Success, Your Way Part 2
The Sweet Smell of Success
Key to feeling satisfied with your goals and progress as a rider is a realistic definition of success. Ask yourself: What does “success” mean to me? Will I be successful only if I make the Olympic team? If I know how to ride and train lots of different horses? If I train one horse to Grand Prix? If I train one horse to Second Level?
If your not clear and realistic about your goals, you will be unable to succeed at those goals. For instance, let’s face it: Most people aren’t even going to make the Olympic team, with only four spots every four years. ask yourself whether your goal is a realistic one.
As you embark on the goal-setting process, keep in mind that success and confidence go hand in hand. Confidence comes only when you’re clear about your goals, your values and the knowledge that you’re making progress in some way-and when you like who you are and what you are doing.
Part of what makes a goal realistic or unrealistic is whether you are willing to pay the price to achieve it. Are you willing to to do whatever it takes to achieve success as you’ve defined it-and “whatever it takes” consistent with your belief systems? Start by writing down your goals and the hen think carefully about what it would take to achieve them. For each goal, ask yourself whether you’re willing to invest the time, effort and resources needed to achieve it. If the answer is no, then choose another goal and repeat the process. Keep looking, and strive to discover what type of success truly would make you happy and fulfilled.
Some elite athletes don’t participate in their sports simply to achieve fulfillment or happiness; they do it as sort of challenge or to prove something. Let’s face it: All of the people who achieve a high degree of success, such as making an Olympic team, aren’t perfectly happy and healthy. Some are on their own personal missions. They may say ” Damn those people who were always criticizing me. I’ll show them.” As a friend of mine observed, “If we all had perfect childhoods, none of us would do anything extraordinary. We’d probably just be ordinary, average people living in ordinary, average lives and be happy with that.”
These types of “agendas” do indeed motivate some people to achieve great success. But their drive is narrowly focused: “I’m not going to have relationships. I’m not going to have fun. i’m not going to take vacations. I’m only going to focus on my goal.” They are willing to sacrifice everything to an extreme. Now, although some of this focused drive and willingness to sacrifice are necessary for success, I don’t think this almost-masochistic attitude is necessary. What I see more often in those who are truly successful is a more balanced personality coupled with the ability to sustain a focused drive for long periods of time. I believe that it is very possible-and desirable- to achieve goals while deriving joy an da sense of accomplishment from the process.
As a psychologist, I consider the mental health implications during the goal setting process. Vey often, when a rider reaches her goals, she feels, “What now? What’s next?” A lot of Olympic athletes talk about the horrible anticlimax that occurs after they’ve reached their goals. There is even a support group for ex-Olympians because they often go into such a crash afterward. They have to try to find some purpose in life. Their entire lives had been filled with their sports, and now what? So many Olympic athletes are so young, with their whole lives ahead of them, but they don’t know how to refocus and move forward.
The sport of riding differs from other sports in a couple of ways. First, it’s the one and only one in which mean and women compete against one another on equal terms. Second, it’s one of the few sports in which you can compete at any age-you’re not washed up at age 25. You can ride dressage for a lifetime, and that can take a bit of the pressure off; the downside is that you can get locked into a life pattern of an off-balance existence.