New year, new decade! It’s not even close to spring yet, but I’m in the mood to clean out the closet—literally and figuratively. How about you? Those old sweaters; the mismatched socks; the breeches with holes—all of those have to go. Why? Because they’re taking up important space.
Likewise, let’s get rid of old, useless mental and emotional habits. Are you packing around negative or self limiting thoughts? Let’s throw them out! Do you spend time mulling over what’s not right, either with the barn or your riding? Let’s figure out how to transform those negative thoughts into productive actions. Do you carry your mistakes from day to day? We can renovate that thought pattern. Are you unsure why you’re doing what you’re doing? Let’s keep your why front and center.
Perspective is everything. How you look at your thoughts and your behavior is what determines meaning.
For instance, as you work on a particularly challenging aspect of your riding, you can choose to think of yourself as making mistakes or you can think of yourself as a developing athlete. Your choice of labels determines your point of view. If you choose to see yourself as a student of the sport, you’re opting to view yourself on a continuum of expertise.
Remember: great athletes think of themselves as perpetual students of their sport.
In my work, I find that the best athletes are courageous and relentless in their pursuit of self improvement. They consider themselves works-in-progress. They don’t label mistakes as failures but rather as steps toward a goal or pieces of a puzzle. If they haven’t gotten somewhere yet, they ask themselves not if but how they’re going to get there.
I also find that great athletes, the highest achievers among us, know why they pursue what they pursue. They are connected to and fueled by the love of their sport and the challenge of improvement. Their pursuit has deep personal meaning.
Why do you ride? Most of us ride because we love horses, receive tremendous joy from being in the saddle, and take great pride and pleasure in developing ourselves as athletes. Riding—and being at the barn—is an emotional refuel and upgrade. Do you leave the barn feeling full? Of course, we all have our ups and downs in our riding, like every sport. But every day we need to connect with what we love about it, what it means to us, and where we intend to go.
Best performance emerges out of joy and gratitude and a sense of purpose about our pursuit.
Remember, just like your closet, it doesn’t make sense to stuff the new things in amongst the old. You have to clean out to make room. Same with your mental housekeeping. We can’t pile positive thoughts on top of the negative. Take some time to actively purge the old thought patterns and replace them with new. Yes, it takes work, but the sparkling new attitude will look great on you.
Cheers to a productive, joyful 2020!
For over 25 years, Darby Furth Bonomi, PhD has facilitated positive transformations in clients of all ages. As a practicing psychologist and consultant, Darby has worked with many people to achieve lasting change and establish the foundations for mental wellness.
Now in her primary role as a performance psychologist and family consultant, Darby merges her life-long experience in the equestrian world—as a rider, parent of riders and owner—with her vast toolbox of psychological and coaching interventions to help riders of all levels and their families reclaim the joy in their sport, leading the way to improved performance and better health. She loves helping clients untangle the complicated situations that tend to arise when horses are added to families.
A dynamic speaker and change maker, clients have sought out Darby to help improve their lives, both in and out of the saddle. She is devoted to making the equestrian world—and the world at large—a kinder, gentler and more respectful place.
Darby currently shows in the amateur owner hunters and equitation with her horses Little Wing and DaVinci, alongside her teenage daughters. She is married and has a college age son who steers clear of the barn. She lives in San Francisco.
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