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Mon, 2012-07-02 10:29

Daniel Stewart Question & Tip of the Month

Authored By: Daniel Stewart

Question of the Month

Donna asks "My instructor is encouraging me to set goals. I think it's a good idea, but I just can't seem to get into the habit.  I've spoken with a few other riding friends and they can't seem to get into it either. Is this normal"? 

I commend you on your desire to include goal setting in your training program and encourage you to not get discouraged; it is actually quite common for many riders to struggle with it.  Having said that, goal setting is one of the most beneficial tools any of us can develop, it helps us learn to use our training time more efficiently, stay focused on what is important, identify strategies that lead to success, provide us with feedback on our progress, gives us reasons to keep going, and provides us with a clear vision of what we want to accomplish.    

There are many reasons why riders might struggle with goal setting, knowing what they are may help you understand what is holding you back:  

  • Fear of Failure - We might avoid setting goals so that we can avoid the possible disappointment of not being able to achieve them.
  • Fear of Success - We might worry that if we achieve a goal today we will have to keep achieving them in the future or be labeled a slacker.
  • Impressions- We might believe that others will think badly about our weird way for training or of trying to exceed being average.
  • Wrong Tool For The Right Job- We may have been discouraged in the past because we set outcome goals (only focused on winning) instead of the long and short-term goals that create success. 

A lack of willpower can also lead to goal setting difficulties.  Willpower is defined as having the self-control to resist instant gratification so that we can achieve long-term success.  Many riders believe that goals require too much time and doubt that the efforts they put in today will benefit them tomorrow.  When done correctly however goal setting can actually be a time saver because it gives our training sessions greater structure and purpose and makes them more efficient by focusing more of our time on the skills that will benefit us the most.

Understanding why we do not set goals is only half the battle... the other half is learning how to set them.  For more information on how to do this, I suggest you read the following Tip of The Month and to remember that: 

Any goal worth setting is a goal worth working for.

Thanks for the great question Donna!


Tip of the Month

Setting Goals For Success 

Riding is a very goal-oriented sport: Whether we are training a young horse, moving up through the levels, learning to jump, or developing a conditioning program, goal setting is an integral part of what we do.  Learning to set goals is important, but it is just as important that we learn how to achieve them.  Below are a few tips that can help you do this:    

  • Correct tool for the correct job- Set short and long-term goals that focus on your skills and behaviors instead of those of others.
  • Worthwhile- Goal setting requires hard work and dedication so your goals should make the effort worthwhile.
  • Realistic- Set goals that are challenging but achievable, too easy and you will loss motivation, too hard and you risk feeling disappointed.
  • Schooling and Showing- Since the vast majority of learning occurs in training you should set goals for your lessons as well as your shows.
  • Self-Determined- Goals should be all about you, meaningful to you and not someone else (avoid setting goals to make others happy). 
  • One at a time- Goals work best when you set one long-term goal at a time and set no more than three per season - quality is better than quantity.
  • Measurable- The best goals let you know if you have achieved them or not.  Non-measurable goals like "trying my best" are too ambiguous.
  • Time Bound- Create a target date for your goals, it makes them measurable and helps you avoid procrastination or complacency.
  • Believable- If the gap between your ability and your goal is too big your mind will not be able to accept the discrepancy.
  • Perpetual- A goal that requires a lifetime commitment is fine but goals tend to be more achievable when you work on them one day at a time.
  • Ethical- Setting goals that go against your morals (i.e. sacrificing your horse's safety for a ribbon) will leave you wondering if it was all worth it. 

There are many other ways that goal-setting can set you up for success... watch for more goal setting tips in future newsletters!

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