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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Shooters: How Smart and Hard are you willing to work?

One of the highest selling books in the business world is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It sold over 40 million copies and was listed in ‘The 25 Most Influential Business/Management books’ by Time Magazine for its’ simple, practical advice which not only applies in business, but life in general. It applies to sports too – especially basketball – because every player and person is a creature of habit. If you really care to explore how habits influence our life, read the Power of Habit: Why we do what we do in life and business.

Here are the 7 Habits from Covey’s book, as applied to basketball shooting.

1) Be proactive.

As a player, you need to be proactive in your approach to shooting. Only you know what your goals and values are – both in basketball and in life – so think about the importance of effective jump shooting. Are you serious enough to take responsibility for your actions and consequences? Will become a better jump shooter take your game to the levels you wish to attain?

Before you jump into any program, ask these tough questions and be brutally honest with yourself. Ask friends, family and/or coaches to give advice. If you’re truly passionate about long-term domination, you’ll develop a natural and proactive approach to the way you train. Being constantly proactive trains the mind and kills laziness and procrastination.

2) Begin with end in mind.

Again, think about your goals. If you’re in high school, how do you see yourself as a player in college and beyond? Do you see yourself playing professionally, casually or in-between? What about when you grow older and have family?

If you don’t know what the future holds, ask yourself: if you invest in the game, will you be happy with the results, even if life doesn’t go the way you planned?

I knew that I would never play college or NBA ball, but I’ve always felt that basketball habits would benefit me both on and off the court. Years of playing, learning and growing from the game of basketball confirms this to be true. The investment pays dividends continuously at basketball, at work and at home for me.

For me and for professional shooters, there is no end in mind. I strive to improve my shooting throughout the different stages of life. This is how I can stay forever young. If I can shoot the ball the rest of my life, I know I will have lived meaningfully.

3) Put first things first.

What is your greatest weakness, as a jump shooter or as a player? How do you turn it into a strength? Where is the greatest opportunity for improvement?

One of Michael Jordan’s greatest weaknesses out of college was a weak jump shot. He prioritized it, went to work and well, the rest is history. He finished with career averages of 50% FG, a respectable 33% 3-point shooting and 85% free throw shooting. Lebron James continues to do the same today as shooting has always been a weakness for him.

Get honest feedback from a coach or trainer. Instead of focusing on 5 different things, find the most critical and get in the gym.

4) Think win-win.

Don’t just think about yourself and your game. Think about your team and your coach’s system. How can you improve your game so that both you and your team(s) benefit?

This is an extremely important question because in basketball, shooting is often associated with selfishness. Scoring is exciting so it’s easy for a good shooter to believe all he needs to do is jack up shots. In 21 or 32, it’s fine. In real games, it’s not. You’ll hurt yourself and your team because the goal isn’t to take more shots, it’s to take and make better shots.

In games and in practice, think about how each shot helps/hurts your team’s chances at winning. A smart shooter who takes less frequent, but great shots helps his team more than a great shooter who takes too many questionable shots.

5). Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

In other words, understand the game first before you decide the type of shooter and player you wish to become. Every shootaround, practice, game is different when you consider all the environmental factors such as team chemistry, game tempo, the competition, etc.

The best players ‘let the game come to them’ and strike when they see the opportunity. So observe everything you possibly can about your own game and the game of basketball in general.

Shooters should understand what type of shots the coach encourages and discourages. Smart shooters understand the role of teammates and gel in accordingly. Smart shooters understand their point guard’s ability or inability to get him/her the ball in sweet spots. Smart shooters understand what they need to do on-ball and off-the-ball to keep the offense flowing. Shooters should understand the defensive spacing. When you regularly observe these nuances, you become an instinctive, reactive player who uses the game ‘settings’ to get off quality shots.

Most players egoistically impose their will on teammates and try to get them to center their game around him/her. This is how even the purest of scorers – like Kobe and Melo – cause team friction and chemistry issues.

6). Synergize.

As you become better at observing your court surroundings, you routinely start understanding your teammates’ strengths and weaknesses. The more you understand, the more you appreciate, the better you can complement each other. The most successful teams aren’t the ones that have the best shooters, but rather the ones that have a combination of good passers, rebounders, defenders, scorers, glue guys like Shane Battier, etc.

When you synergize, you increase your own potential and your overall team’s potential. You make others better and your competition nervous.

The 2013 Bulls have been incredibly successful, relative to their pre-season expectations, because they’ve been able to synergize and make the most of each other’s strengths. The 2013 Lakers on the other hand, due to injuries and a lack of synergy, underachieved.

Synergy builds character and trust in each player and it is incredibly contagious. International players overall lack the athleticism that American athletes possess, but they focus more on synergy and therefore, end up seeing tremendous success. When the USA Men’s national team plays European/South American international teams in Olympics, we often struggle even though we have the best athletes in the world. We win most of the time, but don’t expect 30-40 point blowouts against the elite teams.

Synergy is one of the most transferable skills you can adopt, in basketball, in school and in life.

7). Sharpen the saw.

As you continue to progress and get better, it’s important you not only maintain your newly acquired skills but that you continue to raise the bar and push your own limits. You can bet your competitors are so never be satisfied. Do whatever you can to improve. Don’t chase perfection, as that’ll only lead to frustration. Instead pursue excellence by trying to be better today than you were yesterday.

For shooters, continue to ramp up your shooting training. Keep working to improve your accuracy and shot count. But don’t stop there. As you age, complement your shooting training with physical and mental training. Check out Lumosity and work on brain training exercises to sharpen your focus. Strengthen your arms, shoulders, core and legs. Work on your off-hand shooting, dribbling, pump faking and ball handling. All these small pieces add up and give you incredible competitive advantage.

Bad habits hurt your game and they hurt your team. Fancy passes, over-dribbling, lazy defense, failure to box out. These are common habits that destroy player and team morale. For shooters, bad habits include overshooting, taking bad shots, changing form constantly, practicing shots you can’t simulate in real games.

Some habit change are effortless, while others require more dedication, but the results of successful habit change pay off big time.

8) Know your Friend and Enemy.

The internet is both your friend and enemy. It finds information that solves problems to help you live better. It’s a source of inspirational  and interesting stories. Same with the TV especially during the winter months. Computers, TVs, tablets, phones and all other screens and machines are tools that have proven effective in turning humans into lifeless tools. They drain your brain, make you lazier, kill your time and keep you from achieving your important goals in work, in sports and in life. Be suspicious of these silent killers.

A good basketball helps you learn how to improve your jump shot.

You have 2 brains. There’s the human brain which inspires excellence and then there’s the lizard brain – a self-defense mechanism – which inspires fear. Your human and lizard brains are also your friend and enemy because at any point, you can choose to destroy one with the other. Pick wisely.

The lizard brain has the right intention – to shield you from harm – but it has no right to impose its’ will on you. Fear is real but it can be channeled and controlled so it doesn’t prevent you from achieving your goals.

**Bonus Tip:** Find your voice, listen and act.

The more you commit to basketball, the louder your inner voice becomes. It’s the voice that hints you to push harder, to play smarter, to keep your composure and to ball fearlessly. Every player has this voice guiding them but most choose not to listen. They’re too busy blaming others, too busy talking trash to opponents, too busy showing off. Your game will only go so far if you focus on the trivial.