How to Change Your Mindset... 3 Simple Steps!
Ok, now I know that maybe I’ve got a bit of a fixed mindset sometimes and actually its holding me back! So I’d really like to change that and start actually achieving the success I want. How on earth do I do it???
If this sounds like you at this point then congratulations! You are actually already starting to make the changes you need to have more of a growth mindset. How do I know that? Because you haven’t dismissed the idea and you want to learn more, develop and change. That shows a growth mindset right there. You are prepared to listen to yourself and question it. You’ve already taken a look at yourself, taken responsibility and realised that actually, some of this might be your way of thinking and not finite.
The change needs to start with self awareness and an understanding of what it is that triggers off your fixed mindset. Once you start to get to know these then you can pause and explore them and in time change them. Then less will trigger it, it will happen less often and a growth mindset will just become your default instead.
So now you can follow these 3 simple steps in order to start making some lasting changes which will serve you well…
1 – Start to journal a bit. Each day or each time you face a challenge, set back, opportunity for growth or anytime you like then simply write down your thoughts. This is only for you. It’s not for the wider world or anyone else. It is the unedited version of exactly what is going on in your mind right now – what you are saying to yourself. When you’ve written some things down take a look at them. Are they phrased like a fixed or growth mindset? This inner voice is our own inner demon. Our self-saboteur. It’s very common to have one and its only purpose in life is to keep us safe. Although sadly mostly what is does is stops us taking and action and then feeling pretty shit about it! So it needs to be heard, addressed and put to rest each time it appears.
Fixed thoughts will be things like –
This could be embarrassing if it goes wrong. It’s not my fault. Other people have got the issues. I’m just not as lucky as them. They have it easy. It’s much easier if you have x, y, z. I always knew I wasn’t good/ talented/ intelligent/x enough to do it. Other people are better at it than me so why compete against them. They are already doing it so there is no point in me doing it. I’m not as good as them. I always get bad scores/ marks/ placings. I can’t possibly get access to the things/ resources I need to succeed. What do they know? The judge was a bit harsh/ they don’t like me. All of the environmental factors caused poor performance, it wasn’t me. I always… I’m never… I’m a nervous rider. I’m never confident. I can’t…. They just don’t like my face/ horse/ name/ instructor/x. I have to prove myself to… I can’t do it so why should they. It’s not even worth starting. I’ll do it once I’ve done x/y/z. I don’t want to write it down as a goal because I never achieve goals. I’ll just give it up. I tried and it didn’t work so it’s not possible.
The list could go on and on but you can probably gather the themes of the types of things you will be saying in your own head if you are experiencing a fixed mindset in that moment.
2- Understand it’s your choice what you say to yourself and what you believe to be the truth!
Do you want to view this situation as a setback, challenge, negative, criticism and judgement? Or would you prefer to flip it so it becomes an opportunity to learn, grow, explore new things, find out more information or resources, examine your current situation etc?
3 – Ask yourself some questions that will help you to reframe the thoughts into more useful growth ones. This helps you to talk to your inner voice with a growth mindset and challenge it. In turn this breaks down these beliefs and starts to form new lasting ones.
Questions to ask…
What did I learn today?
What mistake did I make that taught me something?
Is my current learning strategy working? If not, how can I change it?
Do I know the outcome or goal I’m after?
What information can I gather? And from where?
Where can I get constructive feedback?
If I had a plan to be successful at [blank], what might it look like?
When will I follow through on my plan?
Where will I follow through on my plan?
How will I follow through on my plan?
What did I try hard at today?
What habits must I develop to continue the gains I’ve achieved?
You might also find it useful to spot the fixed mindset phrases and talk back to them. Finding evidence to the contrary of what you are thinking in that moment is very helpful too.
Instead of “I’m not good enough” you can say to yourself “Everyone has setbacks and they serve to show us what gaps we have in our learning.” Then ask yourself one of the above questions.
Instead of “I hate failing – it means I’m a failure” you can say “Everyone fails in their path to mastery.” Look at Edison – he failed 1000 times to make a lightbulb. But when asked he said “"I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps."
Instead of “This would be easy if I was good at it” say “Nothing is easy on the inside. We just see the outside view of people who are doing well. They’ve all had struggles along the way and simply grown from them”
Finally “It’s not my fault” say “If I take responsibility then I can fix it. It may not be easy but I will learn something. Let’s see what lesson this one is, even if it’s a painful one”
Below are many more example of great growth mindsets that you can use as examples to tell yourself if you think you are in a bit of a fixed one…
AP (Tony) Mccoy has ridden 4,358 winner in his horse racing career. He raced 17,630 races so he actually “failed” 13,272 times! His win to “fail” % is only 25%. So 75% of the time he didn’t win. But what did he do? LEARN! He also suffered 1000 falls and has broken 13 bones in his body and had 14 teeth chipped or knocked out. There are some very good reasons for giving up. But instead he always analysed, learnt and implemented new things to make him successful.
Charles Darwin gave up a medical career and was told by his father, "You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching." In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, "I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect." Clearly, he evolved.
When Julie Andrews took her first screen test for MGM studios, the final determination was that "She's not photogenic enough for film."
At the age of 21, French acting legend Jeanne Moreau was told by a casting director that her head was too crooked, she wasn't beautiful enough, and she wasn't photogenic enough to make it in films. She took a deep breath and said to herself, "Alright, then, I guess I will have to make it my own way." After making nearly 100 films her own way, in 1997 she received the European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award.
12 publishers rejected J.K. Rowling's book about a boy wizard before a small London house picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Steve Jobs was fired from Apple after he had set it up. He went off to do other things and eventually success in that led him back to becoming CEO of Apple again. He said “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”
Michael Jordan (Basketball Player) quote - “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
How do I discover my Mindset?
If you’ve read part 1 and 2 of this blog all about Growth vs Fixed Mindsets then you will now understand the difference between the two. Great!
the thing about mindset is that it’s all very well talking about it and saying “you should have this one or think that way” but actually knowing what you think and do and indeed how to change it is actually the useful part.
In fact there are so many people out there talking about "#positivity" or "#mindset" but they actually have no idea what so ever how to change it or what to do to help someone. They commonly are out there talking about it (often it's very carefully constructed) because they want recognition and in a funny way this can be a huge indicator of a fixed mindset! Ironic hey? So this (part 3) of the blog looks into how you identify which you have and when. Then part 4 will help you to change it if you think it will be beneficial (which mostly it is!).
As said many times before, mindset can be situational. You can think one way in one situation and differently in another. Practicing a growth mindset when you are able to rationalise and think about something logically will certainly help to change things in the long run and is the way to start. However, research has shown that you will have a predominant mindset that will ultimately be what shows up in times of stress or anxiety. This is the one we really want to get at because if we do then this has profound and lasting results!
Think of a time recently when you’ve felt under pressure, stressed, anxious or annoyed. This is the time we want to explore for now. Here are some questions to answer that will help you to work out which of the two mindsets you might have in that moment. So think of exactly that moment and then answer these questions about what you were thinking at that time…
Do you feel like you are floundering or not making any progress?
Do you feel you’ve gone backwards?
Do you want to give in because you don’t know the answers?
Do others have it easy compared to you?
Is the anxiety of (perceived) safety greater than the joy of potential learning and growth in this moment?
Are you just not talented enough to be able to do this or achieve the bigger goal?
Are you worried what others will think?
Are there a lot of things in this situation that are actually just other people’s faults and it’s not really you responsible?
Is this just the way you are and you cant change that?
You can learn new things but ultimately it’s not going to change anything about this?
If you have answered yes to a few or more of these questions above then the chances are that you’ve got a bit of a fixed mindset hidden in there and that could be really holding you back from progressing and truly reaching your potential.
Now look out for part 4 of the blog because it will give you lots of things to think about and do that will help you to change – if you want to?
The Fixed Mindset - You'd never have one, right?
A “Fixed Mindset” sounds pretty final and I expect you would certainly never want to admit that you might have one, right?
Here’s the thing…. A Mindset is not an identity, it’s not who you are and even better it’s totally changeable! But in order to change it, you have to notice that it’s there. Even just sometimes or in some situations. This blog looks at the key traits in identifying if you might have a bit of a fixed one sometimes…
People with a fixed mindset believe they either are or are not something. That might be talented, clever, trainable, good at something, confident etc etc. It’s pretty black and white. Sadly due to this they never really excel at anything – because they will give up at the first hurdle. They are looking for validation from others to say that they are ok, or good or even worthy. This means that as soon as something is harder than expected or they have a setback then they will likely get humiliated, give up and avoid it again.
For example – you go to a well-known trainer to learn but deep down you really want to show them how capable you are so they say “well done, you are good at this” and that makes you feel better. However, because they are a trainer they are more likely to pick holes in your ability and skills and look to find ways to improve upon them. This may even involve setting tasks that are harder than you expect and you “failing” at them. With a fixed mindset this is very hard to swallow and often very demoralising for the learner. Despite what the learner might then say, it’s not the fault of the trainer, they are only doing their job! It’s the mindset of the learner in that moment. They aren’t getting the validation they desire and so they don’t like it (and blame it on the trainer).
It is really common for people with performance anxiety or issues to have them because they are determined to get “good” results. This is driven by a desire to get validation and actually leads to tension and anxiety, which in turn diminishes performance. So a fixed mindset with competition with actually be detrimental to performance.
With a fixed mindset people avoid new challenges, putting themselves out there or anything that may potentially fail (even a little bit) because the desire is to “get it right” and get that good feeling. Rather than the opposite desire of a growth mindset, which is to “have a go” and get the feedback. Now of course there are some things in life where it’s important to get it right (often safety related) and so then a fixed mindset in that particular area is important. In fact that’s why it exists! To stop us catastrophically failing when we were genuinely in danger as cave people. Of course now this is no longer the case so we can safely retrain this part of our brain.
Often people with a fixed mindset will be jealous of others because they don’t see things as possible, instead they see them as easy or hard. Those who have kept at it to achieve success are often seen as having “found it easy” (for whatever reason) by the fixed mindset person. Sadly this means they are never going to put in the effort to achieve their own personal potential and will often feel they are floundering in their own development.
You can of course have a mixture of the two types of mindset and it can vary depending on the situation, but people do tend to lean towards one. In all reality, it’s not likely to be your own fault if you notice you perhaps tend towards a fixed mindset. Unfortunately our entire education system guides us towards it. It is completely based around outcomes and being “good or bad” at something and is even tested with grades and “pass or fail”. That’s pretty final! There isn’t much emphasis on improvement or learning and it’s very simple to label a child intelligent or stupid. Sadly this is then echoed in parenting and so a child can easily grow up thinking they are either good or bad at something.
So take a moment to have a think and perhaps notice if you have any of these traits or thought processes that might be holding you back? You might notice it in your competition performance, your attitudes towards training or even your thoughts on your own progress in mastering a complex skill. Part 3 of this blog explores how to identify your mindset and crucially part 4 looks at how you can change it.
Part 1 - What is a Growth Mindset?
How willing are you to try new things and potentially "fail" or "get it wrong"?
Or are you happy to give it a try and maybe learn something from the experience?
The answers to these two questions are a good indicator of your mindset - Fixed or Growth oriented.
Of course mindset is often situational dependent. You can be all about growth in training but fixed in competition for example. Or growth in work but fixed in riding. If you have a Growth Mindset then you believe that anyone can be good at anything; that their abilities can be developed through dedication, perseverance, and the right strategy. Yes in our sport we have to take into account the ability, attitude and health of our horse/s. That we have to accept as any other sport involving a partner (ballroom dancing, pairs figure skating or really any team sports) - that the others team member/s are willing and able to participate, train and develop too. Although sometimes it can be all too easy to blame our results (or lack of) on our horse. This in itself can be an indicator of mindset.
However, if you have a Growth Mindset in your riding then you are able to embrace challenges and develop strategies to overcome setbacks - whether in your own skills or that of your horse. You believe you will find a way, work it out or change something to make it happen. You have a desire to learn and so can see these things as simply ways in which to do so.
"Effort is an essential part in the path to mastery" (S. Jeffrey).
When you love the process of learning then you are happy to put in whatever effort is required to reach a certain goal or standard that you set. You actually embrace the opportunity to put in effort and get much more back from it too.
Another other great part about a Growth Mindset is that you are very likely not to spend any time comparing yourself to others but instead you are inspired by them. You want to know what it is that makes them great? How they managed to achieve things? What you can do to become more like them? The flip side of this is explored in part 2 of this blog - all about the Fixed Mindset.
People who show more of these ways of thinking tare proven to achieve more, persevere for longer, reach peak performance and achieve what they set out to do.
Do you agree with these statements?
You can always learn and develop, no matter how good at something you already are.
There is always something new to learn from any type of experience, even the "bad" ones.
If you do then you are more likely to have a Growth Mindset. Great! Keep on learning and discovering more.
Part 2 of this blog will explore the Fixed Mindset so you can start to identify if you have any of these traits and become aware of them, their effects and how to make changes…
Top Tips for Competition Success and Overcoming Setbacks
For the last week I've again been involved in running a British Dressage Regional Championships (my 4th one now). Its so lovely to see lots of people competing at an event they've worked really hard to qualify for and doing their very best to qualify for Nationals (including many of my clients - I'm so proud of you all!).
I also get to see a lot of people who are nervous or desperate to pull out their best performance and because of this they are tense, distracted, allow mistakes, get flustered etc and actually pull out what is in fact one of their worst performances at a time that really matters. I saw countless tests that I watched thinking how tense the rider was and then the sheets stated the horse was "tense". Often it is the rider causing this - especially on horses who aren't normally tense out competing or at home.
Have you got a big competition coming up or do you get nervous when going out to compete? Performance anxiety is very common and can have all sorts of effects. Its how you deal with nerves that count and that is a set of skills skill that can be learnt - just like in the physical riding itself. Of course you can be lucky and work these out on your own or if you get the right mindset coaching and support in place then you will get exactly what you need and accelerate the process (without having to make costly mistakes in learning it by yourself). These are some tips to help you to be successful in your competitions and how to deal with setbacks…
1 – Have a clear goal for each competition that is based on your training programme. This includes Qualifiers or Championships (the goal isn't to qualify or win by the way - that's just the result!). For example: at home you have been working on keeping your horse in front of your leg. So this is the focus at the competition. Then you can gauge your success based on how well you feel you executed this. The score will improve as you improve in your training, use the first score as a baseline and go from there. At competitions with qualifiers or medals etc then its more important than ever to focus on what you have been training. It keeps your mind in the now and stops you getting distracted into results focused thinking - this is what often affects performance.
2 – Keep goals personal and process based (not product). Product goals are often way outside of our control, such as %, placings, qualifiers, or medals as these depend on the other competitors or the judge’s opinion. Product goals do come as a result of good process goals but if the focus is on product alone it can be demoralising and affect your performance. Process based goals (such as keeping the horse in front of your leg or clean transitions) are small things that you judge and are within your control. You will know if you have achieved them and can work out a plan to keep improving.
3 - Analysis is ok but comparison to others is not. There is no comparison between yourself and another competitor. Unless you are riding the same horse and have exactly the same background, skills, body type and even coach. Comparison simply add judgement and self-doubt. Keep your thoughts in analysis mode instead. Analyse your behaviours and riding only. Analysis is without judgement and based on observable behaviour (things you physically do or say). Think about what you can change and create a plan to do it. Then focus on this plan and work out how you are going to execute it. Keep it to just a few (3 max) things to work on in training and then make these the focus of you next competition. There is no point trying to boil the ocean!
4 – Keep things in perspective. There will have been loads of good parts to your test/ round and if you think about how they have improved you will realise your hard work is paying off. Of course there is always something to improve on, that’s dressage! However focusing on the negative often takes it out of perspective. For example: if you messed up a couple of transitions or had a couple of poles it can be easy to end up thinking the whole test/ round was awful. So think of at least 3 positives for every less than ideal aspect. Then use analysis to work out your plan to improve it and keep the other great parts too. There is always another competition or opportunity to shine.
5 – Keep a track of your progress. I can be easy to forget how far you have come. You only achieve the bigger goals through a series of little ones being completed. Again celebrating your successes puts you in a positive frame of mind.
6 – Remember why you ride or compete. Keep this at the forefront of your mind. This helps you to make decisions and stay focused if things don’t go to plan. As a guess – it’s your love of horses that means you ride? Remember this and take a moment to appreciate how lucky you are to do what you do. Lots of others would love to be in your boots.
To help you keep a track of your competitions and make sure you are able to analyse and plan easily then you can download this simple to use Competition Checklist here.
Of course personal bespoke coaching is the most transformative way of discovering the very best tools for you to use to overcome nerves, stay focused achieve your own personal best. So do drop me a message if this is something you would like to explore further.
Goal Setting - The difference between smashing them and not!
How many of you have set goals only to fall at the first hurdle? Whilst the process of setting the goals themselves seems simple, there are often so many factors involved in reaching them that achieving those goals isn’t always so easy.
As last year turns to this, it is natural to reflect on the past 365 days and to resolve to improve things for the next! How many of us have made (and already broken) our 2018 resolutions? Statistics actually show that nearly all of resolutions made at New Year have fallen by the wayside by the 15th January - just 14 days into the year!
This blog post will look at the most common pitfalls in resolution making and will (hopefully) offer you some simple tips and tricks on how to actually achieve your 2018 goals…
· Have you ever made a resolution with the words “stop” or “start” in it? E.g. “I will stop replacing hacking with schooling.” or “I will start riding in the rain.”
Why do you need to start/stop this behaviour? How did it start/stop in the first place? What can you change to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
Making your goals attainable is very important and being clear about WHY you are setting the goal in the first place will help you to do just that!
· Have you ever set a new year goal that involved the phrase “I am going to be better at (riding)”?
This phrase has no real context – Better than what? What do you need to improve? How are you going to do that?
By having no measurable factors how will you know when you have achieved your goal? “My goal is to be able to do a single flying change over a pole in the school” would be a good example of an easily measured goal – you can obviously see (and feel) when you have achieved it.
· Do you set yourself LOTS of resolutions each year and manage to stick to none of them?
One thing I have learnt, in both the equestrian and business worlds, is that if you focus on changing one thing at a time you are much more likely to achieve what you set out to than if you look to change everything all at once. Spreading yourself too thinly can ultimately lead to you dropping those multiple goals one by one until there aren’t any goals left at all!
· How many of your goals have had no time limit?
“My goal is to jump my horse.” Right now? Tomorrow? Next year?
With no mention of a timeframe this goal has the potential to never happen. If it is something that you do not do regularly or that you haven’t done for a long time it is likely that it is something that will take a bit of inner-strength to achieve. Without a deadline, it is far too easy to keep putting your goal off until tomorrow, or the next day or even the next.
Be specific and realistic about when you want to have achieved it “My goal is to jump my horse before the 31st January.”
By adding a realistic deadline, you can plan accordingly (include pole work in your schooling, use cavaletti, have jump lessons etc.) to enable you to build up to your ultimate goal, giving you even more chance of smashing it…
· How many of us have set goals that are so far out of our comfort zone we’d need a herd of galloping horses to get us there?
Setting a goal that you have little or no interest in achieving is as silly as it sounds. “I am going to concentrate on improving my dressage, (even though I was born to gallop for hours out hacking)” is not really ever going to end well unless you are ultra-laser focussed and are prepared to change your entire mind set to enable you to achieve it.
Declaring that you will do something that bears no relevance to the things you love and value is ultimately not sensible. If you have no real intention of falling in love with dressage and trotting in circles from now until the end of time (not that there is anything wrong with that at all if it is your thing) then my biggest suggestion would be to re-align your goal with something you love. Try a hunter trial for the first time or join a team chasing team, you are much more likely to leap into achieving your goals if they set your soul on fire!
· Have you ever declared you would do something just because you thought it was expected of you?
Setting goals to impress other people is not sensible and can sometimes actually be quite dangerous when it comes to horses.
Aiming to do something simply because your horse used to do it or has the capability to do it is only going to help you conform to other people’s perceptions of what is right. Do you actually care enough about what others think? Are you at the same level and as capable as your horse’s last rider? Do you have the confidence to face that huge show jump? Are you Carl Hester? Could you fly the Cottesmore Leap?
YOUR goals HAVE to be achievable for you. No one else matters.
If you only take one thing from this post make it this:
Stick to these three basic principles and your resolutions will last long into 2018 (way past the average 15th January…)
1 – Make your goal positive, achievable, realistic, measurable & YOURS (no one else’s).
2 – Stick to one change at a time. Once you’ve nailed one thing you can move on to the next. Lots of little goals are far more effective and motivating than one big long-term goal.
3 – Set a realistic time frame for achieving your goal and get out there and smash them!
Now if you want get a bit of support and guidance with the process of goal setting you can get the Goal Setting Support pack online. This includes a 1 hour webinar all about how to set the right goals and how to make a realistic plan to get to them. As well as a downloadable pack to record it all and a tracker to keep you on your path to success. Just click below to get yours now
As riders, especially those of us who compete, Getting it Right is really important. Even if you don’t compete, Getting it Right so that you and your horse are both happy and comfortable is of course of the upmost importance at all times. If we think back to childhood times (especially if you were lucky enough to ride as a child), you probably had more of a Have a Go mind-set.
As humans we are operating on a variety of different continuums or scales which can move from one end to the other in a matter of milliseconds. If we think about a scale with Getting it Right at one end and Having a Go at the other, then it’s easy to see how they can be polar opposites. Yet they can also come together in the middle to create a blend which is very helpful as well.
Have a think about times when you have found Getting it Right to be very useful. Now think of times when the idea of Getting it Right being at the forefront wasn’t the most helpful. Now think of the same for Having a Go - when has it been helpful and when has it been not so much? Doing this I expect you have realised that each one has its own benefits and setbacks if it is the only outcome in that moment.
Getting it Right can be the cause of the "perfectionist trait" which many competitors get in the pursuit of winning. When competing in any sport it can be easy to get our mind set on Getting it Right because we want to win, show what we are capable of or even how hard we have worked. Often with horses having this fixed mind-set can cause tension (often unconscious) in us and is then counterproductive as our horse picks up on this tension and becomes tense or unhappy themselves. A tense and unhappy horse then can cause the rider to become negative in their thinking and have to work even harder to get it right and the spiral continues to undermine the overall performance of the partnership. I come across this spiral a lot when working with Performance Coaching and work with you to undo it.
Sliding your scale further towards Having a Go might just help you to find a point that works better for you and your horse. Allowing mistakes in training is certainly helpful as we tend to learn so much more from a mistake. Then seeing competition as a chance to Have a Go at putting training into practice can be a great way of taking of the pressure of performance and guiding your mind-set towards doing your very best (rather then "Getting it Right) which is often exactly what you need to succeed.
I’ve had lots of fun with clients recently exploring this scale and helping them to discover the perfect blend for them at home in training and at competitions as well as when to spot if the scale has slid too much to one end, which may not be helping in that moment.
Now notice which one you tend towards and have a play with sliding the scale to understand the different it really does make.
At the end of the day we are all primal beings. Humans are predators designed to hunt (and horses are prey designed to avoid us!). Yet we can work together in a beautiful partnership and achieve things only dreams are made of.
Humans when they are put under pressure or stressed will release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These are designed to heighten your awareness and increase your reaction times. Although they can have the opposite affect if they get too high and they can put you into “fight or flight” mode and that stops your logical brain from functioning and switches to your primal survival brain function.
Being focused and very aware of your body is amazingly powerful for as a rider. When you are totally “in the zone”, focused only on your body and your horses’ body, you are able to make fast adjustments and support your horse to do their job. 4* eventers are 100% focused when they are xc because here is very little room for error without causing serious injury! However, they don’t focus on the potential for injury (although of course they are aware of it and wear the best safety kit they can to prevent it). They focus on the task at hand. The speed, impulsion, direction, line, feel of the horse and the route they have decided to take (always with an option b if needed). Top riders even understand the necessary rhythm of the footfall and breathing rate of the horse to reach the desired MPM and avoid time penalties. This focus on the physical aspects of riding means there is no room in the brain for fear or worries.
By keeping the level of hormones low, so they don’t reach levels that trigger fight or flight, you can use them to your advantage to keep your brain focused and your body able to make lightening quick changes. These are made when necessary and in reaction to minute changes from your horse and the environment around you. That way changes are adjusted before they escalate to become an issue in anyway. Top dressage riders are very accomplished at feeling the tiny changes in their horse and correcting them quickly, so the untrained eye doesn’t even notice what’s going on.
You can identify the triggers that make you stressed and what happens to your body when your hormones flood in high levels. You might grit your teeth, feel sick, shake, talk lots, go quiet, become angry at those around you, tense up etc. It’s very individual to you and your stress/ nervous tolerance will be different in many situations. If you feel any of these and do nothing about them you will simply take this way of being up onto your horse and they will react by being tense, backing off, spooking, dancing about, tuning out or many other less than desirable behaviours. None of which are associated with top performance. Here are some things you can do to work with nerves to help you both perform at your best…
1 – Identify that your behaviour has changed and also to think about what may have triggered it.
2 – Work out the best way for you to bring down your hormone levels and use them to focus your mind and body. Normally breathing deeply is a very good start.
3 – Take a moment to get present. This means focusing on the sounds around you, your body, and your breath. Let any negative thoughts flow away for now.
4 – Think about releasing tension in your jaw, shoulders, neck, back etc all the way down to your toes. This is very quick to do.
5 – Put things into perspective. There will always be another test, another show, another day. This is about doing your best. Your best is very rarely achieved in fight or flight mode!
6 – Remember why you are here. Why you love this. What is motivating you to do it and how much you love riding your horse!!!
I’ve got a great goal for 2016… so now what?? How to actually achieve your goals instead of giving up on them by the end of January!
It’s January, which means that you have very likely set some goals for the year. Often they haven’t taken you long to think of and they might be something you wanted to achieve last year but haven’t done yet. How long did it take you to come up with the goal? How long have you spent thinking about how you will actually achieve it? Is it something you want or something you feel you “should” do? All good questions that highlight just how easy it is to come up with an idea that we want to follow. Great! So what can you do to really help yourself to achieve it?
The down side to just coming out with an idea is that it probably hasn’t been that well thought through and you are very likely to come across difficulties that make the goal seem too hard to achieve, so you either give up on it or lose interest. It is easy to come out with perfect and very real excuses that put a stop on the path to the goal. That’s because we nearly always think of all the great reasons for achieving the goal with no thought at all for the downsides to either achieving it or the journey to get there. Then you start to believe that it wasn’t the right goal for you and maybe loose the motivation to get over the hurdles and achieve it. You give up on that one but it might still be there eating away at the back of your mind.
Have a think about your goals. Take one of the biggest ones. Now think about it using this model to really explore it and work out if the goal is right for you. Examine each point in the order below –
Positive – What do you want (or maybe what do you not want)? This is normally your goal written down.
Evidence – How will you know when you have got it? Think about more than just a product goal such as a win or a score. Think about a physical feeling, a picture of where you will be or something that doesn’t rely on external influences (over which you have no control, like a judge’s opinion)
Context – When and where do you want this (or not want it)? Be really clear on this as it helps to make the goal more specific and therefore achievable.
Self – Is this something you (and your horse) can achieve by yourself? Yes you might need a support team around you (we all need a team) but is it crucial that someone else behaves a certain way or you won’t get to the goal? If this is the case then you don’t fully have influence over your goal. Think about any factors that you don’t have control over – are there any ways you can get more influence?
Advantages and Disadvantages – we nearly always think of the advantages – have you thought of the disadvantages? Not only of achieving the goal but in getting there. Will you lose out on things if you have to put in more training time, competitions and time with sponsors (time with friends, money for clothes, holidays and trips etc). Are you prepared to not have these things in order to get your goal? Think even further too. You qualify for “event A”, which was your goal – now what does that mean? More time, money and effort etc to get to “event A”. Are you prepared to work with the consequences of achieving what may have seemed like a brilliant goal when you set it?
Worthwhile – Now you’ve thought of all the things above, is it still worthwhile? Are you still fully motivated to do whatever it takes to get there? Are you fully supported and have what you need to make it happen (or a plan to get what you need along the way)? How will it feel when you achieve this? Some Olympic athletes have been known to crash with depression after achieving the Gold because they haven’t thought beyond the goal and what it will mean. Their lives change because it’s not all about getting Gold anymore and they haven’t thought about what they will do afterwards. Do you then have to keep being the best and what does that really mean?? So think about the consequences of achieving the goal.
Using the model above helps you to examine your goals in depth and work out if you need to change then or come up with new ones. Then these become your real goals that you are truly motivated to achieve and you can start planning and working to get them into reality. That’s really exciting!!
Yesterday I took a friend out on a hack with her ex racer, who she hadn’t hacked out for a long time due to him being ill and she was very nervous of what he might do. She took some persuasion to go, but he needed to be worked in straight lines and for short periods, so a hack was certainly good for his recovery. Plus the sun was shining, we both had a busy day and unwinding with our horses was a perfect tonic! I too didn’t used to be a big fan of hacking out because of the unknown...
One of the things that training to be a coach, going through a total change of career and working with horse riders’ confidence has taught me, is that we never know what the future holds. We can guess but that’s all it is, a guess. My mind-set that yesterday was to say that we will take each step at a time, keep breathing and in the present moment and not allow our mind to create a story for us, just be in the now and enjoy the hack. Needless to say her horse was perfectly behaved (as was mine of course!) and we both had a beautiful hack on a sunny evening together.
Fear is in the future. Our minds are really very good at thinking of something that we find scary and creating all sorts of fantastic stories of what could happen, based on our previous experience, what we’ve been told, or simply what we believe.The key is to be aware that at that moment, it really is all in your mind. It’s not actually happening. You’re just creating a story. It’s up to you if that story will come true or not! If you want to do something but you find it too scary to attempt it then this will help…
When you think of something you find scary, have you noticed that you normally come up with 100s of bad things that could happen? Do you come up with good things? Probably not. Because your mind is trying to protect you from experiencing the scary thing and so it convinces you that you don’t want to try it.When you think of something exciting or happy I bet you think of loads of good reasons to do it? So let’s use that strategy for scary things too.
1 – Think of the scary thing and make a note of all the things your mind comes up with as reasons why you shouldn’t do it, or what terrible things might happen.
2 – Now do the following – think of the worst possible thing that might happen – actually think beyond your initial scary situation, beyond the fall or injury or pain. Our mind doesn’t normally like to do this. It likes to stop at the point before the outcome of the fear. You think about falling off and that’s where it stops. If it happens, is it really that bad? Do you have any moments when you realise what you are actually fearing? Helplessness, anger, people who told you so, embarrassment etc.
3- Now spend some time thinking of why you do actually do want to do it. What are all of the positives?
4 – This time re run any negative thoughts and replace them with a positive outcome. Instead of falling off you stay on… then what?
5 – Tell yourself that you don’t know what will happen, good or bad, so you can imagine the good and what you focus on will grow. You can also imagine exactly how you want it to happen and practice this in your mind. Then when you come to do it, you know exactly what you will create in reality!
Soon you will begin to realise that the mind becomes very good at imagining good or bad and you can train it to do either. Allow the mind to be creative, but be in control of it and play with positives too. Create a mind-set that you are capable of dealing with whatever life brings. It all happens for a reason and everything is a lesson.
This is just one of many tools you can learn to use if you come and work with The Heart of Confidence. We’ve got 100s of them up our sleeves and can quickly work out exactly which one will work for you!!