Get Back to Your Plan

How many times have you been mid-stage, and something goes a little wrong? You do what you need to do to correct it, and move on – but now you’re improvising, off your original plan, and somehow things go from a little bad, to a lot worse? You look around and think “Where am I? And why am I in this handbasket?”

Lets take an example from Austin area GM Bryan Williams on why its so important to get back on your plan!

Did you catch what happened in that video? The set up is – start with an empty gun on the barrel, shoot ‘em as you see ‘em. There are a total of ten steel targets in the middle, but the outside two targets were visible around the outsides of the walls, too. Bryan is shooting Production, so he only has ten rounds in the gun when he fires his first shot. His plan was to shoot 9 steel in the middle, take the 4 paper targets on the right (8 rounds) to the left, and then take the remaining 4 targets and 1 popper (9 rounds) on the right, with a reload in between each position.

He got caught in the middle, though, taking a couple of extra shots, and had one target left standing, and a gun locked open on an empty mag. He reloads, shoots one at the popper (kudos for nailing that shot), and then reloads the gun as he moves to the next position. He’s only got 8 rounds to fire at the next array, and currently has 9 in the gun, so why reload? Simply put – he’s getting back on his plan!

Most of us spend a good amount of time mentally rehearsing our plan for a stage through a technique called visualization. Its not unusual to have shot a stage a number of times in our minds before stepping up to do it for real. When something goes wrong in our plan, we end up off the plan and into uncharted territory for the performance we’re involved in. That puts our conscious mind at least partially in the driver’s seat, as a decision must be made on how to proceed. Once we’ve overcome that obstacle, we can do one of two things – continue to improvise, and try to (consciously) concoct a new plan on the fly… or we can get back on our original, well rehearsed and well prepared plan that can be executed as programmed by our subconscious mind. Which do you think will likely result in a better outcome?

Its a well understood phenomenon of human performance psychology that the conscious, thinking mind only hinders the performance of the body during execution. If you’re thinking about your shooting while you’re doing it, you’re slower than you can be and probably making a lot of unintended errors, as well. If your subconscious is driving, though, the actions you’ve “programmed” into it (remember that visualization thing?) are executed sharply, decisively, and at maximal capacity. Most of us tend to wander a bit in between the extremes – but the closer we are to pure subconscious control, the better the results.

By reloading the gun as he moved to the 2nd position, Bryan was getting right back onto his well rehearsed mental plan for attacking the stage. Sure, if he had no makeups on the 2nd array, he’d be in the same position, and reloading the gun probably cost him a couple of tenths on the movement – but getting back on plan could very well have prevented further mistakes, in the form of dropped shots, poor points, extra standing reloads, etc. He went back to the familiar territory of his plan, and put his subconscious mind firmly back in the driver’s seat to complete the stage.

Crap happens, and we have to be flexible to overcome it sometimes – and I’m not going to tell you that returning to your plan will solve all problems all the time. But, 99.9% of the time, getting right back onto your plan offers you the safest, smartest path to finishing the stage without further hiccups.

About the author


USPSA Grand Master, NRA Instructor, http://re-gun.com/about/

Permanent link to this article: http://re-gun.com/2011/05/get-back-to-your-plan/


  1. Rick says:

    Hi Dave

    I understand the importance to get back on track an minimize the involvement of the conscious mind.

    Getting back on track to me is not always sticking with your plan. What if you have to improvise and your initial plan is not ‘executable’ anymore. To me it is more a matter of keeping the conscious mind quiet (not going shit or swearing) and keep shooting. I like to count the extra shot’s I have on an position to keep from running empty. Counting to ten or more is much to hard for me.

    While writing my comment I realize there’s more depth to your article then meets the eye.

    If I understand correctly I have to do whatever it takes to stay in the game safely and keep shooting within the boundries of my abilities as a shooter. Because we get in trouble if we try to hard to make up for mistakes.

    Thanks Dave.


    Busy thinking on what I can do in the future to stay in the game.

    1. DaveRe says:

      Rick, I think you’ve partly got it. You definitely don’t want to get into critiquing your performance mid-way through (that’s the cursing, etc, mid-stage). And, it’s basically impossible to make up for mistakes, once you’ve made them. Almost always, all you can do is make things worse. You’re very much right that once you hit a mistake, the best thing you can do is get back on track and just shoot solid As the rest of the way through the stage.

      But – unless you’re at the very end of the stage when it happens (or it’s a very short stage, which you guys see a lot of internationally – not as common here in the US), you’ll still have part of the stage left to shoot after you take whatever remedial action (ie, the improvisation) you need to take. That’s where you need to get back on track and resume your plan. It’s possible that you may have now upset timing on a moving target of some flavor, or something like that, and you may need to be flexible once you get further downrange. That’s true – those are rare situations in stages, though. Even so, you still need to get back on as sub-conscious of a plan as possible, even in those situations.

      I think you’ve got the right idea, though. Definitely keep “the committee” quiet, and get back to work. Avoid panic. Just do your job ;-)



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