With the World show just weeks away, I want to help you to prepare yourself mentally to maximize your success. Even if you are not headed to a World show, using these strategies will help you to develop a winning mindset!
Our thoughts are powerful! Our thoughts help to shape and control our destiny. Aiming our thoughts in the correct direction is one of the most important things that we can do in our life. Our results, positive or negative, are often directly related to our thoughts. Many people struggle with negative thoughts, and a negative self-image. They often have negative patterns that are repeated over and over and don’t really know how to break them! For many people the biggest battle they fight is the battle of their mind. Your success in life, with your horse, as well as your success in the show arena, is directly related to how you think and your thought patterns!
Competition touches upon one of the most sensitive areas of our emotions. “What will people think of me?” Competition can invite us to be overly critical of ourselves as well as other people. For some, competition can bring out the worst side of them. When you compete, you are being judged. The key to your success is how you internally handle the pressure of competition.
1. Determine to compete primarily with yourself.
Think of it like this, you exhibit horses with other people but you compete with yourself. Get your eyes off of everyone else. I am very careful to not over watch other people. Now don’t get me wrong, striving for excellence is always my goal. Watching successful exhibitors and seeing what they do will help you to raise your standards. But, every time you watch other people you are forming an opinion in your mind. That’s the purpose of watching them. But, when you form that opinion you must be careful to not negatively turn on yourself. In other words, don’t spend a lot of time comparing yourself and developing a negative, critical conclusion based on what you are seeing. There is no doubt that you need to watch your events. It is good to see what your competition is. Learn your events inside and out. Learn what the rule book says. Study the standard and reach for that! But don’t form a negative opinion about yourself as a result of how good other people may be. If you discern that you have a long way to go, that’s okay! We all start somewhere! Use the standard to be a place to reach towards. Tell yourself you can be excellent too. Encourage yourself to be hopeful and optimistic. Be your own best friend, not your enemy. Even if you know that you are unable to truly be as good in one way or another as the people that you are watching, set a reasonable goal to work toward. Make sure your final conclusion about the situation is positive. If you start to self criticize, tell yourself, “NO!” Remind yourself of your positive traits and make sure your final thoughts are positive.
I cannot stress how important this is. Many people don’t even realize how negative their self-talk really is. Become mindful and aware of your thoughts, learn to control them and make them positive. Decide that you will be okay with yourself right where you are, as you continue to reach toward where you want to be!
2. Learn to control your nerves!
All of us can get nervous before a big competition. In fact, excitement can feel like nervousness. Excitement is normal and good, but excessive nervousness can cause failure! When nervousness gets out of control, or causes you to perform poorly, it is important to know how to deal with that.
So first of all, don’t be too hard on yourself! Forgive yourself for any past mistakes! Wipe the slate clean so to speak and allow yourself to have a positive, happy expectation.
Learn this very important fact! Your nervousness is not caused by your tough competition. Your upcoming classes do not cause it. It’s not caused because you are at the World Championship show! “Your nervousness is caused by your internal response to the things going on outside of you.” Your nervousness or anxiety is caused by what you are saying to yourself about the event, the competition, or “what may happen.” Your nervousness is caused by your focus on all the “what if’s,” and the more you focus on those “what if’s” the more your nerves will escalate.
To help you to control your nerves and have the best ride that you can have, direct your focus to the things you can control. I look for details in my horse’s performance that can improve. If my horse is a little nervous, I do exercises to calm him down. If he’s a little sticky or stiff, I do suppling exercises. I take my focus off the “what if’s” and put it on my horse. I am his coach. He needs me to be calm and relaxed, as I will transmit my feeling to him! I also visualize what I want. I plan out that great ride in my mind.
Remember; take your thoughts off yourself and put them on something positive and you will see great results!