Goal Setting, 2—Creating Alliances, Part One

In the previous blog entry, we discussed how setting often difficult but achievable goals can be likened to the process of building a foundation under your “castle in the sky”, your dreams of becoming a better rider, perhaps someday, an excellent rider. In the next few installments, we`ll study some of the goals which some top riders have set and reached which have helped propel their careers out of the ordinary into the exceptional.

It`s very easy to get caught up in the moment, in the heat of battle, as you hone your riding skills, go to lessons and clinics, take part in shows or events, to neglect something very critical, not very glamorous, and right under your nose, the idea that the rider with lots of help is far more likely to make it than the rider who struggles alone, with little financial, moral, or physical support.

In my book, “How Good Riders Get Good”, which, if you`re serious about this, you really need to read, I ask the rider to visualize what happens when you drop a stone into a still pond, the way the ripples spread out in a circle from the center. Think of youself as the center, and all those ripples as sources of potential support. The ripples closest to you should theoretically be the people who are closest to you, your parents, perhaps, or your spouse or significant other, your very best friends, possibly your riding teacher/s, the ones who, with luck, will be able to help you the most on a day to day basis.

Then consider this: have you turned them into allies who want to help you achieve your riding goals? Let`s say you`re a kid; how well do you treat your parents? “Hey”, you may think,”I`m their kid, they have to help me.” We`ve all been to shows and watched, in horror, kids ordering their parents around like galley slaves, treating them with total disrespect, as if their sole purpose on earth is to drive trailers, haul hay, hold horses, and lug water buckets.

Think—would you want to be treated this way? Would you want to help you? In other things, around the house, in your schoolwork, in the various ways you interact with those parents, is it a generally friendly and courteous atmosphere, or is it some version of a war zone? Because if your parents like you (they`ll generally love you, no matter what, but they may not like your behaviour), if they like as well as love you, they`ll be far more likely to help you buy that next horse, or drive you to that lesson, or pay for those new boots.

I highly recommend that you buy that great old book by Dale Carnegie, “How To Win Friends and Influence People”, and then, actually READ the book, just as you should actually READ my book, because you can save yourself an enormous amount of grief if you figure out that one of the best ways to get people to like you and want to help you is if you, in turn, are helpful and likeable. You`d think that`s just a common sense no brainer, but if that was so, everybody would do it.

In other words, perhaps the easiest way to think about those “inner ripples” of that concentric ring, is to ask yourself this simple question: “Have I earned their support?” Earning it is different from just getting it bestowed upon you like some heavenly gift, and if you can figure out how to do that, it will help you all your life.

All of this may seem far removed from the process of becoming a good rider, but I assure you, it`s a critical piece of the equation, because in order to ride well, you need to ride, and it`s hard to ride if you don`t have access to a horse or horses, and a horse costs money. So unless you got a trust fund on your twelfth birthday, rendering you financially independent for life, or you`ve invented the next internet craze, you`ll appreciate all the help you can get, and it shouldn`t be a big surprise, if you actually analyze it, that those who are positive and friendly and hard working, and helpful are more likely to BE helped than those who aren`t those things.

So start by maintaining or repairing those inner rings, and in later installments, we`ll discuss other kinds of alliances.

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