|Posted by Emily Bertrand on July 20, 2014 at 11:55 AM|
The comfort zone; a double edged sword, it’s our best friend and worst enemy….
How is this so? Well when we stick to our comfort zone we stay comfortable. Comfortable feels good, it’s no stress, easy going and we are able to really enjoy our riding when we are comfortable. However if we stay in our comfort zone we will never be able to take the next step in our riding, we will not improve much, and we will be missing out on gaining valuable experience and skills.
No one likes being uncomfortable, at least not anyone I know anyway. I don’t know many riders that enjoy being nervous, scared, worried, uncertain, timid, or tense… and the list goes on. All the feelings that accompany us when we first venture outside of our comfortable zone into uncertainty really don’t feel good at all.
One thing we must realize that the parameters of our comfort zone have been set by ourselves. No one else has set these imaginary boundaries for you – you are solely responsible for what you perceive as a comfortable level for you. So my question is why do we set boundaries for ourselves? If we dream of bigger things why is it that we become uncomfortable when we step outside of the imaginary box we created for ourselves? This is one question I have yet to completely solve.
Hopefully I’m not alone in this but I have a comfort zone and I have come to have quite the love / hate relationship with it. I love being comfortable but I absolutely hate that my comfort level isn’t 10x greater than it is now. So I need to find a way to grow my self-inflicted parameters. I’ve come to realize over the years if I truly want my comfort zone to grow I have no choice but to experience being uncomfortable a lot!!! It’s through this discomfort that I will then become more comfortable with what makes me so uncomfortable. (Try saying that 3x fast!!)
Example; 6 years ago I experienced a very bad fall from a drop into water while schooling at Checkmate. The horse tripped and fell into the water I went head first – I was under water with the horse on top of me. Seconds felt like minutes. As I struggled to get my head above water a hoof narrowly missed my face. Had I not been wearing a helmet I don’t think I would be here today. I still have the helmet I was wearing as a reminder- it has a HUGE dent in it. Needless to say it was a very scary moment for me and I realized how lucky I was for not being in worse shape than I was. For a long while after I was petrified of doing drops into water – I knew I had to do them if I was going to event but boy oh boy just the thought of them made me sick. So I had no choice but to face these uncomfortable thoughts and feeling if I wanted to keep eventing. The following spring I decided that I would ride one of our school horses named Monster, he was absolutely fantastic with drops. I brought him to a clinic with David Wilding Davies, there was a double drop into water and after going though it successfully many times I was cured!! Now I can tell you I really enjoy riding drops again. I still get a bit tense the first time on an unfamiliar horse who I’ve never done a drop into water with but once I have done it for the first time with that particular horse, I’m good to go.
I'm riding Monster at the 2009 Clinic with David Wilding-Davies at Popiel's Farm. This was the second log - it was two one strides to the water. I'm a bit embarrased to admit it but I used to think this was huge!!! Now I look at it and think to myself "why in the world was I ever nervous the jumps are so small and the combination quite easy".
Long story short; logically I knew that I could do a drop into water but due to my bad experience and new found fear, my comfort zone had shrunk (even though I hate to admit it!). However by inching my way back and putting myself in a safe, reasonable situation, that was very uncomfortable for me I quickly regained my confidence and my comfort zone once again grew!
Spring 2010 I'm riding Abbey in the Preliminary Division at Fair Hill. We are ready to confidently tackle the water. It was a coup one stride to a drop into water.
Our comfort zone is technically imaginary but is partly defined based on a combination of our experiences good and bad. I would love to feel comfortable doing anything at any level on any horse- but perhaps that may be unrealistic. However, the more I accomplish and the more I experience the things/situations that make me uncomfortable and meet them with reasonable success; then what was once very uncomfortable will soon become more comfortable if I can just push past it.
Once we have put a bit of thought into what we consider our comfort zone the next question is: How are we actually going to grow it? Every time you ride you need to push just a little outside that zone. You’re going to have to put up with the nerves and all the other uncomfortable feelings that will accompany stepping outside the zone will create, and you will have to suck it up and just do it!! Now the key though is to be successful at it when you do it. If you push yourself too far beyond your abilities or your horses ability/training, it will not be helpful and could set you back. So push just a little outside the lines at every opportunity and you will be one step closer to increasing the size of your zone.
Denny Emerson made us memorize a quote that he uses all the time one that he got from Jack Le Goff;
"Boldness comes from confidence, confidence comes from success.”
So if we really love to ride and want to improve, if we want to accomplish more and have more fun, let’s start getting just a little uncomfortable!!!
The road to 10,000 hours will be a bumpy one with high’s and low’s, might as well enjoy the ride and make ourselves a little uncomfortable. When we get to the magic number we will be very comfortable with our parameters that we have set will be further than we ever thought possible.
I wish you all the best as you work hard to improve,