I’m a busy person. I don’t really think too much about it; I just do what I do. I’m far from perfect, but I aim to bring my fullest self to everything and feel grateful for what I have.
Recently, a friend of mine remarked, “I don’t know how you do it all.” Her intention was supportive, but what I heard was, “it’s impossible to do all that you do.” I started to feel a bit anxious and overwhelmed. Doubt crept in. I thought to myself, “This week is crazy; how am I going to get it all done? Better not go to the barn today—I have to write two articles, deal with my taxes, and clean up the pile on my desk.” This idea offered immediate relief. “I’ll trim my expectations and work at my desk all day.” I told my husband my new plan. His immediate response was, “Nah, go to the barn. You’ll get all that stuff done. The barn is most important.” (He knows me.)
Right. How did I forget that? And why did I start doubting myself?
I felt better immediately. I planned out my next couple of days to tackle the things I needed to tackle, and happily threw on the breeches. I felt empowered—all of a sudden I could do it all again.
What then came to mind was the beloved children’s book by James Marshall, George and Martha. In case you don’t know the series, George and Martha are hippos. Utterly human hippos, to be sure—lovable and flawed and inspiring. They get into all kinds of human binds (usually psychological in nature) and then figure out how to right things. In one chapter, Martha is enjoying herself on her tightrope, which is apparently something she does regularly. “It’s tons of fun,” she remarks. George sees her, and comments that he could never do that. “Why?” Martha asks. George rattles off a list: it’s so high up; it’s such a long way down—“it would be quite a fall.” All of a sudden doubt appears in Martha’s mind where none had existed before. She starts to wobble. It’s only then that George realizes his mistake and says, “Of course, …anyone can see that you love walking the tightrope. … If you love what you do, you’ll be good at it too!” Martha feels buoyant again and shows off some of her fancy footwork.
So, why am I telling you this story? Because, dear friends, take a good look at what you believe you can do. If you don’t believe you can walk the tightrope, you’re not going to do it. Your belief, starting with an intention (I intend to walk the tightrope, jump the course, ride the test) sets in motion a process that paves the way to behavior. What you think is what you create.
This principle is why I often counsel riders to toss the thought, “I don’t want to make a mistake”, or “I don’t want to fall.” This kind of thinking paves the way for a mistake or for a fall . Instead, focus on what you DO want to happen. I will keep my pace in the turns; I will ride forward to the base; I will stay connected to the outside of my horse; I will be present for every minute in the saddle.
I will joyfully walk the tightrope with ease and grace.
If doubt creeps in, take some inspiration from Martha.
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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