Why Not Aim Higher?

Bill Abbate

Did you know the word archery comes from the Latin word "arcus"? Guess what arcus means? Something curved, such as an arch or a bow! Isn't it also interesting that you must aim high to hit anything at a distance? The trajectory of the arrow forms a larger arc the farther the distance to the target. In other words, you must aim higher than the target, or the arrow will fall short and hit the ground.

"Failure is not the crime. Low aim is." John Wooden (1910-2010)

When setting goals or targets in your life, the closer they are, the easier they are to hit, even when small. As the target moves farther away, the degree of difficulty increases even when the target is larger. Isn't that just like the things we aim for in life? We can accomplish those easier things, but the larger, father out goals are not so easy, are they? If you do not aim high, there is no way you will hit them.

Is the potential to fail higher? Yes. But the reward can be much greater. Anyone can hit a bullseye at 5 meters, but to hit a target at Olympic distances of 70 meters takes more practice and skill, resulting in a greater accomplishment. Some choose even greater distances of up to 250 meters and more! Their risk of failure increases, but their reward is oh so sweet!

One of the biggest lessons I wish I had learned earlier in life was to aim higher. Unfortunately, there was a time when I didn't even grab the proverbial bow and arrow, so how could I shoot at anything?

Had I only pushed myself a little, I could have accomplished much more at a younger age. Maybe I was a slow learner back then, but fortunately, the lessons continued, and I finally got it.

One advantage to getting older is looking back and realizing what you once thought was difficult was not nearly as challenging as you made it out to be. Once this hindsight occurs, you know you can accomplish more than you think if you only push yourself.

Each of us has greater capacity than we realize. The way to tap into this extra capacity is to set our targets higher and farther than we think is possible at the time.

An example of this was when I first stepped into a management role early in my career. My self-limiting beliefs and lack of confidence held me back for more than two years. I did not think I was good enough to apply for a job in a larger company. Yet one day, I decided to take a shot at it, and although I did not have the experience, they hired me, and I stepped into the much larger role (or maybe stumbled into it!), and things worked out. I had the capacity in me all along but had just not realized it. This job taught me to aim higher and not be afraid. I learned the lesson that I had more in me than I realized, as we all do!

Using the archery analogy, let's look at its parallels with life to help us achieve more.

The basic steps in archery are:

  • Choose your target
  • Nock the arrow on the bowstring
  • Draw the bowstring
  • Aim at the target and loose the arrow

Choose your target

Before doing anything, you must have something at which you can shoot. What target do you think is out of reach in your life but you have a strong desire to accomplish?

To lean into that extra capacity you possess, be sure the target is a challenge. When you have it clearly in mind, you are ready for the next step.

In my example above, the target was the point when I decided I wanted to get the job and applied for it.

Nocking the arrow on the bowstring

Once you have the target or goal clearly in mind, it is time to pick up the bow and arrow and nock then arrow on the bowstring.

If you are not familiar with archery, there are nocks on each end of a bow and each arrow. Nocks are notches that hold the bowstring on the ends of the bow and the arrow on the bowstring.

The nock is extremely important. In modern archery, the nock is often made of plastic or metal and attached to the end of the arrow. The nock transfers the energy from the bow to the arrow.

In the same way, we can find a firm notch in which we can begin the work. That notch is usually something you have some competence in and on which you wish to build.

In my example above, I had to engage my notch, which was my small amount of management experience had already gained.

Draw the bow

After nocking the arrow on the bowstring, you must draw the bow. This is where you are expending energy that will drive the arrow toward the target.

At work and in life, you must expend concentrated energy on whatever you are doing if you have any hope to achieve what you desire.

In my example above, I worked long and hard hours, tapping into the extra capacity I already possessed.

Aim at the target and loose the arrow

Everything up to this point leads to this final action. By determining the initial target you were shooting at, which is hopefully a bit of a stretch for you, you drastically increased your chance of accomplishing something. After all, without a target to aim for, who knows what will result?

"If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time." - Zig Ziglar (1926-2012)

My aim in the example above was to move to a bigger job. Did I hit the bullseye? Not necessarily, but I hit the target, which was a great accomplishment for me at the time! As I continued to use the technique of choosing harder to hit targets, my chance of hitting the bullseye increased, but the main point was to hit the target, regardless if it hit dead center or not!

As you loose (shoot) an arrow by releasing the bowstring, you bring everything into that moment, the moment of truth. All of your planning, the energy expended, and the final result lead you to accomplish something you otherwise may have never hit had you not made the target a little out of reach.

In my example above, hitting the target with the new job was one of many steps. Fortunately, the lesson learned from this step took me to the top of my profession. Had I not stretched, aiming higher that first time, my career would have turned out far different!

Final thoughts

When you only aim at the easier things in business and in life, your achievements will be proportional and minimal. When you aim even further and higher, your achievements will be proportionally greater!

The only way to accomplish more is to create a target that is more difficult to hit, requiring a higher aim. Why not push yourself to aim higher and farther than your last achievement? The more you do this, the higher and larger the achievement and the reward!

The main point of this article is to aim at something that appears out of reach so you can shoot farther and higher. Once you hit the target, it can only lead to more and greater achievements in your future. If you hit the bullseye, so much the better!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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