2. FOCUS ON FACTORS YOU CAN CONTROL
People function best when they have a sense of personal control over their lives, even if that sense is partly illusion. Add half a ton of potential equine panic to the mix, and the need for control becomes even more important. The first step to building control of performance is to take responsibility for it. Begin by considering the factors to which you attribute success and failure.
Suppose you win a jumper class. Why did you win? Was it because your competitors were slow on the final gallop? Because their horses slipped exiting the double combination? Because your horse’s sire passed along the ability to jump practically anything in front of him regardless of the approach? These are external factors over which you have no control. Pondering them---even if they played a role---is a good way to dishearten yourself.
Instead, focus on factors that you can control. You won because you practice tight turns and slingshot impulsion. Because you keep your horse fit with daily exercise, top veterinary care and good nutrition. Because you create performance strategies based on your strengths. Because you face your weaknesses and implement long-term solutions to overcome them.
Controlling attribution that explains failure is equally important. Imagine you finished the class with the slowest time and the largest number of jumping faults. Why were you slow and sloppy? The rider who relies on external attribution will point to imperfect weather, poor footing, a flawed instructor, a sluggish horse. Some people go so far as to claim they are jinxed, as if bad things happen only to them. Those who believe that these factors thwart their performance have surrendered their control.
The rider who uses internal attribution seeks very different reasons for failure. Maybe he didn’t prepare well, blew off his gym program, partied too hard the night before the class, or allowed nerves to get the best of him. These internal factors can be changed. External factors depend too much on others---we end up wishing that strong competitors might move away, the perfect trainer will take us on as a client, the show fairy might touch us with her magic wand. But while we’re waiting for those pipe dreams to come true, we’re not developing skills or improving the horse. To raise inner motivation, the best athletes retrain their attributions, focusing on those