Military snipers can teach us a great deal about how to orient our lives, run our marriages, and structure our day-to-day existence. Sniper training involves many elements of skill enhancement, but as far as I understand the selection process for sniper training, it primarily consists of finding individuals with the disposition and innate cunning for sniper duty, and enhancing it with the proper skill set. With the goal of properly delivering long range precision fire, snipers are a breed apart. It’s much more than being a good shot; it is the confluence of craftiness, patience, strategic thinking, and focus. A sniper could lie in wait for days, motionless. Extreme heat, bone-chilling cold…lying prone for days on end with nothing but the thoughts in his head to keep him company.
All for that one perfect shot.
I suppose I have no greater insight on sniper training than anyone else who has watched those ‘guy episodes’ on those military or Discovery type channels. But I do know that one of the great thinkers on human conduct and balanced living—Aristotle—used archery and target-training terminology to describe the goal of human ‘well-being’: happiness. When Aristotle spoke of happiness, he did not mean ‘enjoyment’ or ‘feeling great’. He suggested happiness was the result of building correct habits, structuring your life as a continual process of self-improvement, and orienting your life according to your ultimate goals.
Aristotle used the term ‘telos’, Greek for ‘goal, aim or purpose’. Your target. Your bulls-eye. Your highest achievement. A life fulfilled. As long as we kept our eye on the goal of our life, and as long as we kept a laser-like focus on our target, tuning out all distractions, striving for that Zen-like unity between shooter and target…between where we are and where we’re heading…we raise our likelihood of success. There are no guarantees of happiness or success in life. But you are certainly guaranteed to never hit your target if you don’t have one.
Snipers, narrowing their field of vision, focus their entire being on one speck, perhaps 2000 meters away. There may be tarantulas crawling up their arm, there may be scorpions oozing down their neck. Focus. Concentration. Calm. One with the target. Ignore the onset of hypothermia. Ignore the rumbling in your stomach. Breathe in…breathe out…wait for your heart to beat…stillness…send it.
Forget the inconveniences of the day. Ignore the ups and downs of daily life. If we let the stings of petty people, the poisons of the naysayers and the distractions of the trivial lead us astray, we are lost. Your target, your telos, is everything. Your entire being channeled into one narrow, distant point.
One day, way off when…we will lie on our death beds and tell ourselves the story of our lives. The hard truths of our existence will be revealed to us. What will our story be? Will we have hit that target?
Life. Marriage. You have one shot.
Make it count.