An article popped up the other day in my newsfeed and the title was something like “5 Tips to help you become a more successful rider”. I giggle snorted to myself in that moment because my brain couldn’t make sense of it at all. ‘How is it that we even define success when it comes to riding?’, I asked myself. The idea seemed so….limiting.
Perhaps what struck me even more was how far removed I have personally become from judging or measuring my riding or horsemanship by any metric of success in traditional terms. I teach a number of movement classes per week in my membership program, JoyRide, and one of the things I am always saying is “it doesn’t matter if you know the answers to the questions that I’m asking. What’s important is training your brain to consider things in a different way”.
The essence of that statement is asking us to move away from the idea of a fixed outcome, of one place being “right” and the other being “wrong”- moving away from a fixed idea of how we “should” be at any one moment in time and instead, observing what is, taking an action, and noticing the changes.
Anyone who works with me will tell you that working in this way makes any patterns that you have around perfectionism, people pleasing or the need to get things “right” very apparent. When we step outside the framework of box ticking and matching ourselves up to a pre-conceived ideal, we are just left with… ourselves. We are left with… what is. And observing yourself without the masks or pretenses or need to be anywhere or anything other than where you are right now is not necessarily an easeful place to rest. It’s a necessary one, however, to let go of the conscious patterns of control that often rule our lives.
If you want to take care of the future, which is where much of our desire around the notion of goals and success comes from, you have to take care of the present. And for most of us, we are anywhere but present.
But back to the idea of success. To our brains, success is a foreign concept that opposes the very basis of learning. The brain learns through consistent and repetitious failure. We make a decision; take an action and we observe the consequences of that action. Our unconscious brain then tries again in an attempt to bring the outcome of our action closer to our original intention. In this way, every action we take is a success; every action we take is making us clearer, more efficient, and more in line with our original intention. Every repeated “failure” is a “success”.
This is a photo of Merc and I playing on the inlet after a “successful” schooling session. And if we are stuck on the term, to me it’s not possible to ride or work with a horse and not be a success. Sometimes you have greater ease of communication and connection and experience a sense of progress. Success. Sometimes, nothing is clear, nothing matches up with your intention or is smoothly communicated. Still a success. You notice, change, adjust and go again.
Success. It’s just a made up idea. And consequently, you can make up what it looks like for you.