The last few weeks have been pretty action packed for my dogs and I. Some great thrills at the World Championships in Germany followed by some more awesome thrills at the USDAA Nationals in Kentucky. In between all of my highs I have shared with you all, some of my lows as well.
I have openly failed and shared my feelings about my disappointments. I similarly wrote about some of my failings while training Buzz in Shaping Success. I have received many comments, both on the blog and privately, regarding my opening up about my recent public stumblings. Quite honestly, at first I was a bit surprised by all of the fuss, until I thought more about it.
Even though failing may be one of the most natural things any of us do, many people would rather pretend it didn’t happen. Even worst, some are so afraid that others may see them fail they avoid experiencing a ton of wonderful in life. Yes, many people avoid blemishing the illusion of their own infallibility by not allowing themselves to be seen making mistakes as a competitor in the agility ring. So they make excuses and stay out of the ring or at least out of any “big event” rings.
Now I am not saying you should beat your head against a wall. If you are constantly failing at something well then “h-e-l-l-o-o-o-o” yes take some time off out of the ring and get some good coaching. My point is that failing is an event, it doesn’t need to attach itself to us as a description of who we are and neither, by the way, should success.
As one of you pointed out a line I wrote on my blog last year “I have been blessed with so much in my life I can’t see how any single failure or success could possibly alter any of that.”
We all live in our own agility fishbowl. For some of you that fishbowl may be your local agility crowd where you trial each weekend, for some of us it may be a more of an international-live-streaming-kind-of-an-aquarium that offers a larger group of onlookers a view to all we do in the agility ring.
Regardless of the size of your audience, it is important to keep things in perspective. None of us is Mother Theresa nor are we curing cancer between the A Frame and the Weave Poles. It is important that you stay grounded and free of the effect of your fishbowl audience’s opinions. We are never as omnipotent as our biggest fan may envision– nor are we as incompetent as our worst critic would have us.
For me when I come home, John plays a big role in helping to bring balance to my world. Regardless of how big my wins I come away from the agility ring with, although very supportive, John is always be there to remind me I need not try walking on water any time soon.
I remember in the summer of 1998 John was judging a four day obedience trial and therefore couldn’t accompany me when I competed at the USDAA’s National Championship with Shelby, Stoni and Twister. As it happened I won two of the four height divisions that weekend in the Grand Prix and came home with 2 big shiny Gold cups. John arrived home the day after me and I had the 2 trophies displayed prominently on the kitchen counter with a picture of each dog sitting in the cup they won. John strolled through the kitchen, saw the two big Cups stopped and said; “two trophies– I thought you took three dogs with you?” Easy to keep the ego in check with a man like him around:).
The lesson within this lesson that I learned about myself over the last couple of weeks is that I bounce not break when I fall. Just as important, I also learned that I don’t read too much into any one “wow” run. Coming to the line thinking too much about your last success will not allow you to be as sharp as your dog needs you to be for your next run.
Staying in balance at an agility event, rebounding from disappointment, taking any success in stride may seem difficult but it is all a part of a good mental game. Not just for sport but for life.
Personally, I don’t look back. In my heart I always knew that about myself but nothing like a couple big stage experimentations to prove my point! A solid pre-run routine will help you start every run with a clean slate.
I am talking about mental routine and checklist you use before, during and after competition will help you to stay grounded. I know mine has been good in the past but certainly with the guidance that Sports Psychologist John Cullen provided our Canadian World Team this year, my mental game has gone to a new level.
As luck would have it for all of you, John Cullen finally did succumb to my arm twisting and is about to release a program that encompasses everything he shared with our Canadian team about preparing mentally for sport (and life). This will be a game changer for all of you, trust me on this, I will post more when I know more.
Today I am grateful for all of those that helped me perform at my best over the last few weeks. From John Cullen and his mental prep work, to John Blenkey and is constant support to John Hill and his videoing all of my runs (wow I have a lot of Johns in my life:) to Lynda Orton-Hill and Jodi Altman who helped me with juggle my two dogs, to the great chiropractors in Kentucky, to Laura Campbell that took that picture of Encore & I, to my students that made the drive down just to watch us all, to my teammates Terry, Kim, Adrian & Lynda. I hope I am not forgetting anyone, but thank you all, you have made these past few weeks very special ones for me and I realize there is no way I can do any of this without the support of so many.