Self-reflection is essential to personal growth and discovery. And it is even more important if you want to have a strong relationship with yourself and your horse. Imagine a life where you can find appreciation in everyday happenings and even the smallest moment or connection with your horse. Self-reflection gives you the ability to gain clarity in your life and in your relationship with your horse. However, it is important to self-reflect properly. If you take the wrong approach, you will find yourself “shoulding” all over yourself. I could have done this…I should have done that…I would have done….shoulda… woulda… coulda. Self-reflection is made easy with seven simple questions.
1. Doing It: What did I say I was going to do with my horse today? What did I actually do?
Self-Reflection Tip: Plan your time of self-reflection in the evening hours. Consider it your reverse morning coffee time. Do not go to sleep without it. And if you did not accomplish with your horse what you had set out to do, then, set your intentions for the next day. By setting your intentions, you are more likely to follow through the next day.
2. What Happened? If what I did was different than what I planned with my horse, what were the reasons?
Self-Reflection Tip: Be honest. This is your time to strip yourself of excuses and justifications-stick to the facts and you will see bad habits with amazing clarity. So many times, I hear clients say, “I ran out of time” or “There are never enough hours in the day.” If time is one of the reasons, I suggest getting a day planner, blocking out times in the week for you and your horse, and then stick to it. Sometimes, we have a plan with our horse and our horse has a different plan. This is okay! Reflect on what happened and set your intentions again for the next day.
3. How it turned Out: What went well and what did not go well with your horse?
Self-Reflection Tip: Details can make a difference. When you look deeply at your actions and activities, you will begin to understand what works for you and your horse and what you need to stay away from that did not work. And don’t be afraid to ask for some help if things did not go well. This does not always have to be paying a professional for a lesson or spending money on a clinic. Ask a fellow horse lover to be a ground person for you and have them tell you what they see from the ground. You can then reflect together on what they saw in comparison to what you felt.
4. The People around You: How do you treat people?
Self-Reflection Tip: Don’t forget there is more than just “self” in reflection. “Others” figure prominently in your daily life and you need to think about your behavior towards the people you touch each day. If we can’t treat the horses in our life well, then what do you think the relationship with our horse is like? Also, how we treat our self and our horse transfers over to other relationships in our life. Practice having a good relationship with your horse and I guarantee your other relationships will start to blossom!
5. Honoring Values: Are you proud of the way you lived this day and how you treated and honored yourself and your horse?
Self-Reflection Tip: Questioning whether you lived your values on a particular day is the best way to stick to what you know to be right and true. Give yourself a pat on the back or a kick in the butt-either way notice and acknowledge your daily behavior towards yourself and your horse. Chances are if you aren’t treating yourself right, then you are not allowing others to treat you well either. Again, learn from your relationship with your horse and allow this growth to transcend into other areas of your life.
6. Objective Re-construction: If I had the day to live over again, what would I do differently with my horse?
Self-Reflection Tip: There's a positive way to turn over the day’s events and learn from it. Go through the creative process of looking at all the options in a given circumstance, after the fact. Using hindsight will help you be more effective in the future. For example, perhaps your horse spooked because you didn’t warm him up enough. Or perhaps the little buck was from too much leg or whip? Reflect on the subtleties and learn to correct even the smallest things, which in turn can lead to a better ride.
7. Always Learning: What did you learn today from you horse that will have an impact on how you ride and interact the next day or time with your horse? And what about the next week and going forward with your horse?
Self-Reflection Tip: The most exciting thing you can do with your horse is to always be learning. Boredom and discontent cannot exist if there is something new to be learned. Each day be a student of life and make the world your classroom. Do your homework and review each day’s lesson. The process of continuous learning is one of the things I love the most about being with my horses.
Always remember: Self-reflection is a way to identify your goals, monitor your progress with your horse and silence the noise that keeps you from noticing life’s lessons. Make yourself worthy of the gifts the Universe has for you through your relationship with your horse. Be the kind of person who has a positive impact on the people around you while giving thanks to your horse and what you learn from him or her.
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