Your Mind Is Your Secret Weapon
We can enter a competition and worry about whose in our class, what the judges will give us, where we will place, what our horses will do. We can worry about all these things we have no control over and let our nerves get the better of us. Then we go to trot down a centre line and can’t even remember if we turn left or right! We have been so wrapped up in things outside of our control that we have lost control on the things we can control.
Before I started working on my mindset I had no tools, no tactics, no weapons to combat a vulnerable and scattered mind. Over time though I have now learnt how to improve my mindset and I have become obsessed with how our minds influence our performance and everyday life.
It doesn’t matter whether we are a competitive rider or just purely riding on weekends. Having a competitive advantage with your mindset is your secret weapon to life! Because competition is part of just general life. It has always been a part of all of our lives. We compete for better jobs. We compete to be better at school. We compete to get to the front of the line at the coffee shop. So if we want to start to win at life, and unlock our competitive advantage, we must learn how to optimize our mindset and become mind fit as well as physically fit.
Now I get it, sometimes we don’t want to compete. However, you may have heard me mention the saying, be 1% better each day? In order to chase your goals and have a sense of purpose each day, (which by the way is a key part of happiness) there is an element of competition that I am talking about. It may or may not be on the competition arena, it may just be with yourself and just turning up each day to be better.
This is not in the sense of mental toughness, you don’t have to be tough. It’s about will power.
While mental toughness can be great and a sense of grit can help you push through, both these strategies are more about defense. A mentally fit athlete is more about offense. It’s about advantages in winning. It’s not a shield. It’s a spear.
Often what happens when it comes to mindset is the wrong strategies are used. You see being competitive in this sense doesn’t come from harder training sessions or being the rider that runs extra sprints after schooling horses. Its not about olympic lifts or doing the splits. That’s physical dominance and in dressage it certainly isn’t about physical dominance by any means. Fitness for dressage is about health/longevity and ensuring you have good posture to prevent wear and tear. Mental fitness is also about preventing wear and tear. Having the ability to stay focused on calm when stresses are placed upon you mentally. Rider wellness is therefore about both physical and mental fitness. Preparation and prevention. Working in offense. Not defense.
Getting started boils down to just two fundamental tactics.
If you understand these two foundational principles, you are on your way to becoming mentally fit and unstoppable.
Set your sights.
The first tactic is to set your sights. What is it that you are striving for and recognize what it is you can control and what you can’t.
To start write a list of all the thousands of thoughts and ideas that can distract or tempt your focus. Often when we compete ideas and thoughts flood through your mind on overdrive.
Everything from social media. What other riders might be doing for training, how to deal with bad weather, bad judging and dozens and dozens more ideas. It’s often an overwhelming list and easily a trap to get stuck deep within it.
However, camouflaged inside this massive list is a much smaller one. Inside this list are some key elements like training, recovery, nutrition, sleep and mindset. This is where you should set your sights. Only those five things you can control, you can influence and you can change. Nothing else.
It’s these areas where you want to give all of your attention, energy and effort. Giving any attention to anything outside of this is outside of your control. And try as we may, we can’t change or influence those things. We must learn to view those things as distractions that need to be ignored.
Having the ability to focus and improve your mindset begins with the understanding of this fundamental principle. Recognize what it is you can control and what you can’t. Now, that sounds so ridiculously simple. Because it is. Yet we all struggle with this every day.
The great thing about this part of mindset is you will have endless opportunities to work on setting our sights and remaining focused. So next time a coworker happens to get promoted ahead of you. Don’t get all hot and bothered stressed out about something that you can’t control. Instead, double down on what you can commit to being the hardest worker in that room. Be the first to the office and the last to leave. Every day.
If you’re three year old spills their juice on you at the breakfast table before some big presentation, don’t get upset about it. You can’t control what has happened. That’s now in the past. Instead, calmly console your toddler. Go upstairs and change your pants.
In light of the current situation around the world with convid-19. Focus on what you can control, practice social distancing, wash your hands and build you wellness to boost your immunity.
We are all frantically climbing the ladders of our careers, chasing riding goals and working hard day in and day out this will never change.
If we don’t first learn to set our sights on what we can control, those ladders turn into escalators going in the wrong direction and we get stuck on the treadmill of life, depressed because we don’t grow and frustrated with every man and his dog for everything that is simply out of our control. Not to mention scared or overwhelmed.
Life is frantic in today’s modern world, we are working hard and yes, we are busier than ever. Too often though we aren’t moving forward or even going anywhere. Let’s learn to set our sights and begin to control our minds.
2. Kill the critic.
We all have that voice and it shapes our realities more than most of us realize. Our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions and our actions dictate our destiny. The keyword here is to watch your thoughts and your words. You need to take ownership of this. No one will coach you more or critique you more than that voice in your head.
We can take ownership of this by asking ourselves a few questions.
If something is bothering you. Ask yourself, is there something you can do about it? And if the answer is yes, well, then don’t complain. Just get busy and fix it. Get to work and do something about it.
And the flip side, if you ask yourself if something’s bothering you. And the answer is no. Then try not to complain, its outside of your control.
You see if it’s outside of your control, there is nothing you can do about it and no amount of unproductive complaining is gonna change that fact.
Never whine. Never complain. Never make excuses.
Kill the critic in your head and control your mindset. Start to think about what you are fueling your mind with, who you are listening to and what you are focusing on.
The key is to choose to focus on what I could control, not all the million things that could go wrong or what so and so is saying on the sideline or on social media.
I challenge you to set your sights and use every opportunity you receive each day as an opportunity to strengthen your mindset.
Kill the critic in your head and take control of your mind.
If you do, you’ll be ready for anything or anyone that comes at you.