In my last blog, I planted the suggestion that the human mind has a default, a factory setting if you like. Curiously, this is to be happy, confident and mentally robust. Think about how young children and babies behave. Do they worry about how they look in their clothes? Do they care if their pram is the number one best seller, the most in vogue colour? Does it get them down that they can’t do something like read or write? That’s because they operate on their factory settings, infinitely curious and quite happy to just be. As we grow, however, we pick up beliefs of two types, those that stand us in good stead and those that limit us and make us feel bad about ourselves.
Many coaches and therapists talk about removing limiting beliefs – that’s a fantastically liberating thing to do! So let’s see what they really are and think about how to root out even the deepest ones lurking in the background of our everyday lives and our riding lives.
Some of your limiting beliefs will be well known to you, that feeling of not being good enough, worthy enough or yearning for more (more talent, more stuff, more confidence, anything you crave more of). Maybe you already know that your horse is a very special lad or lass and can achieve so much – but not necessarily with you. Do you feel in awe of that horse, do you feel undeserving or unworthy of their skills? Do you wish you could get that cantering/hacking/jumping just right? Do you doubt that you can change your riding, that you can be the rider you want to be?
Limiting beliefs are all about doubts, yearnings, feeling unworthy, not enough or undeserving. Many, many of these beliefs are not actually known to you, they’re under the radar and deep within your unconscious mind. You have no knowledge of them or that they’re running like spyware in the background. Think about these:
- Did you ever have trouble getting beyond a certain level in your riding?
- Do you ever feel like you’re in a vicious circle and history repeats itself (maybe through different horses, different yards, different instructors)?
- Do you ever feel unhappy and uninspired about your riding?
- Do you ever feel stuck with no options?
- Are you fed up at home or work or with your riding?
- Does your confidence sometimes falter in certain situations and not in others (e.g., you are confident in your career, which can be demanding and require you to be on top of your game, but then lose confidence riding)?
- Is your riding anxiety only triggered in certain situations?
Which ones struck a chord with you?
Let’s take a look at how these limiting beliefs grow and are maintained, then we can stop these self-sabotaging behaviours. Limiting beliefs do not have to be logical, they are mostly illogical – you have all the riding expertise you need, yet still feel nervous. They are often unvalidated – you may dislike others watching you, believing (erroneously) that they are criticising. One thing these beliefs all have in common is that they prevent you being, doing and having what you consciously want. Carl Jung said that we all project out, very unconsciously, what we believe about ourselves. Interestingly, that projection is reflected back to us in the behaviour of others. This is so true of our animals, they are adept at reflecting back what we project onto them. Had a bad day? Did you horse act up too? What we need to do is to dissolve the negative projections and along with that, dissolve the limiting beliefs.
Make a list of your limiting beliefs (this is usually very illuminating!). Now can you find a deeper root or cause for believing that? Ask yourself, “How is it possible that I believe that?” Find the most abstract and broad belief that might be like an umbrella from which your other beliefs hang. For example, I can’t canter in an open field may come from I can’t do what other people do may come from My life is so devoted to others, I have no space for myself may come from I can’t be myself anymore. Can you see how we can extrapolate to the highest limiting belief, something which is often unconnected to riding?
Once you have the highest limiting belief(s), do you have a mind’s eye picture? In my next blog, we’ll use a powerful, quick and easy method to dissolve this projection, this image you have in your mind. For now, start to dampen it by fading out the emotions from it and making it dark and small, then zoom the image far away into the distance.
Limiting beliefs can only be sustained by our own thoughts. Think differently and you’ll see a change in your behaviour.