We all have our own fears. It’s fine, they are important to our survival. I am writing this blog because as a human species we have evolved over the years due to a healthy dose of fear.
Fear is a great teacher
What is interesting is how fear is closely related to learning. Fear causes us to behave both rationally and irrationally. Fear is generally attributed as a response to a perceived threat or risk. What is interesting is how failing can create such a powerful response. Obviously, failing needs to be tempered. It is ill advised to reach a point where your fear becomes more of a phobia. Fear is healthy and necessary, phobias are not. Fear gets such a bad wrap unfortunately, but we need it to evolve. Both as a species and students.
It does the body good
Instructing new students in the sport of shooting is one of the most challenging endeavors you can face. There is a high level of fear for many. As instructors you have to recognize this fear and guide the student so they can make progress at a rate reasonable to their skill and the subject. I firmly believe in my students, I have seen them impress me over and over with their accomplishments. They work hard to manage their fear and with a little guidance on our part they are hugely successful.
As an instructor, how can you manage their fears to ensure positive and healthy growth? One suggestion is recognizing when their fear shows physically. Rapid breathing, trembling and eyes dilating are all signs along with verbalizing their fear. I had a student who when approaching the firing line commented about being afraid. There are lots of reason why they may be afraid so listening to what may be causing their fear is the single most important strategy you can employ. Ask them why, give them the floor and listen. Ask follow up questions to get clarity and help bring their fear to the surface. Once they have voiced their fears you can work at addressing them. If they are afraid the gun will jump out of their hands, focus on grip. If they are afraid of the loud noise, suggest double ear protection. If they are afraid they could accidentally shoot themselves review the safety rules. These are all fears I have listened to over the years and many more, they are real first and foremost.
Check your ego at the door
Then there is fear of performance, fearing not doing well or failing. At times this is misguided and the result of incorrect preconceived notions about skill level. You may think you are a good shot, but then find out you are not that good. Again, good is subjective and part of the problem. Standards are the answer, but managing the students expectation is equally important. Standards allow you to evaluate the behavioral change needed to say objectively learning has taken place. Without them, you have no idea how well your students are performing. If it is the first time a student has been exposed to standards it can be a major blow to their ego more than anything. We all have our own self identify, how we see ourselves. The problem is when that image is not the same as our real performance. The hardest part is recognizing the difference. You can either dismiss the results and blame everyone around you. Or, you can evaluate your performance and commit to improving.
In my experience, those who recognize their fears, put their ego aside become competent and safe. We need more competent and safe armed citizens more than ever these days.