What a great diagnosis. As soon as a read the term, I knew I'd suffered from it. Have you? Looking back, I can now see it in the would-be entrepreneurs and innovators I've worked with who, despite promising ideas and heroic efforts, never made much progress.
The term hit me when I was reading about archer Im Dong-hyun of South Korea, who competed in the Olympics despite eyesight that is roughly 20-30% of normal. To him, the target 70 meters away looks like a blur of colors.
To him and others, his inability to focus on the target was more advantage than handicap.
If an archer draws his recurved bow and aims too finely, back muscles tend to freeze, the elbow moves forward and the shoulders close in on the chest, an almost imperceptible process known as collapse. What results, in archery lingo, is target panic.
Im's inability to see the target keeps him humble. At least that's how I interpret it. "The mental part is more important than vision,” explained Mario Scarzella, vice president of the World Archery Federation.
Target panic is like "analysis paralysis," that vicious cycle that keeps entrepreneurs and vice-presidents looking for more information, for the one piece of data that will provide the certainty they need before making a commitment.
But target panic is more visceral. More biological. Less about scheduling another project review or ordering another focus group, more about waking up in the middle of the night, clearly seeing the end result but not the path to it.
Accepting a little blur in our vision is essential to making the leap. It keeps us from thinking we can (and should) know everything before moving forward. It keeps us from thinking that complete certainty is actually achievable. It keeps us focusing on the path and not the target.