One might think being comfortable would be a good thing and it is, however, when it comes to improving yourself and your horses, always doing what is comfortable doesn’t move things forward. Being comfortable keeps us avoiding specific issues and causes us to worry about things or situations for years. If we move ourselves and our horses out of our comfort zones periodically, there would be much more progress and improvement. The more often we are stretching, reaching, experiencing and exposing ourselves and our horses to new things, the faster we grow and the bigger our comfort zone becomes.
If you want to get fit, for example, it is hard to do while comfortably lying on the couch. You have to get up and sweat, run on the treadmill for a mile or two. It will be uncomfortable to begin with but soon two miles will be something you look forward to. If you want to go to university and get a career in something, you are going to have to stay in your dorm room and study, play very little and hit the books. I like to reinterpret being uncomfortable as building, progressing, learning and developing.
Last month I facilitated a Corporate Leadership Development with a group of executives from Calgary. Just being out in the woods away from their normal daily routine brought many of them outside of their comfort zones. I brought a student with me and this is what she had to say about her experience:
On the second day of the Corporate Leadership Development, a Mantracker session was organized. Glenn was on horseback and the teams of executives got a head start and tackled the course with the hopes of not getting caught by Glenn. They were supplied with maps and specific check in points, we weren’t provided with anything. I was actually not scheduled to participate but the president of the company had gotten a helmet camera to capture some of the action and needed someone to wear it.
I was super excited to be a part of this adventure and of course nervous of the unexpected. After the teams had a nice head start it was our time to go so we entered the field and immediately there was a very steep mountain, ok most people would call it a hill but being from Florida, to me it was a mountain, and it was steep! So of course Glenn decided to start heading down it. I thought, there is no way in hell that is going to happen and I opted to take the long, not so steep way, all the while thinking, I am not off to a good start here! As I turned back to look where he might be, I noticed him back up on the top of the mountain/hill, galloping around on his horse Az, looking for tracks and for the teams. Once we met at the bottom of the hill, Glenn led the way over level ground at a nice trot or canter as we were hot on the tracks of one of the teams. This gave me some time to pull myself together and start enjoying the adventure.
The views were just amazing as we were in God’s country and all around us, in every direction, all you could see was nature, big open green fields, creeks, rivers, mountains, forests - oh the trees were magical, with golden fall leaves, and added to the day was the wildlife. I was riding Tara who was a super star, very willing to join in on the fun but also right with me the entire day. We went from trotting and cantering around the open fields to coming to complete stops when we had to hide, while Glenn investigated things or when we waited for teams to cross our paths. As we were hiding in the trees Tara would show some of her nerves, sometimes it was hard to keep her feet still. Once we established the importance of her not moving around in the bush, she started popping her lower lip over and over. Now if you do not know Tara, she is a 1400-pound white horse, kind of hard to “hide” and the added noise was not helping our tactics. I gave her a couple of reassuring rubs and she started relaxing in this new environment and blowing out over and over and over. Not really anything I could do here, just happy she was relaxing.
We tracked the teams for several hours, we had captured one team earlier in the day and then we found the last checkpoint where we were informed that one team had made it past the finish line and the other had not checked in yet. Glenn made a strategic move to hide in the trees and wait for them. Little did we know they had watched us walk up to the checkpoint. As the team grew tired of waiting for us, one of the members crawled on his belly to get the required card from the checkpoint without us even seeing him. When Glenn figured it out we were off like lightning and trust me, Glenn was not waiting for anyone, he was going to capture this team! One could seriously get lost up in this area so without hesitation, I just took off after him. As we were galloping up the mountain, jumping the fallen trees that were scattered on the path, I was all fired up in the moment, I had my reins in my left hand as my right hand was turning on the different buttons on my helmet cam to capture the adventure. Yes, to be clear here, we were galloping up the side of the mountain, jumping fallen trees and ducking under branches. Imagine that just hours before I was too unconfident to venture down the steep hill at a walk and now confidently galloping up the mountain. We took the team by surprise as Glenn got in front of them and cut them off as they were hiking up the mountain.
One of the general themes of our time with this company was the importance of getting outside of your comfort zone. So many of us live our lives, day in and day out, being comfortable and it is hard to learn and grow if we do not challenge ourselves to do and to be more. This was a great example of being outside my comfort zone and tackling things I was not sure I could tackle. Now my horse and I are more prepared for the unexpected and we have raised the bar for our horsemanship. Donna Blem
Often I see people that are very uncomfortable being uncomfortable. I noticed over the years that the more uncomfortable I was, the more I was learning, which is a good thing. However, some common sense has to prevail because getting too far out there could mean the learning curve is too steep for where we are at that moment.
The horsemanship students that improve the quickest are the ones that welcome being out of their comfort zone. Everything should be done gradually, though, because the goal is to expose and expand, not explode and rebuild. If you are in a learning environment and feel uncomfortable and a little stretched, that would be a very good thing. The key to practice is to reach. If you try your hardest, what can you almost do? Reach beyond what your current abilities are. I read one time that when it comes to building talent, struggle is not an option, it is a biological necessity.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable – Glenn Stewart