stop a lethal threat, it’s healthy to think of it as serious business…because it is.

But just because the end result is serious business doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun along the way…or, more importantly, that we SHOULDN’T have fun along the way.

One of the things that you learn when doing long distance runs or hikes is that sometimes your goal is the finish line, but a lot of times, a better goal is the next intersection, the next ridge, or the next tree.

It’s the difference between looking at an elephant and being overwhelmed about how to eat it all at once and just looking at the process as a series of small, individual bites.

Training for self-defense shooting is the same in many ways.

Some people can maintain a serious demeanor 24/7 and the desire to survive a conflict that may or may not happen at some unknown point between now and the day they die is enough to drive them to train and practice on a regular basis.

Most people aren’t wired that way.

Most people operate better when there a frequent series of intermediate goals…sometimes fun goals…on the way to the end goals.

Which leads us to “impressing friends” with your shooting abilities.

Something that most serious shooters, myself included, scoff at on the surface.

On one hand, I really don’t care what anyone thinks.  All I care about are measurable results.

On the other hand, the process of learning physical skills that you can execute under stress is a physical/emotional/chemical process and I’m a firm believer that if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

The fact is, the more rewards (in the form of neurotransmitters) your brain gets for executing a skill correctly, the faster and deeper that skill gets hardwired into the brain.

And the more punishment that your brain gets for screwing stuff up…in the form of embarrassment, the more motivated you will be to change/fix your technique.

Here’s where “impressing friends” fits in.

When you shoot in front of friends…regardless of whether it’s at a match, at a qualifier, or in a class, your brain will release neurotransmitters based on how you do…either compared to others or compared to how you’ve done in the past.

It will reward you with dopamine and serotonin when you do well and it will punish you with cortisol when you perform craptastically.  That’s a good thing.  Because if the “stress” of a buzzer or performing in front of friends throws you off a little, how much do you think the stress of a life and death situation will throw you off?

It’s a free, powerful training hack that you can take advantage of…or ignore at a cost.

This isn’t new.

Effective teachers, coaches, instructors, bosses, and parents use the leverage of social pressure to reward good behavior or punish bad behavior all the time.

Effective leaders know that if someone they’re in charge of is doing something good, it’s important to get them recognition in front of their peers.

In some cases, it’s recognizing people for how they perform compared to their peers.  In other cases, it’s recognizing how people perform compared to how they did in the past…how much they improved.

In fact, I am a strong believer that this is why most courses of fire and qualifications are scored and have levels of performance rather than JUST being pass/fail.

Scores and rankings, like “expert”, “marksman”, “distinguished”, etc. allow people to compare themselves to others and to their past performance…and to impress friends, regardless of whether or not that’s their primary goal.

A little pin or medal on your chest won’t help you in a life or death situation…but it might just inspire you to practice enough to get it or keep practicing to maintain your status.

So, the next time you’re shooting with your friends, competing, or qualifying, pay attention to the emotions that you get when you perform well and use them as fuel to keep taking time to refine your skills.

Use these emotions as fuel to do more dry fire leading up to your next competition, class, or qualifier.

Use these emotions to encourage you to reinforce good things and fix bad things.

And, whenever you think about practicing, think about the good feeling you’ll have the next time you do live fire and perform better because of the dry fire practice you did.

Who knows…that extra practice you did so you could look better in front of your friends may just be the practice that helps you put more effective rounds on target when your life is on the line.

Train hard, cheat, and use every tool you can to train more effectively…specifically, cheats like what we use in the 21 Day Alpha Shooter program to slash the amount of time and money that it takes to improve dramatically as a shooter.

by Mike Ox

Mike Ox is an avid defensive and competitive shooter who has co-created several firearms training products, including Dry Fire Training Cards, https://se965.infusionsoft.com/go/dftcmedia/loadout

Dry Fire Fit, 21 Day Alpha Shooter, and See Faster, Shoot Faster.  His brain based training focuses on accelerated learning techniques for shooting as well as controlling brain state and brain chemistry for optimal performance in extreme stress situations.  Learn more about dynamic dry fire training for defense and competition at www.DryFireTrainingCards.com/blog

Photo courtesy of USCG