If there’s one thing we learned in the first half of 2021 it is that things won’t go back to normal as quickly as we hoped.

In fact, I think we all gradually realised that the old normal does not exist anymore and will never come back.

So, how do we deal with such uncertainty? How do we plan for something, anything, when we don’t know if it will actually happen?

The problem with goals

When I first started working as a mindset coach, I used to conduct goal-setting sessions and help riders plan for specific events by visualizing the desired outcomes. 

I believed in the S.M.A.R.T. goals principle which is setting Specific goals that were Measurable, Attainable and Relevant with a clear Time bound deadline. 

Despite working quite well, as time went on, I started to realise how limiting this strategy is. By setting specific goals and zoning-in on them, I was leaving no room for the unexpected. When I was too specific, I didn’t allow for the possibility that ‘miracles’ might happen.

Let me explain this concept a bit more.

When a rider plans for a specific event, focusing on the result they want to achieve on that particular day, they can become blind to other things that are happening around them. An example is that the horse might not be ready on the day, and being so focused on one competition could set back his training and development long-term. 

When riders are looking to buy a new horse, being too specific with the requirements can be limiting; they might easily dismiss finding their perfect horse because it does not fit their rigid set of criteria. 

What I am saying is that we have to leave room for the unknown, unplanned opportunities to arise. 

Embracing change

One thing that this pandemic is clearly teaching us is that we have to become and remain flexible. The people who can let go of what they wanted to do and can change tack at the drop of a hat, will navigate this time better and become more successful than the ones desperately trying to cling on to achieving their goals. 

To more easily accept change, you first have to overcome fear of the unknown. 

It is the unknown, the unpredictable and the lack of control that scares us more than anything else. 

If, throughout my life, I’ve had a goal (let’s say to ride for Australia), I might fear that I am losing a part of myself that was connected to that goal – the validation and the recognition (from myself and/or others) that is attached to my goal. I fear losing a sense of achievement and the opportunity to belong to that elite group of athletes. 

But when I speak to riders who have represented their country, they all tell me that achieving their goal did not change their life and their confidence in the way they thought it would. 

When we stake our confidence, our happiness and our sense of identity to the achievement of goals, we will find out that nothing significant really changes when we achieve them. 

In fact, sometimes things get worse because we become stuck in a cycle of adding more expectations and pressure to our next goal, and so on.

This brings me to the second thought I wanted to share with you – external validation.

Most of our goals are driven by the external validation we crave: 

  • The pat on the back from someone else 
  • The proof we are worthy or ‘good enough’.

If we measure our own worth by the validation we get from others, we will always remain a victim of our environment and will do whatever we can to please others (rather than ourselves).

In reality we are not seeking praise from others but a break from the relentless self-inflicted pain that is caused by our own mind screaming at us and always putting ourselves down. 

We can never find peaceful satisfaction on the outside, peace will come from within when our mind becomes quiet and the thoughts towards ourselves become loving and kind.

This is where confidence is born. 

So, instead of waiting for things to get fixed or for the situation to change, instead of hoping that everything will go back to the old normal (which, by the way, is the one we used to complain about!), think about embracing the new, the unknown. 

Take a breath, find the calm within you, be ready to give up your goals and make space for other miracles to happen.

Happy pondering everyone.

Tanja Mitton offers mindset coaching sessions in person and over the phone. Find out more at tanjamitton.com.