Aside World Magazine
Winter 2021 Issue
New Year, New Goals
Article by: Tammie Conway
If you are like a majority of people, the New Year brings with it new goals and with those goals comes (typically grandiose) New Year's resolutions which are normally forgotten long before Valentine's day comes around. Over the years, I have run the gamut of writing out these resolutions (with full intention of completing them, going all in by even eating black eyed peas and stewed tomatoes) to just sleeping through the day and deliberately not making any resolutions, because I was going to fail anyway so why do it?
Last year started out as one of my more optimistic ones. I had most of my plans for the year and goals I wanted to accomplish written out in my planner, while others were just loosely on my mind. I accomplished a couple goals like working the ISSO booth at the PA Horse World Expo in February and attending the ISSO Annual Meeting and Unmounted Clinic in March before the rest of the year's plans were totally obliterated. Like many others, COVID shutdowns unexpectedly changed all my goals for 2020. The show season was shortened tremendously, my yearly side saddle pilgrimage to Camp Leaping Horn was unfortunately cancelled due to state restrictions, gyms were closed resulting in weight gain, and forget any chance of making trips up to New Jersey or Pennsylvania for side saddle clinics, lessons, or saddle fitting sessions. I really cannot complain as I had it better then some others. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to visit the barn and ride my horse while others around the world were deprived of that mental and physical break, so I decided to redirect my efforts to new goals. I tried to take a positive attitude with what this lockdown did allow me to do; I learned to adapt and got in as many lessons at home as I could, entered virtual shows, and read as much as I could to further my knowledge since I did not have the opportunity to learn in person. I did end up getting to show in-person towards the end of the year and go on some trail rides when restrictions lightened, but as you all know, it's not like before. This drove me to be proactive and think outside the box for 2021...
In December, I decided, given the still uncertainty with COVID, I wanted to hit the ground running in 2021 with an alternate game plan and multi-prong approach to being happy in my life. Don't get me wrong, I still want to show as much as safely possible, and I have a strategic plan for that aspect of my life, but I also want to work on me to be a happy, well rounded rider, and person. I want to do more with my horse, enjoy life to the fullest, as we are not guaranteed tomorrow, and really I just want to have fun and be happy which is sometimes lost in our day to day hustle. I decided I needed to put pen to paper to make this a reality, because as a friend of mine says, if you fail to plan then you plan to fail!
First, I started looking for ways to organize myself better, so I can utilize my time and resources. This led to a run to Staples for a new planner. After spending entirely too much time in my mask at a store checking out ALL of their planners, I finally settled on one that has multiple sections meant for improving organization and time management. The monthly calendar pages have areas for "monthly focus", "reminders", and "notes". The weekly sections have days on one side and on the other page-"goals this week", "focus on this", and "notes". Out of all my planners in the past, I have really found this planner to be my favorite so far. Granted this is only the end of February but it has thus far been very helpful in accomplishing more in my week and keeping me on track. I will admit, I still am not totally getting everything done on the lists, but it is a lot better then before, and if for nothing else, you get tired of moving the weekly "to do" page to the next week so you push yourself to get things crossed off the list! I am also hoping these prompts will make it easier to form good habits as time goes on.
My next mission was to find some ways to freshen up my routine and get out of the rut. Also I wanted to figure out how to gain more happiness and fulfillment in not only my riding life but work and personal as well. With this idea came the mission to find sources to help me accomplish this while still being socially responsible due to COVID. In came the idea of virtual clinics that I could attend from the safety of my home! My first of several clinics this year was the "Ride Like a Kid Challenge" that was free on Facebook. We met at lunch for a 30 minute zoom type call Monday through Friday for one week with each day focusing on a different topic. I debated elaborating on this but really got a lot out of it in the way of goal setting, prioritizing important goals, and encouraging me on this journey, so I put the pearls from each day below in case you want to read them.
Day 1 was talking about personal growth and finding the thing that lights you up with joy and peace, different dreams/goals, as well as controlling your perspective, mindset, and attitude. She reminded us to reflect on 2020 and for this year see what fills our soul. We need to be present and should want our goals to PULL us not PUSH us so when you get derailed in life the pull will get you through the challenge. Consistency is needed for steady progression by utilizing baby steps! Ask yourself what made you happy when you were younger (drawing, writing, crafting, etc.) ? Then try to think about those things when setting goals. If the goal will pull us then there is a better chance of succeeding.
Day 2 was by far my favorite and most useful of the week. We discussed falling in love with the process--because if not, then it will not be sustainable. We should make goals with feeling/joy. Joy is the goal itself. She suggested picking a word for 2021 that creates and masters a feeling as feelings are our internal GPS system to guide and pull us. The word could be anything but needs to have a feeling associated: believe, trust, peace, abundance, content, courage... After much thought I decided on Faith--faith that my horse will be a good partner, faith that I will get in better shape/become a better rider, faith that my trainer will direct me in the right direction... She then suggested to write down three areas that you want to add more joy in 2021- mine were riding, exercise, and fellowship. Next we were to write two action steps to bring more joy to each of those areas, for example ride with no agenda/out the ring/cross country, play with my horse, read more or listen to audio books. If we love the process then it is sustainable, if not we will revert back to old ways. We should let go of guilt - it holds us down. Ask for forgiveness then let go as it does not serve us and is a joy sucker! Use your planner to prioritize bringing more joy to your life and focus on what's important so you can apply this and it becomes a habit!
Other important ideas included reminding yourself three things daily- remember about joy, what progress you have already made, and to be present in life. I loved some other random ideas that were shared that included: fear is excitement in need of an attitude adjustment, courage is strength over fear, let go of shame, surround yourself with a good community, and have blinders to the outside bad influences as you can't control other people but you can control how you feel and who you allow in your life.
Day 3 was not as helpful for me but involved a discussion on the gift of "the moment"- we did an exercise to be "in the moment" using your five senses to help. She cautioned us to stay present because the past holds us back and the future can induce fear. She also encouraged us to live our lives one moment at a time and try to fight the "what if's". Use your senses to give yourself a bank of good experiences and when you associate a feeling with those then it's easier to get back to the good experience.
Day 4 focused on discovering our preferred learning style, encouraging us to use a different learning method, and challenging us to try something new/learn something else outside the norm in our life. If you have never painted take a class or consider learning a new language--get creative! Maybe you could try a different discipline or go for a trial ride and get out of the ring. The main thing is to get out of your comfort zone and let go of the fear factor as you don't need to be perfect! Approach things with a beginner's mind, open to new thoughts and willing to learn. We were encourage to be excited to learn as it helps with personal growth which in turn helps you to be a more fulfilled human being. Life is one big classroom and true masters have a "beginners mindset". They go back to a beginner mind when around others as there is always something more to learn and you can absorb ideas from others. Expand the way you train- maybe do an online course for horsemanship or listen to a podcast on a different discipline, shake things up! Blossom into the person you WANT to be and remember to let go of comparing yourself to others, it kills joy! You should only compare yourself to yourself.
Day 5 was all about habits--you see all of these articles on 21 days to a better you or the 30 day challenge, etc. but it takes 60-90 days to really make a habit. Habits are more of a cycle and not a straight line. We need to be patient and remember this is a repeating circle of pre-contemplation-> contemplation -> prep-> action -> maintenance -> relapse then back to pre-contemplation. Relapse is part of the process, so make sure you have a positive coach & community that will help when you "relapse". No matter how many times we fail we will be failing forward if we keep getting back up and trying. Find little successes then when a challenge presents, your community will help pick you up and keep moving forward. Remember not to use negative statements or set too large of a goal. You want to make little changes and goals at first so as they get easier you keep moving the target forward and you ultimately accomplish your large goal. These little steps also help long term to make things a habit that can be sustained. I liked her suggestion of giving self rewards for when you stick to something so you have something tangible to work toward while on the way to your ultimate goal since it is easy to give up when challenges present themselves. Go slow and steady and remember "my practice, my way, time is passing anyway".
That challenge motivated me to seek out other online clinics since the start of the year. It is amazing how much is out there when you go looking. I started using a new learning style by attending online clinics such as WE Horse and Camp Leaping Horn's (CLH) side saddle buying clinic taught by Amy Magee. I have had a blast expanding my knowledge on topics I was already aware of, trying to use more of a "beginner mindset" in my approach, and exploring new disciplines through the internet. For example, when I attended Camp Leaping Horn's clinic, I had already been aware of a lot of the topics, but when coming into the clinic I told myself to think like a beginner, I realized I had several questions that I don't think I would have come up with had I not. I also felt more immersed in the experience, because I was not thinking about making sure I didn't look dumb if I asked a question and learning in an online format meant that I could take as many notes as I wanted, be in comfortable clothes, I didn't have to drive or worry about being around others or wearing a mask, and I saved sooo much money on hotel, gas, and vacation time from work! I think this new format of learning has opened up the horse community and especially the side saddle world to a new way of educating people all around the world. I can't wait until I can attend my next meeting which will probably be ISSO's March meeting! I can honestly say that the CLH clinic was one of the best I have attended in person or on line and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This new form of learning also had opened my mind to trying an online workout program called DRT or Dressage Rider Training. I had always resisted online exercise programs, because I didn't think you get a lot out of them since no one was there to hold you accountable. In fact, I had seen the ads for DRT for several years and always said it was too much money, and I didn't know if it would be worth it. Instead I joined a gym at the end of 2018 thinking if I utilized a trainer once a week to teach and push me in my workout then I would be more accountable. It worked short term, but then I found myself going less and less, and when the lockdowns hit, I ended up picking up some extra pounds and lost even more flexibility. Once the gyms reopened, I didn't feel safe, so I decided not to continue, but didn't really know where to go or what to do. This year after my online challenge the DRT ad came up on Facebook, so I figured why not? I'm not getting any younger and this year is about change! The program is for any discipline of rider despite the name, and although I have fallen behind in the schedule, I am noticing a difference in my fitness. It also offers me a physical and emotional outlet while trying to to become a better partner to my horse given Nicola is a rider herself she has devised a program to include core, stretching, and strength exercises specifically for riders and tells you when you are exercising how it will help while on the horse (can we say motivation!).
So I guess I say all this to encourage others that while in some areas we fall short in this journey we call life, in others if we continue slow and steady in the right direction, I have faith we will achieve our goals not only for this year but ultimately in life. I am trying to keep encouraging people around me, setting little attainable goals that are continuously moving forward, forgiving myself when I fall short, trying new things, starting to become more organized, and am looking for joy around each corner. Despite things not going totally as I have planned, it is still the beginning of the year and every day I can CHOOSE to make the best of 2021! I hope this has helped someone and that you choose to make the best of 2021 as well!
Some Goals for the Year
I would love to be more like Anne Moss in the above photo! My life goal is to jump and hunt aside. I know I will never be as good as her but I can always strive for it!
Photo above of Porter and me at Fall Camp Leaping Horn- I would love to go back to work on our hunting skills and visit with my side saddle sisters!
PC Paws and Rewind
Another goal this year was to help ISSO educate more people at expos and live events. I miss these wonderful women that share my same passion. Instead we are doing virtual education until we can get back to in person!
Photo Above from Left to Right: Laureen Barfield, Shelly Liggett, Tammie Conway, and Jennifer Stevenson.
PC nice passer-by
Photo above of Porter hanging with his Camp Leaping Horn buddy Diesel. He and I both have a goal of attending camp in July, so we can expand our side saddle skillset and get back to visiting our friends in real life! PC me:)
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