Thursday, June 14, 2012

Back To Beginner

I had great success a few years ago when I allowed myself to reset my mindset about riding dressage and training my young horse. I approached my riding and training just as though I were a beginner. I let go of all the ideas I had about being "such-and-such" a rider at whatever level. I accepted that I no longer knew my body after cancer and that this change in confidence had impacted my dressage training. I saw that I was having problems, and while some of those things were indeed physical, I accepted that a majority of my problems were probably mental. My confidence had eroded and I had more self-doubt about my abilities than ever before. It was strange for me since I usually approached things without worry and with some level of expectation that I would succeed. So when I gave myself permission to reset to "Beginner", I felt unexpectedly refreshed. I got on my horse without performance expectations for myself or for my horse. I listened to experts and friends around me who wanted to see me succeed and be happy with my riding. And although there were definitely days and maybe weeks when I would feel pessimistic about my abilities, I was also feeling the improvements coming through in my riding. I had totally lost my rhythm, and it took time in the saddle and overcoming a lot of self-doubt that helped me regain some of my basics. My horse started performing better as she started to trust my seat and aids. Before I knew it, we were both enjoying our rides, getting through the challenges with ease and ending every ride with exhilarating positives. I could see my beginner status moving into intermediate abilities. Two years later, my horse and I are performing better than we ever had in the past, and I have my sights set on showing at the highest level I have ever achieved, and improving even beyond that. It feels good. I don't think I could have done this without letting myself become a beginner again. And today I find myself looking at my work situation with high levels of frustration, boredom and disappointment that my expectations aren't being met. It occurred to me that these feelings are similar to the dread I felt when I thought about my dressage training a few years back. Disappointment, self-doubt, lack of passion. These are feelings that I do not enjoy having on a daily basis. What's worse is that I know that if I continue along this path, I will end up hating everything about my job, this workplace and what I am doing. That would be sad since I've been passionate about this area for most of my life. How can something that meant so much to me become so dreadful? Definitely my unfulfilled expectations and general disappointment generated by years of reorganizations and other peoples' lack of vision have made me question my passion and abilities. So after reflecting upon my success with my riding and dressage, and the contentment and rekindled passion that has brought to me, I have decided I am going to let myself be a beginner again. It doesn't matter that my title and job description are not aligned with what I think I should be doing. No, I will listen to the professionals who are supposed to have the vision and I will allow them to let their ideas develop so they can organize and orchestrate the conditions that will allow the horse (me) to perform. I will let go of my expectations for my own performance and approach my work with a sponge attitude - watch, listen, feel and execute well. I know my beginner status will not last forever, for I have one giant advantage. I have not lost my experience and I know what my success will feel like. The freedom of being a beginner liberates me from my own preconceived notions that may actually be holding me back. I accept that I no longer understand my context and that I must redevelop the relationships that helped me succeed in the past. I do this knowing that when you take the time to revisit the basics, you will accelerate your improvement and come out better for it on the other end. So today, workplace, I am your student. I am here to learn and to accept that starting back a few steps will catapult me forward. For that, I thank my horses.