“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” (Lao Tzu). In this case, a journey to change begins with five steps.
Change can lead you down a path of great things that may have never happened if life stayed idle. But change can also be scary and hard. If you read my first article, you are aware I am making changes to my horse training program. For me, this change is exciting and welcome, even if the road that lead me to making a change was a little rocky.
Philosopher Lao Tzu put it perfectly when he said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” In my opinion, the first step toward change is the hardest step. It may feel like we are literally deciding to jump off the side of a cliff when it would be much more comfortable to stay in our cozy bubble of comfort.
So how can we make the process of change a little easier and less daunting? Or better yet, how can we ensure our plans lead to success?
I am a very goal-oriented person. I believe for every goal we have, there is a series of mini goals that need to be achieved in order to achieve the larger goal. Sometimes a goal requires us to change and sometimes that change brings about new goals.
In the same way we check off the boxes of our mini goals to reach our larger goal, there are steps to making changes can help us stay on track. Whether the change we are making is small or large, the process is the same.
First, we need to be aware that a change needs to be made. As far as my training goes, I became aware a change needed to be made when I realized that I lost the enjoyment that training used to bring me. And even though I wanted to train my filly better than I had ever trained a horse before, I felt as if I was just going through the motions.
How was I ever going to create something different if I was going about it like I always have? I mentally evaluated my process and became aware of the realization change needed to occur.
Second is our desire to change. Just because you are aware change needs to occur does not mean you necessarily want to adjust. Change can seem daunting and will push you out of your comfort zone. If the horses I produced previously have been well educated animals that ride with nice handles, why would I need to change my methods?
Because I want to create something different this time. I was unhappy with some of my methods and I want to incorporate new skills to build a better partnership with my horse.
Third is educating ourselves to make the change. We need to find the knowledge necessary to bring about our change. Where do we even start? If I say I want to have a better finished horse, that can lead me down a rabbit hole of immersing myself into dressage lessons, reining videos, mounted shooting clinics and everything in between to soak up all I can.
However, by not starting small and specific in our process, we can end up overwhelming ourselves with too much at once. A better approach would be to think back to what the desire is that is driving the change. What is really pushing me is wanting a better connection first and foremost. I feel the rest will follow in due time.
I admire the connection that I see with many liberty trainers and their horses, so when I started on my educational journey, I knew liberty work was the direction I wanted to go.
Fourth is putting our knowledge to use and putting in the work. I am almost two months into learning some excellent new methods. The knowledge I am gaining has me energized to try some new techniques out for myself.
I recently scratched the surface of putting my new education into action by completing two sessions with my horse. Even though I narrowed my focus on one trainer’s methodology for now, it is a lot to take in. Until I started putting in the work, I didn’t realize how many small details I would need to change about how I train. I felt like I knew where to start, but at the same time felt like I was starting over and learning to train all over again.
Something that helps me to stay on track with my development and success is making lists. Although I want to achieve some big things in the next year, I need a game plan and a starting point. So, after my first session, I created a list of some basic ground maneuvers that I want to strengthen in hand and at liberty before allowing myself to jump too far ahead.
Plus, I believe visually seeing your goals and strategizing on how to get there really helps put plans into action.
The last step to ensuring our changes are successful is not to give up. Keep up the forward momentum even when things don’t go smoothly. When it comes to any type of horse training, it never goes smoothly. There will always be setbacks and failures, but we can’t let that discourage us from the journey.