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Tue, 2018-11-06 08:26

Daniel Stewart's Tip of the Month: Finished Product Bias

Authored By: Coach Daniel Stewart
USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.

For the past six months we’ve been talking about how to recognize and overcome unintentional negative thoughts called limiting beliefs - the unfortunate habit of putting limits on our ability to succeed, not because were incapable of it, but because we tell ourselves we are! The good news is that limiting beliefs can be overcome, but only if we recognize them first. After all, if it doesn’t feel broken, why would we bother trying to fix it?

So, it goes without saying that the key to overcoming limiting beliefs is becoming aware (mindful) of them and the unwanted, unintentional, and unhelpful thoughts that accompany them. Together these thoughts are called blindspot biases; the negative thoughts that we think, even though we don’t think we’re thinking them (kind of like a car hiding in your vehicle’s blindspot . . . it’s there even when you’re not aware of it, and it can get you into a lot of trouble!)

If you’ve been following my mental coaching tips for the past six month you know there’s no shortage of different blindspot biases that can hinder your performance. We’ve spoken about the bandwagon bias (adopting the beliefs of others even though they might not be true); the telescoping bias (seeing your mistakes and failures as if looking through a telescope so they seem bigger than they actually are); the bad guy bias (believing that everyone watching is saying something bad about you); the confirmation bias (unintentionally trying to prove you’re right, even if it comes at the cost of getting better); and the self-serving bias (taking credit for your successes but blaming your failures on others). Combined together, you can see how these unintended thoughts can have a crippling affect on your ability to grow as a rider.

This month we’re going to talk about one last blindspot bias - the finished product bias - which occurs, for example, when a developing rider compares herself to a high performance rider, often thinking things like, “I wish everything came as easily to me as it does to him,” or, “He’s so lucky being able to ride so well without even having to try.” In addition to the obvious problem of comparing herself to another rider (a really bad idea, by the way), these self-defeating thoughts can diminish her self-belief because she’s unfairly comparing a “work in progress” (her) to a “finished product” (him), and in doing so completely forgetting that he used to be a “work in progress” too! Yes, there was once a time when he couldn’t sit the trot without stirrups or canter without ending up on the neck too!

So, as you’ve probably already guessed, the first step in overcoming the finished-product bias is to simply avoid comparing yourself to others; the second step is to always remind yourself that making things look easy is really hard! Learn to base your self-value on the efforts you put in rather than on the results others receive. But most importantly, remember to take pride in being a work in progress . . . it’s what’s going to help you become your very own finished product one day! 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on limiting beliefs and blindspot biases. If you have, I invite you to consider joining me at one of my upcoming Equestrian Athlete Training Camp at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs or Lake Placid, or at the IMG Elite Athlete Institute in Sarasota, Florida, where we’ll spend four days discussing these kinds of mental coaching topics in addition to rider fitness, athlete nutrition, team-building, yoga, injury prevention/recovery, and much more. Riders of all levels and disciplines are welcome and members of the USEA receive a $255 scholarship. For more information, click here.

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