In the Horseman’s Jingle, more than one phone coaching session has touched on the human side of the horse-human relationship. This winter’s and spring’s challenging weather – no matter whether it’s been drought or flood or snow or tornadoes – has left us humans feeling discouraged about our ability to make progress with our horses. To help us, Jingle founder Jerry Williams has emphasized that 80% of success is mental; it isn’t always about ‘doing.’ Sometimes it’s better to invest a little time in ourselves because in the end we’ll be better partners for our equines.
A few nights ago I got a phone call from a Rural Heritage magazine reader in response to an article I’d written. After getting briefly acquainted, we discussed the hard winter here and how he’d also been through some rough patches recently. He then shared a kernel of wisdom that had been passed on to him that helped him weather his storm: “Keep trying; don’t get stuck because it makes you bitter.” Wow. Sometimes simple words carry profound truth.
That phone call reminded me of another recent phone conversation. The last time I talked with my friend and mentor Joe, I mentioned that our previous phone call had left me depressed. He had been tired and discouraged by a myriad of things related to breeding good horses and that fed into my own fatigue and state of mind. Joe acknowledged that things are challenging. He said, though, that he doesn’t let himself get depressed. His kernel of wisdom was: “Don’t get depressed; get more determined.” Wow.
Both these kernels of wisdom are reminders that life presents us with lots of opportunities to make choices. We’ve all known bitter or depressed people, weighed down with regrets, unhappy at some level with choices they’ve made. These kernels are about making positive choices when less constructive ones feel natural and easier. Making positive choices is hard work but it is obviously a big part of success.
A friend recently shared a perspective on depression that I’d never heard before: “Depression is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign that you have been trying to be strong for too long.” It took me awhile to find the positive choice here, too. At first all I saw were questions: what if there’s no choice about being strong? What if that’s what circumstances require? The answers, of course, are that there are always choices; sometimes it can be tricky to find them, though.
Another friend gave me a book last year that has helped me see the choice regarding being strong. The Rhythm of Life by Mathew Kelly identifies three key life practices: 1) adequate sleep, 2) an hour of quiet each day, and 3) one day totally off each week. So, regarding depression, taking some time off from being strong is the positive choice, even if it’s just an hour a day, or a day a week. Wow.
These life practices actually weren’t new to me, as similar practices are suggested by Julia Cameron in her Artist’s Way work which I studied several years ago. Reminders are good, though, since life inevitably pulls me away from good practices. It’s been really easy the last few years to fall into the trap of saying there isn’t time for an hour of quiet a day, and it isn’t possible to take Sundays off, even though I know that my life has more balance (or rhythm) when I make time for these life practices. Here’s an applicable truism: “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” Different choices are required.
Several years ago a friend shared a quote about hope from Vaclav Havel. At the time I struggled with its validity. When the quote came around again last month, it made much more sense. Havel said, “Hope is not a feeling. It is not the belief that things will turn out well, but the conviction that what we are doing makes sense, no matter how things turn out.” I struggled with this quote when I first heard it because it made it sound like hope is a choice, not a natural state of mind. Now, though, it’s much easier for me to see hope as something much more active than passive; it is indeed about choice. Wow.
Having the Horseman’s Jingle has been a blessing because it has been a source for reminders to stay the course, to keep making positive choices. Having a video to watch or a coaching tip to read or a teleconference to listen to has been helpful for renewing my focus on what’s important to me. I’ve been surprised to find Facebook of similar value because my horsemanship friends share reminders there.
Shortly after the phone call the other night from the Rural Heritage reader, I focused on the kernel of wisdom about “Keep trying…” In hindsight, though, another important kernel emerged from that conversation. It was about ‘passing on’ words of encouragement and stories of renewed focus and reminders of wisdom heard once but forgotten. Sharing something that we’ve found insightful may be similarly valuable to someone else in our world. By sharing, we might give them an opportunity to have their own ‘Wow’ moment. In that spirit, I’m sharing these kernels in the hopes that you, too, will “pass it on!”
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2011