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.