I don’t usually struggle for things to write about in my blog. Often I’m out for a walk with the dog or, perhaps, reading a book or listening to the radio and something I see, read or hear inspires me.
Today, I feel like writing something but no particular subject springs to mind. I have a lot of new projects on the go and am just about to complete one project which I’ve been working on for some time so there’s a lot going on in my head but nothing suitable for a blog post at this stage! I will write about my completed project soon and the new ones in due course.
So, if I don’t have anything in particular that I want to say what should I do? The answer is kind of obvious…..I SHOULD LISTEN!
Active listening is a great skill and can take years to master. Sometimes we think we’re listening but are we really?
We can all literally hear the same words being spoken but we interpret them via our filtering systems which have developed over many years and which are influenced by our personal beliefs, values and experiences.
This is why active listening is a skill involving having “conversations that count” (a term I’ve heard a lot in my APEC Advanced coaching course, and which I love and try my best to apply!). Conversations that count involve staying quiet and allowing the other person to speak, reflecting back to check understanding, asking open questions to dig deeper and gain more understanding, being aware of congruence i.e. are body language and spoken language in tune with each other. Listening is as much an art as a science.
So today I plan to JUST LISTEN and see what the day brings. I will mindfully listen to the wind and the birds singing whilst out for my walk, I will listen to words and music on the radio but turn it off when I’m occupied doing something else and this evening I will actively listen during a session with my mindset support group.
Yesterday I took part in my first room chat on the Clubhouse Social Media platform, which I have just discovered and joined and which looks promising as a source of sharing, supporting and learning for the equestrian world. Have you seen it yet? I believe at the moment it’s only available on i-phone but you can find out more here .
As conversations generally do, the chat moved from topic to topic and some interesting questions were asked and answered by various different equestrian experts.
At this stage I was just listening and wondering how this new app worked and wondering how best to get involved.
The conversation quickly turned to having fun with horses, playing games with them and a few associated equine behaviour issues which were all very interesting.
Up to this point I had thought to add something to the previous topic which was more mindset related but there were quite a few people who wished to speak so by the time I was invited to add to the conversation we had moved on to having fun with horses.
So I rapidly re-thought about what I could add at this stage and simply changed my input to applauding these equestrians who wanted to play with horses to stimulate them and strengthen their bonds.
I was also reminded, and reminded the participants, just how important it is that we all do remember to have fun. As a mindset and confidence coach it’s easy to stay on the lines of goal setting, gaining focus, developing resilience, staying calm under pressure, managing success and challenges and many other topics BUT it’s really important as a confidence and mindset coach that I remind the people I work with about simply having fun on and around horses.
What are the fun things which you enjoy doing? They’ll be different for each of you but remember to do plenty of the fun stuff, whatever it is. There’s a time and a place for strengthening your mindset but always remember to KEEP THE FUN FLAG FLYING.
Recently, a group of Nepali climbers have successfully scaled the mighty mountain K2, the first time this has been achieved in Winter and the first time without oxygen – an astonishing achievement. K2 is the second highest mountain in the world and is only 200m shorter than Everest. It is widely considered to be the World’s most challenging mountain.
The leader of the group, Nirmal Purja said “We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible,”
There aren’t many people who will ever accomplish such a phenomenal feat of skill, endurance and teamwork but in our own ways we each have mountains to climb.
I love the above quote about teamwork, collaboration and a positive mental attitude and all of these things are really applicable in the equestrian world aren’t they?
As riders, working towards achieving our goals and fulfilling our dreams, there is definitely an element of all of the above.
Without the positive mental attitude that Nirmal Purja talks about we are likely to get stuck at the first steep incline on our journey to our own mountain summit!
Sometimes things trundle along in the right direction without giving us too much of a challenge but frequently we will encounter obstacles which mean that we do need to dig deep into our skills of determination, endurance and positivity in order to be able to take the next step.
Each rider will have their own challenges so whether that’s having the confidence to hack out alone, coping with a tricky horse, qualifying for a championship or reaching the next level of competition remember the words of the brave Nepali mountaineer and you will reach your mountain top.
What’s YOUR mountain? I’d love to hear about it and if you need some help with climbing YOUR mountain then just get in touch.
2020 has certainly been a challenging year hasn’t it? I don’t want to dwell on those challenges though because there have been many good things during this year and I choose to focus on these.
For Horse riding with Confidence Scotland the year began with some lovely new people getting in touch with a view to collaborating for talks, workshops and clinics and I hope that these ideas will be able to come to fruition in 2021, as lockdown has meant that they didn’t all happen this year. I always enjoy meeting and chatting with other equestrian professionals about how we can combine our skills and experience for the benefit of horse riders.
When lockdown kicked in I, like so many people, had to embrace online working and this has proved to be a great success for many clients. In fact, despite the pandemic, I have had more new clients this year than I had in 2019. I’ve enjoyed working with riders at all levels helping them to overcome confidence issues and develop a stronger mindset for performance and competition.
I have managed to get to a couple of camps with Equiteam Confidence Camps when we have been allowed to get together. These are always hugely enjoyable and the team are great fun to work with so I thank them for their continuing support of the work I do.
With life being a bit quieter during the first lockdown period I enrolled to do the Centre 10 APEC foundation course. This is a course in applied psychology for equestrian coaches and I was able to join because of my experience working with riders. I loved the 12 weeks of learning so much that as soon as it finished I signed up for the advanced course with them and I’m about half way through that as I write here today.
I have done many courses over the years in various aspects of psychology, psychotherapy and counselling but this is the first time I’ve found something specifically for the equestrian world. I have been hugely impressed with the ideas and the quality of teaching and materials so I am loving this new learning.
I have also used the extra time when things have been quiet socially to do some more writing of blogs and have been a regular contributor the the Horse & Rider magazine “Ask the Experts” column which has been fun.
My sponsored riders Jodie Neill (Eventing) and Jodie Campbell (Dressage and Showing) have done what they’ve been able throughout the year and both have continued to be a great support for the work I do. Towards the end of the Summer Natalia Mallon joined the team and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her and supporting her in re-finding her confidence and love of show jumping.
We have exciting plans for 2021 with a new online opportunity for riders to get their mindset boosted to set themselves up to make the most of 2021. This will run as a membership group on Facebook throughout February and if you would like to join in then just follow this link
In the Autumn I worked with Joanne Boyle Photography who took some lovely pictures for me to use on my website and social media. You will see her photos on many of my posts. Here is one of my favourites.
On a personal note, once again, there has been sadness in my family. My lovely Mum passed away at the start of the year. We had lost Dad in 2018 and then my mother-in-law in 2019 so we still do feel a bit raw. Mum had some happy times in her care home after Dad died but became increasingly frail and dependent until she slipped away in January. Mum was a teacher and therefore it seems fitting that in the year of her passing I have done so much learning. I dedicate all of this new learning to her.
I often hear people bemoaning the fact that the people they come in contact with don’t communicate very well. Either they don’t listen, fail to say what they mean, just don’t tell you stuff or talk “at” you and hog the conversation! This can be very frustrating and lead to misunderstandings and disagreements.
I was reminded the other day about a talk I gave at a local business, many years ago, on communication and listening and after a trawl through some old files on my laptop I found that I still had the information. So I thought I’d share it….
So what is communication?
Communication is the exchange of thoughts, messages and information by speech, signals, writing and behaviour . In all communication there is a “transmitter” and a “receiver”.
Effective communication promotes self-confidence, intelligence and enhances relationships both personal and in social and work situations.
As a transmitter of communication it is your role to ensure that your message is given in a way which can be understood by the expected receiver and as the receiver it is your job to understand the meaning of the message
Non -verbal communication is of equal importance to the words which are spoken. It regulates conversation, communicates emotions, modifies verbal messages, gives insights and can give clues to meanings. NB remember that these things can vary between cultures.
In conversation there should be a dialogue which includes:
Turn Taking. Generally “You talk, then I talk” will be effective. In conversation monologues aren’t helpful.
Connecting. What each person says should in some way be connected to what the other person has said.
Mutual Influencing. Each person in a dialogue should be open to being influenced by what the other person has said, it’s best to be open-minded.
Co-creating Outcomes. Good dialogue leads to outcomes which benefit both parties.
Say what you think, not what you think others want you to say.
Express your views clearly, positively and in a non-threatening manner.
Express you views in language which can be understood.
If in doubt check the meaning of what you are hearing rather than assuming you understand what was said.
Give full attention (put down your phone during conversation!).
Give the speaker the respect of hearing what they want you to hear.
It is equally important to give respect as to receive it.
I’ve been thinking about giving and receiving praise recently so decided to write down a few thoughts about this subject.
In today’s internet society everything is constantly rated and reviewed and there are many rating sites we can look at before making a holiday choice or picking a restaurant, for example. The same goes for choosing a service or when we are looking for somebody to help us with an aspect of our lives where we naturally tend to choose the one who has received most praise.
Here at Horse Riding with Confidence Scotland I rarely ask for or publish client testimonials due to the importance of confidentiality. An unnamed testimonial saying ‘Show Jumper from Scotland says Jane is wonderful’ is unverifiable and meaningless and I want my clients to feel that it is entirely their choice whether or not they share that they have consulted me for help with confidence or mindset.
However, on a recent facebook post some riders were kind enough to make some very positive comments about how I had been able to help them and by choosing to say this publicly they were obviously happy to say that they had used my services. Other riders prefer to keep quiet about needing help with confidence issues and choose not to share this and I am more than happy for them to do that.
I, like most people, love to receive praise and get a great boost when somebody gives me positive feedback. I also enjoy giving praise to others for example, I like to praise my clients for the hard work and commitment they show towards overcoming the nervousness which interferes with their enjoyment of riding or for the hours of determined practice they put in before a competition.
Whilst enjoying receiving and giving praise what really gives me the most satisfaction is when I can praise myself. When I can feel inside that I have done a good job. When I can tell, by their body language, that audience members at a talk are listening and understanding what I say. When the look on a client’s face changes from one of tension and worry to a big and genuine smile. When I can look at my animals and know that I have done a good job with them and given them a good life. When I can go to bed at night feeling that I have acheived something worthwhile during the day.
All these feelings come from within and I believe that is where our enjoyment of life truly comes from. We should be wary of needing others to constantly praise us and work towards true self acceptance.
As always, thanks for reading this and any comments are very welcome.
Last week I went on a little adventure, heading all the way to Bath for a three day course to begin six months of training with Centre 10 doing their Advanced Performance Psychology course for equestrian coaches.
As you know, all my work is done “off horse” and I don’t teach riding skills as such, but focus on the mindset and rider psychology aspects of the sport, so this course is right up my street. I was delighted to be accepted onto it based on my experience working with riders at all levels.
As you probably also know I am a believer in lifelong learning and am always open to new ideas and new ways of looking at old ideas.
So the week was a real treat as well as an adventure. It felt like an adventure because in this year dominated by Covid-19 just simply having a few days away from home is a novelty and the treat was staying in a beautiful country house hotel on the edge of the City of Bath.
There were lots of highlights including meeting the other coaches on the course plus meeting Charlie, Sarah and Steffi from Centre 10 who are all inspirational people, athletes and coaches.
Today I would like to talk about two of the exercises we did last week which were great fun but both brought home important messages and helped me to look at things I already knew from a different and useful point of view.
The first exercise was that we were give a block of wood with a nail hammered into it plus 10 other identical nails. The task was to balance to 10 nails on the one in the block!! We were in a team of three….
It was fascinating to see the approaches of my team mates as well as my own. One person decided that this wasn’t for them and encouraged the remaining team mates from the sidelines. I had been allocated the job of handling the nails (Covid meant that only one person was to do this) and my other team mate was coming up with ideas.
Initially we didn’t actually know whether this was possible of not but after a short while we were told that it WAS possible so were trying with renewed vigour. Then we were given a simple clue to help us understand HOW it was actually possible.
Interestingly my team mate who has a biomechanics background found the next stage of the exercise easier than I did and under her guidance we managed to complete the task!
There were several learnings from this exercise including:
Once you believe that something is possible then it becomes possible.
Rather than being given a list of instructions we were given a clue which then allowed us to work out the answer for ourselves, a far more sustainable approach.
These seemingly simple ideas can be applied to any life area including helping people to find answers to their own challenges.
The second exercise, which was also hugely entertaining but also a great opportunity to learn, was target shooting!
This is something which I had never tried before so was keen to have a go at. Again we were in teams and we were delighted to be coached by the UK No. 1 modern pentathlete Kate French who trains at the amazing sports facilities at Bath University.
This exercise was all about looking at the process rather than the outcome. We were encouraged to break things down into a process such as our body angle, our breathing, lining up the sights and squeezing the trigger rather than focussing entirely on trying to hit the target.
I soon found that if I DID focus on my process then I COULD hit the target!
Then the exercise got more fun as we had a competition again in our teams so as well as demonstrating our new found skills we were adding the element of competition pressure.
We had a round of what we thought was the competition only to be told that it was a trial run and the teams were then handicapped according to their places in the trial run. This gave our team a 30 second advantage over the next team. We had a team talk, worked out a time saving hand over process and then were ready for competition.
I was the last to go and the next team was catching us up…….!
I had spent some time while the others were having their go breathing, visualising and focussing on my process so felt kind of “In the zone”.
My turn came and YES! I shot five out of five on target giving our team the WIN!! Great fun, not at all serious but again loads to learn and apply for other life areas including riding of course:
Focus on the process and the desired outcome will happen.
Find a method to focus which works for YOU.
In competition stick to your plan.
Avoid comparing yourself to other competitors.
Control what you CAN control.
Learn from mistakes.
I’m home again now and have enjoyed digesting all of my experiences from last week. These three days are just the beginning of six months of more learning online.
I’ll be posting regularly throughout the six months to share what I am leaning and I can’t wait for my clients to benefit from new ways of looking at things so that together we can work to help them to achieve their goals.
Do you ever find yourself getting pretty nervous about trying new things?
Does your mind take you to some scary and uninviting places when you’re anticipating this new event?
Try these before, during and after mindset hacks and they really will make a difference to how you feel about the up and coming event and how much you enjoy yourself.
These ideas can be applied to horse riding, other sports, work or any other area of life.
So, last weekend, a couple of my oldest pals and I went on a two day kayaking course up on the west coast of Scotland. It was a beginner’s introduction course and there were going to be six in the group, the three of us and three others who we didn’t know.
I was certainly looking forward to the weekend but I must admit I was feeling a little bit nervous too. Those old familiar thoughts were creeping into my mind such as “Will they all be better at it than me?” ,”Will I fall in”, “Will I look stupid” etc etc. I’m sure many of you reading this will have experienced similar thoughts. It was these thoughts which were causing that sense of nervous anticipation!
SO! I quickly reminded myself to practice what I preach and to apply all the things I talk about with my clients and that’s just what I did and the result was that I had an amazing weekend!
As soon as you recognise those unhelpful thoughts creeping into your mind you can say “STOP” to yourself to break that chain of thought and then challenge those unhelpful thoughts and replace them with something more encouraging and supportive.
Remind yourself that any feelings of nerves are simply feelings and NOT a predictor of something bad happening.
Practice visualising what you DO want to happen. So for my kayak course I visualised myself gliding through the water with a big smile on my face and enjoying the company of my friends and the amazing environment I was in.
Remind yourself that you are there to learn. Ask questions and enjoy trying out new skills. Have a laugh when you make a silly rookie error, we’ve all done it and it’s part of being a beginner in any new activity.
If you feel any physical tension use your breathing to help you to let go of that tension. So you can breathe in comfort and breathe out tension. Remembering to breathe helps to keep your stress hormones within their normal range and therefore lessens any feelings of nervousness. It can help to anchor feelings of comfort to a word. I like to use the word “drift”.
Focus on what’s going on “in the moment”. If at any moment in time your kayak (Or your horse!) is doing what you’ve asked it to do then all is OK. This is a useful way to avoid trying to predict what could happen in the future.
If you’re in a learning situation make sure to be honest with the instructor about your previous experience or lack of experience. Their job is to be supportive and to teach you new skills so allow them to do their job.
Make sure that you’re not comparing yourself unfavourably to those around you. Some people will find some things easier than you but they’ll also find other things more challenging. Everyone is different and there to learn as well.
Be proud of yourself for what you have achieved and make sure to focus on all the good things which happened rather than being tempted to magnify any errors.
Think about what you have learned so that next time you do this activity you will be ready to take the next steps in the process of learning.
Enjoy the sense of achievement, the physical tiredness after working hard and look forward to an evening reminiscing about your day and feeling excited about doing it again.
My kayaking weekend was great fun. I didn’t fall in, kept up with the group, learned about a few different paddle strokes, when and how to use them. I saw some wonderful wildlife and views which will stay with me forever. I was really proud of myself when we had to work pretty hard into a strong headwind to reach the beach where we were planning our lunch stop, I was slow and it was hard work but I did it! It was definitely a weekend to remember.
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