The uncomfortableness of being outside your comfort zone…

Let’s have a chat about comfort zones. Here’s the thing… when you are about to do something that is uncomfortable or causes anxiety, it’s likely that in the initial stages doing “that thing” is also going to be uncomfortable or require a leap of faith.

For instance, if I am wanting to canter and cantering has been my main anxiety trigger for as long as I can remember, provided that I know that both my horse and myself are safe, and I have done the work (both mentally and physically) there comes a point where you have to have faith in yourself- faith that you can handle it, faith that you can do it, faith that you can deal with whatever comes up.

Going outside of your comfort zone is uncomfortable BECAUSE you are literally outside of your comfort zone. If you are totally comfortable, you aren’t outside it. The only way to expand it is to give it a little nudge.

I say this because many riders are operating under the assumption that they should be feeling like Captain Cool when it comes to extending themselves once they have put the necessary leg work in. If you are doing something that is taking you to that next level, moving you out of the comfortable and into the uncomfortable, then it’s normal that you would feel a little unsure. It’s normal that you might be nervous, or feel like you left hand is attached to your right ear lobe and things are falling apart a little bit. All of this is completely normal.

And what’s more, it’s kind of the point. You are learning something new, revisiting something that has scared you in the past, putting yourself out there; if you didn’t feel some sort of emotional change in response to that then is possible you should audition to be a stunt extra for Jackie Chan; he’s always on the lookout for people with those steely nerves.

For the rest of us though, we need to lighten up. Cut ourselves a bit of slack. And accept, that sometimes, things aren’t always going to feel “good”. In order to be comfortable again, we have to be willing to move through the uncomfortable-ness and come out the other side.

Another thing; feeling uncomfortable does not mean you are failing. It’s actually part of the growth process. I would go as far as to say that even ENTERTAINING the idea of what it is that worries you and searching for a solution is part of the growth process- it’s massaging the edges of your comfort zone and prepping it for change.

So if you find yourself in a situation where you want to do “the thing” that uncomfortabalises you the most (yes, that is a word- I just created it) ask yourself, what is the closest step I could take towards “that thing” without actually doing it?

What lets me brush my fingers close by?

It might be a bigger trot if you aim is to canter.

It might be putting your foot in the stirrup ready to get on if you goal is to get in the saddle- and then calling it a day there.

Tackling anything new or challenging is just like learning a new language. At first you don’t even know the alphabet; you can only say the most basic of words. It feels like you’re never going to be able to sustain any sort of reasonable conversation. But, after some consistent practice; after consistently reiterating the basics, you find yourself slowly picking it up. Before long, you are fluent in a whole new language.

This is what breaking out of your comfort zone feels like. In the beginning we’re flushed with emotions that are particularly uncomfortable (notice a theme here?). We can feel foolish; we can feel stupid; we can feel regretful. We can even feel as though we are going to make matters worse. But what you need to know is in the phase of adversity everyone feels like this.

And so many people are stopped at this point. Don’t stop. Keep going. You only ever have the deal with the next minute, so just deal with that.

Reframe uncomfortable emotions as a necessary part of your growth as a rider; as the catalyst for you to realize that you’re actually moving forward. Keep moving, keep taking action and soon you will break through the cloud of uncomfortable emotion and out the other side.

xx Jane

Rider Q&A: How much success can you handle?

Q: Hi Jane, I feel like I have plateaued competitively. I just can’t seem to crack it. It’s an always a bridesmaid, never the bride situation! How do I break through to that next stage? I feel like I’m permanently stuck in second place!

Many of us are more than aware of what it is that we fear, but not nearly as many are aware that we also have limits on how much success we can handle. A exercise I get all of my riders to go through is to ask themselves, how much success can you handle? How much is too much? It’s so enlightening what comes up!

The level of “comfortable success” that we have defined for ourselves creates a self-built glass ceiling. This upper limit is predominantly a consequence of our unconscious belief systems that seek to keep us within a limit that is known to us and that we feel that we can comfortably handle. The key word here is “unconscious”; if left unexamined, our habits and behaviors keep looping back around in a continuous circuit, and we are unable to make the kinds of decisions, and consequently take the kinds of actions that can propel us to the next stage.

If you find this confusing, think of it this way. Your belief systems inform the decisions that you make in any given moment, and your decisions inform your actions. Your actions then create your results. If you have a belief system that seeks to hold you within a certain limit (again, this is usually not a conscious decision), then you wil make poor decision, which leads to poor results and the cycle is reinforced.

The process involved to breaking it is to discover the height of that glass ceiling and then to develop a vision that goes beyond it; because we are talking about this is the context of the competitive arena let’s use that as an example. Please note I am working on the assumed knowledge that both you and your horse have the skills and competency to ride at the “next level”; what I am addressing here is your mindset.

If you feel like you have plateaued at a certain point, or you are always getting the same outcomes competitively, a really useful exercise is to sit down and to think for yourself about the level of success that you are comfortable with.  Start right at ground zero, right at grass roots.  It might be that going to a casual open day is something that you are really comfortable with and then you can step it up and go right,  Well an A&P Show competitively;  I am comfortable with what outcome at an A&P Show?

What do I think is possible for myself, and what outcome do I think, oh yeah that is okay!

Now, we are going to leap up to Horse of the Year, and say right, if I am at a big National Event, how do I feel about being there?  If you start to think about well I really shouldn’t be there, I mean that is way beyond what I am capable of!  Then you know that you have gone outside of your comfort zone and just below that is that glass ceiling, or that threshold that you are comfortable with.

Whatever you are comfortable with, whatever your threshold is, the process is the same. Once you have identified that level then I want you to step beyond it and ask yourself, well what would be the next step up from here?

What situation, what environment does that encompass?  What does that require that I do with my horse?  Then I really want you to create your vision as a result of that.  To associate yourself as much as possible in that picture and get comfortable with being there.

In order to create that form, in order to actualize that level of success as a part of your reality you need to be comfortable with that as a mindset, as a thought form, as a thought process.  Creating your vision is part of that familiarization and part of that comforting process that I really encourage you to get into and is so, so important.

Best of luck!

xx Jane