Setting the Bar High
Dealing with High Expectations
Expectations. Set them too high and you might be afraid you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Set them too low and you might wonder if you are short changing yourself. One of the topics that often comes up in discussion with riders that I work with is how to set a level of expectation that allows them to extend themselves, without slipping down the slippery slope of disappointment when perhaps things don’t quite come together.
Here are three ways to make sure your high expectations remain as points of inspiration rather than reasons for deflation!
- Goals and expectations aren’t a series of destinations
In order to ensure maximum progress and enjoyment as we work towards our goals, we need to reframe what goals actually are and how we can make them best work for us (rather than against us!) As opposed to seeing goals as something to achieve, tick off or complete, see them as marker posts on the horizon that are guiding our movement forward. In this way, goals increase our internal “stretch”; having big goals and expectations requires us to put the hard yards in, to increase our level of effort. They require us to make the decisions that see us moving forward, even if those decisions take us outside of our comfort zone more often than we would like. In short, they require us to step up in a way that perhaps we wouldn’t if that line of positive tension hadn’t been created in the first place.
When you view your goals and expectations in this way, actually achieving them almost becomes inconsequential. Rather, the gold is taken from the desire to extend yourself and your capacity to something that is greater than what you are currently enjoying.
It’s my belief that as riders and as people, what creates true satisfaction is a sense of progress. Setting your expectations to a high standard is the surest way to make that happen. After all, it’s better to set your expectations high and miss the mark, than set them low and hit the mark every time.
- Being unable to follow through is not a reflection of your future capacity or potential
If you have set a goal and it hasn’t quite come to life the way you hoped, cut yourself some slack. Take the time to objectively analyse your strategy and challenges and use them to feed into your plan moving forward. Separate fact from feeling. Disappointments are not something to wallow in. Instead they provide us with valuable information that can inform our training moving forward.
What is it you could do differently moving forward? What do you feel like was “the missing link”? How can you bridge that gap? Who can you get to help you?
Not achieving the success you desire is also not a reflection of your capabilities as a rider, your inherent level of self worth, or what you are capable of moving forward. We are aiming for progress not perfection.
Reassess, make a plan and move on.
- Flexibility is key
In many cases, it’s not high expectations that are the problem, it’s the time frame that we set for ourselves to achieve them within. Reassess whether your expectations are attainable within the skill level and emotional capacity of your horse, and ask yourself the same as a rider.
Don’t be afraid of creating movement and momentum in the direction that you want, even if you are unsure if your current goal or expectations are realistic. To my mind, it matters very little provided you are operating from a mindset that is process oriented.
Whilst a Results Goal details a specific outcome (for example achieving a particular result at a particular level), process goals are your “what it takes” goals. If you have a Results Goal that you have set for yourself, turn your focus to what it is that you need to take care of, pay attention to or be proactive about in order to maximise your chances of achieving that result.
Ironically, concerning yourself with the processes you take – the work that you put in, the help that you get, the strategy you follow – is more likely to produce the result you are after than a fixation of the result itself. In this way, we are maximizing our level of effort and ensuring that our progress moving forward is exponentially increased in comparison to that goal or expectation not being there in the first place.
Having high expectations for yourself and your horse is an important part of setting yourself up for success, and ensuring that you are taking the kinds of action required to maximize your progress. The key is to use them as points of inspiration and motivation, as indicators of your ideal, and not as defining markers of your ability or capability.
Jane Pike is an Equestrian Mental Skills Coach at www.confidentrider.online.