Fear… Mindset… Two words we mention a lot, but what do they actually mean? What’s the difference between the two?
What is fear? And what is mindset? What got me thinking about this was that I recently had the opportunity to train on some lovely Lusitanos. As a one-horse owner and amateur rider, I don’t get to sit on other horses that often, so it was a fabulous opportunity to do that. I got to watch from the sidelines a little bit, and watch another lady have a lesson. Now the instructors were incredible. They were supportive. They knew what they were doing. They were wonderful, and the structure that she had was really encouraging.
You could see though that she couldn’t quite relax. She was a little bit hunched the whole time. There was that tension in her body. You could see on her face the whole time that she couldn’t quite trust this horse. Now, this was a lovely schoolmaster who knew what they were doing. I got the opportunity to chat with her afterwards. We discussed our careers and it’s interesting because she works with horses’ bodies. So she gets the mind-body connection. And of course, she told me the stories of all things that have happened to her in the past. All the accidents and near misses that she’s had. She told me about the horse that used to bolt out of the blue. So she had trauma in the past. What she had created was fear. She’s going around with that level of fear all the time and that level of her brain saying to her, “What if my horse bolts out of the blue?”
What happened is she had regular compound traumatic experiences, i.e. the horse bolting. So her brain went into “protect” mode. It wouldn’t quite let her out of “protect” mode, because it was saying to her, “this could happen again at any point in time”. The brain diverted blood from where logical processing happens, to where it processes motor functions. Her brain put her into fight or flight mode. It was in a constant state of fear. This removes the ability to logically process things and take in information. I bet if I asked her how much did she learn it would be a lot less than she thought. This is because so much of the information was being bypassed because the brain was trying to keep her safe. This is what we call fear.
So what is mindset? Fear is an element of mindset, but mindset is a far bigger overarching series of beliefs. Mindset covers everything to do with our beliefs, our values, who we are, and what we’re trying to achieve.
This same lady said to me “Oh I’m just like this. This is just me. I’m always worried about things happening so I can’t change who I am” – this is a mindset.
When trying to change your mindset, it’s very easy to do things that have worked for others. But that will look at the symptoms, not the cause. These activities might help a little, but no long term, permanent change will happen. There are great techniques out there, like breathing, tapping, and anchoring. These techniques are great, but they’re symptomatic. Whilst I do give you techniques, I also work with causation. I go “How come you need that technique?”. Let’s get rid of the need for the technique. Let’s get rid of the need for you to have a positive affirmation before you ride every time. Let’s get rid of the need for you to have to breathe your way through it. Let’s get rid of the need for you to tap. So you’ve still got those tools should something come up. You can use them but the likelihood of the need for them is far reduced.
Mindset can be one of growth (more positive) or fixed (more negative). How many times have you been trying to get something right? Maybe things hadn’t been working for a while then it clicked? Or you changed instructors and they rephrased something which made sense? Mindset is your willingness to change, to try something new. Mindset is your ability to trust yourself, and your belief that something can change. We can have an amazing positive mindset. We can have a growth mindset. We can look at everything as a learning opportunity but that doesn’t mean we won’t experience fear.
Fear is an automatic response, the flight or fight response. Mindset is our reaction and ability to deal with that response and the bigger picture.