For riders that are goal-oriented like myself, setting goals and having a plan to accomplish them can be the only way to stay focused. I’ve found that keeping a list of small and large goals to be extremely beneficial to my riding. However, any sports psychologist will tell you that it’s not as simple as just jotting down which shows you’d like to attend and how you’d like to place. You have to be strategic in your goal setting.

Start Small and Make a Plan

Most people don’t have an understanding of how to set goals. They just think to themselves, “I want to compete in the Prix St. George by the end of the summer;” but this isn’t the way to approach a goal because while there is a desired destination, there is no plan to get there. Break down the steps that must take place before you achieve the end goal. Developing a feel for how much collection to ask for in a pirouette, refining your aids for impeccable transitions, and focusing on sitting quietly are all examples of the smaller goals that precede successful in the larger sense. This also helps you track progress that would otherwise seem non-existent. As days, weeks, and months go by, you should be conscious of the dozens of seemingly insignificant adjustments you make to your riding. Being oblivious to these subtleties can give the impression that you are on a plateau of non-improvement.

Be Your Own Mental Coach

Even though we all have trainers to reminding us to stay focused in lessons, we still have to be our own mental coaches. Motivate yourself rather than dragging yourself down. Taking pride in your smaller achievements will help you to stay focused and motivated, despite your frustrations. You will have a much clearer head and if you can approach every challenge positively and accept circumstances over which you have no control.

Keep Everything in Perspective

As competitive as I am, I have to remind myself that I’m young and still learning. If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up about it. Dwelling on your shortcomings is not productive, and it does not make you better or serve any positive purpose, so don’t waste your time lingering on your failures. Making mistakes is just part of the learning process that every rider must go through.

Make Adjustments

Sometimes you may start out focused on accomplishing a particular goal, and for whatever reason it may prove too difficult. You might have to adjust your goals based upon your progress, but this doesn’t mean you’re giving up. Just because something is not attainable today does not mean that it can never be done. Adjustments can be temporary, you can always revisit failed attempts later.

Enjoy the Ride!

Above all, remember that competing should be enjoyable. Your goals should challenge you in a fun way, rather than proving to be mission impossible.