I don’t know if your New Year came in quietly (observed with family and friends) or with a bang (celebrated with fireworks and fanfare). But ours was relatively low key, as per the norm in my household. I’ve never been big on noisy crowds, rowdy parties or the wee hours of the morning! Most of my calendars have unceremoniously flipped to another year while I was soundly and blissfully asleep.

Of course, 2020 brought a host of unprecedented and unwanted challenges and concerns. And there’s been quite a lot of commotion happening all around us (and perhaps right within us). But whatever level of activity you chose to bring in 2021, we all know that starting a new set of 365 days is a great opportunity to reflect on the year behind us and the year ahead. And with that, I believe it’s important to think about being responsibly armed amidst all the chaos and the noise and consider the best way to manage those aspects in our firearms training … and in our lives.

Defining Noise

So, let’s drill down on one of those issues — noise — and face it head-on. The concept of “noise” comes from my years of teaching, in which noise — both external and internal — is studied in speech and communication classes as a possible interference or a block to our ability to send or receive messages. Noise is usually an interruption or a distraction when it occurs; it may be jarring and unpleasant. But noise is unavoidable. Noise is ever-present. And it exists at all levels of communication. Thus, no message is received exactly as the sender intends, despite his or her best efforts.

But noise is not just something we deal with when communicating with others. It can also be something we must manage when we’re training. Noise exists at all levels of firearms training, so no practice is achieved exactly as the shooter intends. And that’s why we must learn to tune it out. To do so, let’s look at the two types of noise.

Recognizing External Noise

First and more easily identified is external noise. This can be the hustle and bustle of the world around you: the voices, the sounds, the auditory racket, clamor or hullabaloo. Maybe it’s experienced by a new shooter who’s unaccustomed to the booming and blasting all around. Maybe it’s recognized by a competitive shooter who’s listening to the playful jabs and jeers from fellow shooters at a local match. It could just be the normal staccato sounds present at every shooting range. But to be able to get meaningful practice accomplished, a shooter can’t listen to all that external noise. He or she must tune it out and focus on the task at hand. Luckily, we have ear protection that can help! Or we may choose to train on less busy/noisy days.

Understanding Internal Noise

Second is the more complex, overlooked or misunderstood internal noise. This could be comprised of the questions, confusion, self-doubt, uncertainty or distractions — all within the mind of a shooter. It’s the internal struggle with the inner voice that sometimes doesn’t know how to speak positively or how to shut up! This is why we often say that shooting is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. And to be able to get meaningful practice accomplished, a shooter can’t listen to all that internal noise. He or she must be able to quiet or control that mental aspect and focus on the task at hand. This may take meditation, prayer, experience or just sheer determination (or all of the aforementioned!). But we must all learn to quiet those negative thoughts or, at the very least, change the internal dialogue. Unfortunately, noise-canceling headphones won’t do the trick on this!

Canceling Noise    

All in all, 2020 came with — or even caused — a lot of undesirable noise. Add to that the normal load of distractions and negativity that any year may bring and it can cause quite a block to healthy training and healthy living. But now is the time to move on from that. Tune out the disruptions, the upsets, the losses and the fears. There are only two options from here on out: Make progress or make excuses. So, choose to cancel out the noise and focus on the meaningful.