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We don't know who we are until we see what we can do.
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Martha Grimes

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Change is Difficult?

 

 

One of the most challenging problems that I continually face as an equine trainer is how to help people to maintain the changes they want to make. Change is a word we use all the time with an easy familiarity that allows us to forget just how hard it is to change behaviour. I have heard hundreds of times clients say their trainers have told them they must be more confident? This is a really easy statement for a trainer to make and it may be true, but it is really hard to create the required confidence just because someone has told you to do so.

 

So why is change difficult?

 

Actually, I dont think change is difficult, in fact I believe that change can happen in an instant. However, preparation to change can take a great deal of time and commitment. I think that it is all too easy to see change as a single occurrence taking place in a moment in time.  Looking at change in this single event way can be demoralising and unhelpful. If however we consider that change is not an event but a process, then we begin to give ourselves some room for learning and cut ourselves some slack.

 

Too often we two legs beat ourselves up for making mistakes and not changing quickly enough. This beating ourselves up mentally is a crazy condition, often brought on by that feeling, that we are not good enough or low self esteem. We are, more often than not, harder on ourselves than we would ever be on friends and loved ones. As we punish our own mistakes and internally blame and criticise ourselves, we slow down the learning process, because be become more cautious as we want to avoid having to punish ourselves, eventually we stop trying to change as change is painful and negative and we hate ourselves for failing to change.

 

How do we break this self defeating cycle mental negativity?

 

Well like I said preparation for change is hard and if we do not understand and apply principles of behaviour to our own learning we get cross and frustrated at our change difficulties. Learning is rarely perfect curve and more often a series of jagged peaks and troughs. I often say learning and change is not easy and more often than not uncomfortable. So how do we prepare for change?

 

  • Consider the learning you are doing or the problem you are working on as a process not an event.
  • Welcome small safe mistakes as essential to learning, thats why they call it trial and error learning.
  • When you catch yourself being negative to yourself ask if you would really say those things you say to yourself to friend or loved one.
  • Take responsibility for problems but dont blame yourself.
  • Take small steps and use a shaping plan to detail the change you want to make. Failure to plan is planning to fail, and a written shaping plan is hard evidence you are planning to succeed. 
  • Cut yourself some slack, accept you are not perfect, but there again who is? Mistakes provide feedback not failure.
  • Remember that you have a equine to enjoy and have fun with if this isnt happening change what you are doing and lighten up a bit.
  • Do some research, reading or attend some training to give you the tools you need to understand change and learning.

 

Most importantly to make change happen we have to practise. We even have to practise our attitude to making mistakes unfortunately, this practise can only be done by making mistakes.  We often think that learning is a process by which we get better with every trial. We mistakenly believe that every time we or our horse tries something we should see an improvement in performance. Change is a process of learning with every trial. As we learn we receive feed back and we adjust our next trial and eventually through this repeated process we change for good.

 

So whether we want to change our personal habits such as smoking, eating, or make increases in our abilities or change the behaviour of our equines all that we really need to know is that change is a process during which we will make mistakes.  If we are gentle with ourselves and truly believe we can change then we will. Perseverance and persistence are the two keys to change.

 

If you have lost your way a little or are down because change is not happening as fast as you want, remember its ok to feel this way but this does not have to be the end of trying to change. Whatever you want to change it is possible just keep at it and believe that you will persist until you have achieved change.

 

You can do it just keep trying until it happens. Change happens in an instant, preparing to change can take months so best to enjoy your journey.

 

 

© Ben Hart Nov 2006

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