Eventing trainer and coach Ashley Johnson explains that as athletes we should focus on what what we are capable of and live the journey rather than the goal
I was talking with one of my students the other day about her realizing that she may be sabotaging her own success and progress as a competitor because she has a tendency to feel more comfortable coming up from rock bottom than winning. She recently moved up to the highest level she has ever competed, and after completing her first event at that level, she then got eliminated at her second. She realized that she felt a sense of relief at being eliminated because she felt that she had nowhere to go but up, and she reflected that perhaps it was time to move out of that mindset.
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I think sometimes we do self-sabotage when we have big goals. We idealize them in our brains to the point that we start trying for the goal, itself instead of trying to be the athlete who is capable of that goal. Quantum physics notes the concept of levels of energy or vibrations in our universe. Positive thoughts or motivations raise our own personal vibrations. Negative thoughts or motivations decrease our level of vibrations. We perform best when our vibrations are high.
In his book ‘Power vs. Force,’ Dr. David Hawkins explains that certain emotions and motivations kinesthetically hold a numeric vibration level. Emotions such as courage, love, honor, and dedication to excellence, calibrate high on the scale. Emotions such as pride, the desire to defeat an opponent, or the desire for a specific end goal, calibrate low on the scale. He writes, “True athletic power is characterized by grace, sensitivity, and inner quiet.” He also writes that the inspiration we receive from a display of athletic excellence is an “intuitive recognition of the heroic striving required to overcome human limitation and achieve new levels of prowess.”
For myself, when I have been close to reaching a new threshold of athletic performance, I know that I have achieved my best results; not when I have focused on the outcome, but rather when I have focused on performing at my personal best, or when I have focused on being grateful for my equine partner, my journey and the opportunity to compete.
I see the struggle of having the right mindset wreak havoc in both my professional and amateur students, and in both my adults and younger students alike. In a human and linear fashion, we outline our goals, and we idolize our heroes, and then we focus on the outward trappings of what that means. One student will tell me, ‘I want to compete at training level this year.” Another will tell me, “I want to compete at the 1 star level by 2019.” Another will say, “I want this horse to take me up the levels and be the last horse I ever buy.” or “I want this horse to go to Kentucky.” Goals and aspirations are positive outlines, but leave them as just that — outlines. Instead, to assimilate those aspirations more quickly, look at your heroes and try to focus on being the horsemen and women that they are.
The legendary basketball coach John Wooden stated it a different way. He said, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
My advice to my student was to focus on what she knew she was already capable of, and to live in that mindset. All of us who are competing are already a hero to someone else, and therefore we are already winning. We will grow as athletes much more quickly if we acknowledge the athlete we already are. If we perceive ourselves as being a winner, we will innately begin to win more, and the concept of a rock bottom will disappear.
Ashley Johnson is a four star (CCI4*) three day event rider based in Ocala, Florida. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rutgers University with a degree in English and theater. She is a board member of the Professional Riders Organization (PRO) as well as being the PRO Junior Coordinator. She has competed in a wide range of sports including soccer, basketball, sailing, marathon running, triathlons, and most recently Crossfit. Ashley is Equestrian Coach to the University of Florida Eventing Team.