7. ADOPT THE
RIGHT MEASURES FOR SUCCESS
The next step in rousing inner drive is to study your orientation toward performance. Many people are outcomeoriented, interested more in the product of their work than the process. They tend to assess their skills by social comparison. Am I a better rider than my peers are? Can I perform tasks on horseback that they can’t perform?
Outcome-oriented athletes often fall into two categories: They seek success or avoid failure. Success seekers challenge themselves relative to the field of nearby riders. They figure out where the bar is set, then apply just enough effort to show superiority. They often attribute failure externally and build skill only for as long as they believe they can remain on top. When a better rider comes along, they avoid risky learning opportunities in an effort to retain status. Success seekers evade damage to their egos, and the best way to do that is to do less. Met with setbacks, they tend to jump ship and blame their peers for the splash.
Failure avoiders concentrate on social comparison, too, but they don’t really believe in their own ability. They often set goals that are either much too easy or far too difficult. An easy goal leads to an easy victory, allowing failure avoiders to display success to their peers. Wow, look at me, I turned left! A very difficult goal relieves shame if they don’t succeed. Darn, I couldn’t get the pony to leap the five-foot wall; well, no worries, no one could. Rarely does the failure avoider select a moderate task that builds skill and motivation. Failure avoiders respond to setbacks by conceding early and often.
Because they’re focused on others, outcome-oriented athletes usually have intense social anxiety. Anytime you assess your performance using someone else as your measuring stick, tension builds. Suddenly, the power to control an outcome is not within us---instead, it rests with other people. And they may not have our best interests at heart.
To kindle intrinsic motivation, shift your performance orientation away from outcome and toward mastery. Masteryoriented athletes love the process of skill development for its own sake. Work on a skill set for a month. Are you better at it than you were before? Then you’ve succeeded! Whether the rider down the barn aisle does the same skill better or worse than you do is irrelevant. By focusing on your own improvement, you teach yourself to create competence.
Mastery-oriented equestrians--regardless of skill level---value learning and progress. They choose moderately challenging tasks, regardless of whether such tasks cause public mistakes. They work long and hard with singular focus, applying effort to a problem for months at a time. They respond to setbacks with increased effort, and they know that failure is caused by factors under their own control. They do not give up on themselves or their horses.
If you want to ignite your passion for riding well, develop inner motivation instead of seeking rewards. Identify factors over which you have control. Seek internal attributions for success and failure, rejecting the easier path of external attribution. Build self-efficacy by setting moderate goals that allow small but frequent victories. Reinforce yourself with inner speech that is positive and helpful. Refuse to give up entirely, but learn when to change tactics, call for a trainer’s help, or give the horse a break and try again tomorrow. Focus on personal mastery rather than social comparison. How others ride just isn’t that important--how you ride is.
Soon you’ll find yourself bounding out to the barn, impelled from within by the satisfaction of learning. Go ahead, drop those irons for 15 minutes. You’ll feel better for it all day long.
About the author: Janet L. Jones earned her PhD in cognitive science, the study of the human mind and brain. She won UCLA’s dissertation award for her research on brain processes. Now professor emerita, she has taught the psychology and neuroscience of memory, language, perception and thought for 23 years and is the author of three books. Jones began riding at age 7. She has competed in Western, English, reining, halter, hunter and jumper classes in five states and uses the principles of dressage with every horse. Jones currently owns a 17.1 hand off-the-track Thoroughbred who makes every day interesting. Readers can reach her at ridewithyour[email protected]