Work and life: not unlike riding a transition.
“Work-life balance” is a modern buzz phrase, and for good reason. After all, what’s the point of working if one can’t have a life? Most equestrians are constantly struggling to balance the demands of work, life, family, riding, and all the myriad other things that take up our time.
Recently, I attended a meeting for women entrepreneurs. The speaker, Samantha Lane, is investing her entrepreneurial heart and soul into the business of helping hard-working people manage their busy lives.
Lane said she doesn’t think so much about “work-life balance.” She thinks of her life as “work-life blend.” Her idea is to effectively compartmentalize our various activities in such a way that we are focused and productive in each and every aspect, while our life continues to move forward.
Listening to Lane, I found myself thinking about transitions with our horses. Good transitions change gaits and/or speed, it’s true, but proper transitions never stop the forward motion.
Even a halt should be forward-without-motion, like rests in a piece of music. The silence is part and parcel of the music itself; the music does not “stop” each time there is a rest, but, rather, the sound waves temporarily cease while the forward energy of the music goes on through the rest.
Similarly, the halt merely pauses the movement of the legs and body of the horse, but the forward energy should remain constant until the final salute is complete.
Transitions – whether on a horse or in our life – have five phases. Plan. Prepare. Execute. Follow-through. Refocus.
Imagine Kaliwohi is trotting along and I’m about to ask for a walk transition.
Plan. I have to plan for that transition and know exactly where I am going to ask for it. Make sure I have consistent contact. Be balanced in the saddle.
Prepare. I shift my weight slightly to make sure he’s “awake” to my aids.
Execute. I give him a slight half-halt and ask him to go forward into the new gait.
Follow-through. I “release and reward” him for taking the new gait, and I make sure my walk aids are clear and consistent.
Refocus. My body should be in “walk” mode just before I ask Kaliwohi to walk. Then, immediately after Kaliwohi takes the downward transition to walk, I mentally refocus both of us. “We’re walking now.” The trot is in the past, thus not at all relevant to the current walk.
Similarly, my “transitions” with food need to have five phases.
Plan. When I’ll eat, what I’ll eat, and with whom I’ll eat.
Prepare. Not only the food itself, but the ambiance as well as my mental and emotional focus need to be on the food.
Execute. In the past, I have been dreadfully bad about multi-tasking. As I’ve been on this weight-loss journey, I now strive mightily (though not always successfully) to sit somewhere lovely, away from my computer, and truly focus on what I am consuming, with a grateful heart for abundant food.
Follow-through. After each meal, ask myself such questions as “are you full? Overstuffed? What was successful about that eating experience? What can you do differently next time to leverage success?”
Refocus. I like dessert after every meal. (Honestly, I’d like dessert FOR every meal!) So, while “old me” would rarely, if ever, pass up dessert, “new me” is learning to go without feeding my sweet tooth all the time. My self-talk often sounds like this: “The meal is over, Esther. It was lovely. You are full. You made good choices. You ate nutritious food. You were successful. Now, on to the next thing.”
Life is about balance. And blend. Living the life of an active, fit (or getting-fit) horseperson requires learning to transition effectively, so every aspect of your life blends together in harmony to maximize your happiness.