Zen and The Archer


I’ve been doing a lot of studying lately in the area of Zen Buddhism. 

One of the main teachings of Zen Buddhism is to respect the process of any pursuit over the end result.  I recently came across a story that illustrates the point perfectly.

It seems there once was a young Buddhist who wanted to study archery.  He sought out a Zen priest, who was also an expert archer to teach him.  The priest took his new student to the edge of a high cliff at dawn.  He slowly set up a target and strung his bow.  Each movement he made was deliberate and meticulous and it seemed to the student as if the priest were completely focused on each tiny detail.

 Just as the sun was rising over the hillside the priest took a deep breath and drew the arrow into perfect alignment with the target.  With the bow taut he suddenly turned and fired to the side of the target.  The arrow soared majestically over the edge of the cliff and out of sight. 

The priest turned to his stunned student and said, “Just hitting the target is not the point, it is a side effect of a way of life.  A life lived on purpose with focus leads to the Way.  Once you no longer need or desire to hit the target, the Way will lead you there.  The Way begins with humility.  Now go get the arrow.” 

I’ve been a Financial Advisor for almost ten years.  For the first 8 or 9 of those years I worked myself crazy trying to hit imaginary targets.  It wasn’t until I began to recognize that the only thing that I could control was how I work, and that too much of my targets were dependent on other people, that I began to find my Way. 

Setting sales and productivity goals is the wrong way to think about hitting the target.  In fact, as the priest said, just hitting the target is not the point.  Instead, focus on the process, focus on the Way.

 It wasn’t until I stopped trying to hit arbitrary targets and just focused on perfecting the process that I started to hit them with any consistency. 

String the bow, draw the arrow, aim it and release.  That’s all you can do.  It’s the arrow that hits the target, not you.  Once it’s released it is literally out of your hands. 

Trust the process.  Become one with the Way.  Release the arrow. 

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