Apr 11, 2020

Daniel Stewart's Tip of the Month: COVID or Go Big?

USEA/Leslie Mintz Photo.

This month we’ve all been given a new challenge. Not one from a cranky horse or complex course, but from the coronavirus . . . and like most challenges, it can sometimes leave you feeling a bit disoriented, defeated, and discouraged. Going through, and getting through it, with your confidence intact might not always easy, but it's definitely possible – as long as you believe it.

Events that include loss, including those we’re all feeling right now (like the loss of your ability to train and compete, and more importantly, the loss of time spent with your horses and riding mates) can often lead to something called a victim - or scarcity - mindset. The victim mindset happens when you believe you’re helpless to change things, and that life’s unfair but there’s nothing you can do about it; and the scarcity mindset happens when you get stuck thinking about all the things that have been taken from you, while forgetting to think about all the things that challenges can give you.

As you’ve already guessed, going through, and getting through, COVID-19 is going to come down to your ability to steer your thoughts away from feeling helpless (because of what’s been taken from you) and instead of believing that, in some way, you’ve been given an opportunity to learn something new about yourself (like the opportunity to believe you can control challenges instead of allowing them to control you). If you can make this happen (and you can!) your victim and scarify mindsets will evolve into survivor and abundance mindsets that’ll prove that you won't just get through this, you can get through this even better than you were before.

The first step in making this happen is familiarizing yourself with something called the control/influence model – identifying (1) situations that you have complete control over, (2) situations you have influence over, and (3) situations you no influence or control over. The goal here is to simply train your brain to focus on situations that you can control or influence, and to avoid wasting your time and energy thinking of those that you have no control or influence over. Maybe you can’t control the amount of time your barn will remain closed, or influence whether or not your season will be cut short, but you certainly can control your decision to wear a mask, social-distance, or better yet, register to watch a series of educational equestrian webinars or start a really cool new fitness program.

So this month, look beyond what’s been taken away and towards the opportunities you’ve been given. It won’t always be easy, but as a rider, you’ve always known that the easy way isn’t always the best way. Think about what you can control (including your attitude and optimism), what you can influence (like those webinars and fitness programs), and always avoid thinking about those things you have no control or influence over (like how long this new "normal" might last). And when it all feels too hard, remember - what lies behind you, and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you!

I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip. If you did, and if you’d like more, feel free to sign-up for my weekly equestrian sport psychology video tips – or join one of my Zoom mental coaching webinars. For more information just email me at [email protected].

Did you enjoy Daniel Stewart's tip of the month? Check out the most recent edition of the USEA Official Podcast for more tips and tricks to manage nerves in training, competition, and everyday life, as well as tips on how to stay positive and motivated during this challenging time in the world.

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