Step 1: Check your goals against your signature character strengths and values.
This step takes some self-reflection. Are you not working towards your goal because it isn’t in line with who you are? Are you using your strengths and talents as your work towards your goal? Is there a way to modify your goal to fit your values and character strengths?
If you aren’t sure what your signature character strengths are, take the VIA Survey and find out! The VIA Survey of Character Strengths is a simple self-assessment that takes less than 15 minutes and provides a wealth of information to help you understand your core characteristics. Most personality tests focus on negative and neutral traits, but the VIA Survey focuses on your best qualities.
For take the VIA Survey and discover your signature strengths, click here.
Step 2: Quit struggling to get out of the quicksand.
It is so easy to get focused on the negative. The things we can’t do, the reasons why we can’t achieve our goal. These negative thoughts become a mind virus, and block us from reaching our dreams. And when we get into a funk, these negative thoughts can take over. Before we know it, we are way off the trail, and these negative thoughts are like quicksand, and the more we struggle the more we sink!
That is where the mental toughness tools come in. You may have been told in the past to just “stop thinking” those negative thoughts. Here’s the thing-that is impossible. You cannot get rid of negative thoughts. The more you try, the more they appear, and the more you sink in the quicksand of negativity. The root of many negative thoughts is our brain’s primitive survival process-so the more that we struggle and try to suppress these thoughts, the more our primitive brain yells at us that what we want (our goal) is outside of our comfort zone and therefor dangerous, so our primitive brain brings the negative thought back to the surface, and the process starts all over again.
So how can you get out of the quicksand? Stop struggling to get rid of the negative thoughts and instead replace them with positive ones, through a process called re-framing. Here’s a quick three step process on how to re-frame negative thoughts.
1. Acknowledge the negative thought. By labeling and being aware of the negative thought, you reassure the primitive survival focused part of your brain that you are aware of its concern. For example, you could say to yourself “I acknowledge that I am feeling anxious about competing at the next level. I am anxious because I am worried that I might fail and feel embarrassed, like I don’t belong, and others might ridicule me.”
2. Re-frame it. Ask yourself-is the negative thought true? How can you change it into something more positive? For example, “I have been practicing the required maneuvers of the higher level, and my horse is performing very well at home. My instructor thinks we are ready. I have supportive people in my life who will not ridicule me if I mess up. And even if I do mess up, it will help me learn so I can do better next time.”
3. Create a positive affirmation statement. From your re-framing of the negative thought, create a short positive affirmation statement that you can repeat to yourself when the negative thought occurs. And the negative thought will reoccur! For example, “I am ready. We can do this. I have the skills to compete. We have worked hard for this.”
Practice the re-framing of the negative thought ahead of time, so that when it occurs under pressure you are prepared to replace the thought, instead of struggling to ignore it and sinking deeper into the quicksand.
Step 3: Schedule it & Stick to it.
You’ve re-evaluated your goal to make sure it is in line with your values and character strengths. You’ve learned how to get out of the quicksand and transform your negative thoughts into positive affirmations. Now you need to just do it. Whatever steps you need to take to work towards your goal-just do it. Get out there. Take action. What gets scheduled gets done, so put it on your calendar. This is where grit comes in-those that succeed at their goals practice and persevere!
“The key is to list important, ambitious, but realistic tasks that can reasonably be completed during the day. Small, day-to-day successes are the building blocks of achievement.” -Jason Selk & Tom Bartow, Organize Tomorrow Today
One More Tip:
Get an accountability buddy! When we make plans with someone, we practice more. When we know that we have a friend, coach, or trainer to report our progress to, we are more likely to get out there and do the work. If you have a supportive friend to ride with, schedule riding with them! Ask a friend if you can schedule weekly phone calls to report your progress. If that doesn’t work, as a friend if you can send weekly email reports!
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