Positivity changes everything.
I think I’ve grown up a lot since my early days agility– probably a good thing, seeing as I started when I was eleven years old, and eleven year olds aren’t notorious for being mature. Thirteen years involved in the sport has included countless ups & a number of downs along with a lot of learning and growth. One of the most important things I’ve found over the years, is how much a positive outlook can make a difference. Positivity should happen at all levels of the sport– before you even step into an arena. Even the most seemingly inconsequential things– looking at courses online, making a training plan, packing for a show. I think a positive attitude must come before the actual events we’re preparing for if we expect good to come of it.
“We’ll never get that skill down..” “That’s too hard for us..” “I can’t do that..”
As soon as we get to saying these things, we’ve already predestined ourselves for failure. I hear these things in training, teaching & showing all the time. I think it’s one of the most detrimental mindsets we can find ourselves in. As soon as you say you “can’t” do something, you won’t. “I can’t run that fast” “I’m afraid it won’t work” “We can’t do one of those (insert any ‘fancy’ move here)”. It’s almost a sure thing that those teams won’t be able to do whatever it is. Not because of a lack of skill, or speed, or ability, but because of a lack in confidence. Because they will make their insecurities happen. I can say, though, that when a more positive outlook exists (a “we’ll give it a try” will do) the results reflect it. Try to be sure to go into training with not only a plan, but the mindset that you will have success. How ever small that success for the day might be. Celebrate the good.
This is probably more common at shows and events. I’ve been guilty of this, and I’m sure you have too at some point. You pick up the course map and make your way to the edge of the ring, eager to see what the day will bring. Only there’s something on the map that makes you stop. A serpentine. A backside. Lateral distance from the see-saw/ A-frame/ dogwalk. A lead out. Poles to nowhere. A tantalizing off course obstacle. You lower the map, mumble some sort of unmentionable expletive and think– “No Q for us.” Maybe it’s idealistic, but with practice, we can change the way we think about these things. Try to catch yourself when the negative thoughts creep in. Even if the run does go wrong, find the good in it– I assure you, there is always something good. I promise that it is a much more rewarding experience than always dwelling on shortcomings, or mistakes, or NQ’s.
Last year I wrote down a list of negative (persistent) thoughts & changed the way they were worded. It felt silly at the time. But it has helped– really, really helped. I keep my training notebook nearby at all times. I’ll open up & share a bit of what I wrote down last year.
Some of the negative things I worried about:
1. Not trusting my dog & my instincts as a handler on course.
2. Putting too much pressure on myself to succeed.
3. Not living up to my own expectations and goals.
The new & improved wording of these worries:
1. We are a great team. We trust each other.
2. I will be successful.
3. I will reach the goals I make for myself.
Simple. Felt silly at the time, but now, looking back, the original fears feel silly in themselves. I also wrote down a quote that I truly believe has helped. I visualize every run before it happens. I envision the celebration at the end, too. I’d rather use my energy in a positive way rather than worry about what may or may not even happen.
So, give it a shot. Write down your fears, your weak spots, the things you “can’t” do, the skills you “don’t” have. Re-word them until they’re positive. Carry them with you to shows, read them at night, or before your run. Do it until it becomes second nature. Because really, how much fun can it be if we’re always doubting our abilities & setting ourselves up for failure?
Doesn’t hurt to try, right?