What's Your Excuse?
We all make excuses from time to time. Regardless of the excuse, their purpose is usually to deflect blame away from ourselves after a poor performance or mistake. From the wind and the judge to our horse and the order of go, there's no shortage of things we can find to take the blame for our missteps. Unfortunately, when we deflect blame away from ourselves, we also deflect away any possibility of learning from our mistake.
Many excuses focus on (1) mistakes already made and (2) factors outside our control (like the wind, judge and horse) but the most detrimental excuses actually focus on (1) mistakes that haven't been made yet and on (2) factors inside ourselves. "I didn't sleep well and have a headache so don't expect me to ride well today" is a good example. This form of rationalization is called a pre-excuse and we make them to lessen the possibility of being blamed for a poor future effort (after all, if you don't ride well today it wasn't your fault, it was your headache's)! This is also called self-handicapping because when we lower our own expectations, we also lower our own motivation and confidence.
While the purpose of most pre-excuses are to look better in the eyes of others, research has shown that when someone continually tries to hedge against poor performances by self-handicapping, their excuses lose credibility after just the second time. So just how can you stop self-handicapping?
How to Excuse your Excuses:
Keep handicapping factors like a headache to yourself. Take pride in knowing that riding is tough... but so are you!
Focus on the best (you) and forget the rest. Don't worry about what others might think.
Set and focus on show goals instead of worrying about whether you'll achieve them.
Identify your typical pre-excuses (we tend to repeat them) and build a pre-competition routine to avoid them (i.e. drink plenty of water and go to bed early to lessen the chance of being tired with a headache).
Doubt Your Doubts
Self-handicapping is called a lose oriented action because it forces you to focus on the possibility of losing something (like a ribbon or the lead) when in reality all you really lose is your confidence and motivation. The next time you feel like saying something to deflect blame away from something that hasn't even happened yet, tell yourself that you're up to the challenge and remember that:
If you can't do everything, just do everything you can!
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