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Tue, 2012-03-13 13:43

Daniel Stewart Question & Tip of the Month

Authored By: Daniel Stewart

Daniel Stewart has been one of the favorite speakers at the USEA Annual Meeting and Conventions. A monthly blog post from Daniel Stewart will be featured on the USEA site.  Interested in learning more from Daniel Stewart? Be sure an sign up for his monthly newsletter on the bottom of his website.

Question of the Month   

Ashley asks, "I'm fine when things go according to plan but I struggle when things go wrong or there are last minute changes.  What can I do to handle these challenges? 

The way we respond to delays, mistakes, missed opportunities and unexpected changes is called our challenge response and how well we react to them often determines how successful we'll be.  While we can't always plan for for these challenges we can certainly plan on how to handle them. 

One way to improve our challenge response is to create a list of the mental and physical tools that can help us cope with challenges and then use our list to design four different riding plans.  

  • Plan A - This plan is designed for when everything is going well.  Using the tools from our list we make a plan for the night before, the morning of and for 30, 10 and 1 min prior to starting.  For example, we may use a relaxation technique the night before to ensure a good rest, listen to motivating music upon waking to start the day in a positive way, recall a motivating memory 30 min before, mentally rehearse our ride 10 min before and repeat a motivating motto 1 minute before our ride or show.
  • The Quickie Plan - This plan is designed for when we're feeling rushed and pressured, our trailer had a flat and we got lost on the way to the show grounds. Since we won't have time to complete Plan A we simply pick the most important pieces of it.  Taking a few deep breaths, singing a few lines from our favorite song, quickly reliving a motivating memory and briefly visualizing the task in front of us might just do the trick.
  • The Hurry Up and Wait plan - This plan is designed for unexpected delays like when a rider destroys a fence and we must wait for the jump crew to repair it.  It's at times like this that we must really stay focused and since most shows suffer some sort of delay it's important to be prepared for them.  For example we might plan to dismount, stretch, re-imagine how to ride the course, review our goals and recall a memory from our past when we successfully handled a similar situation.  
  • The OH NO Plan - This plan is designed for when we've done every thing right and it still goes wrong; when we end up yelling OH NO! in the middle of a ride.  As soon as we say these ominous words we begin this plan.  For example we might take a big deep breath, repeat a motto like, "When behind never give up - when in front never let up" and focus on a cue word like SUPER - Succeed Under Pressure Every Ride.

Remember, we may not be able to predict challenges but we can prepare for them.  Perhaps the biggest mistake we can make is not having any plan at all. It's not IF we'll encounter challenges it's WHEN so grab a pen and write them now so you can ride them later.  Instead of waiting until the last second...  

Plan your ride - and when challenges arrive - Ride your plan

Thanks for the great question Ashley!  

If you have a question you'd like me to answer in a future newsletter feel free to send it to me at:

Tip of the Month

Question Suggestion

Positive emotions create positive motions and one sure way to create them is to ask ourselves leading-questions that provide positive and productive answers. For example, "What can I do to ride well today" can be answered by "Keep my eyes up, balance my transitions and stay focused".  Without these answers we might forget what's important but with them we form a plan of action.  Here are a few helpful hints when it comes to creating great question suggestions:


  • WHAT questions are better than WHAT IF questions.  "What must I do to jump clean today?" is more productive than "WHAT IF I pull rails?" 
  • HOW questions are better than WHY questions.  "How can I relax between classes?" is more productive than "Why do I get so tense?"
  • Identify a challenge and ask yourself how to overcome it like "How can I finish strong after a slow start?" then come up with a few answers.
  • When feeling frustrated or pressured ask the question, "What do I love most about riding".  Your answers will help put you back on track.
  • If you mistakenly ask a negative question learn to answer it in a positive way.  For example "Why do I always do this!" can be answered in a negative way with "Because I'm not as good as everyone else" or in a positive way with "Because I love challenges that make me stronger!"  

There are only two rules when it comes to questions suggestion.  Obviously the first is to answer all questions in a positive way so that they can help create a plan of action.  Secondly, we must avoid answering our questions with "I don't know" because if we think hard enough we can always find an answer.  It's there, we just need to believe in ourselves and be willing to work hard to get it.  

Question suggestions encourages our minds to find positive and productive answers to our most important questions and proves that the questions we ask ourselves are just as important as the answers to them.



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