Merriam-Webster defines failure as "an omission of occurrence or performance" or "a lack of success" or "falling short".
In life, we are bound to have high points and low points and at times, we may not have the outcome expected or desired but what really determines failure? Particularly in the realm of riding and training horses?
I think for many of us, we have a close relationship with failure. It can be like a veil that we wear constantly. It causes us to look at everything in our life so critically and it's so quick to judge us and cause us pain. Several years ago I was incredibly frustrated with my riding, extremely hard on myself and feeling completely burned out. I remember thinking, "every time I get on my horse, I feel like such a failure. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm such a loser." How many of you can relate to that? And once those nasty voices start, it can be extremely hard to quiet them! We spiral down moment by moment until we are a heap of self despair and depression. Why are we so incredibly hard on ourselves? We say things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to a friend.
Life changes by changing our perspective and by developing self love and acceptance. I'm sure some of you cringed just now with the word "self love". I did too not so very long ago. I was so full of judgement about myself that I would never live up to my own expectations. I was never a good enough rider, never a good enough friend, never a good enough daughter. When I started a shift in perspective, I was able to treat myself more like a friend, rather than an enemy. We start by changing our perspective a little at a time. When you feel yourself start to head down that familiar path of negative self talk, pause, take a deep breath and say to yourself, "It's ok. It's all ok." Talk to yourself like you would a friend that is going through a difficult time, full of compassion and free of judgement. The more you catch yourself before you head down that rabbit hole of self hatred, the quicker you can train yourself to go to compassion first.
With horses, what determines a success? If you set a lofty competition goal and do not achieve it, are you a failure? Did you grow and learn in the process? There are so many highly successful people that share that failure not only leads to eventual success but is VITAL in the process of succeeding.
"Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success." Napoleon Hill
"I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work." Thomas A. Edison
"There is no failure except in no longer trying." Elbert Hubbard
"Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat." F. Scott Fitzgerald
The list goes on and on. So, why are we so hard on ourselves when we "fail"? The only true failure is quitting, or even worse...never trying at all. That's why I like that first description of failure...the omission of occurrence or performance. If you are out there trying and working towards your goals, I commend you! I encourage you all to look at your next "failure" from a different perspective. Ask yourself what you learned in the process? Who did you become? And, so importantly, PERSIST and PERSEVERE! YOU ARE ENOUGH!! Be kind to yourself, be compassionate. Catch yourself in your old patterns...this is the first step in developing a new way of thinking which is the first step into developing self acceptance and love.
It's important to be kind to our horses, but also just as important to be kind to ourselves. I would even go so far to say that the only we can be truly kind to our horses is to first be kind to ourselves.