The evolution of goals

I’ve always struggled with goal-setting. It wasn’t something I practiced much when I was young. I never sat down with a trainer or coach or teacher and discussed what I wanted to achieve or how I would do so. Usually, I’d decide I wanted to do something- compete at a show, attempt a Pony Club rating, enter the state agri-science fair- and I would do it. Sometimes it would work out. I had a lot of successful shows, I was a C-2 Pony Clubber, I won the state agri-science fair. There were more times it didn’t work out, though. I failed my C-2 rating once. I had lots and lots of terrible-to-mediocre shows. It never occurred to me that I could be devising better plans and practices for accomplishing things I wanted to achieve!

This sort of laissez-faire attitude about goals has persisted in my adult life, despite the fact that I know a lot more about goal-setting than I used to. Over the years, I’ve attempted to fix that attitude. I set them enthusiastically in 2017, 2016, and 2015. And I accomplished many of them, and that definitely felt good!

Scenes from this weekend’s New Year’s trail ride.

Looking back on those goals is helpful, because I have the perspective of time to show me what did and didn’t work over the years. Setting a ton of ultra-specific goals does not work for me. More general goals that have multiple paths to success is better for me. I’ve also noticed that over time, my goals have become less demanding. Instead of saying, “I will lose 50 pounds,” my goals are now things like, “I will go to yoga class three times per week,” and “I will eat at home five nights per week”. These softer goals are better for my mental health, I think.

Horse-specific goals are harder for me to set these days. Moe and Gina basically have no competitive goals; I would like them to remain sound and happy and suited for trail riding and hunting as long as possible. That’s not something I have a ton of control over, though. I can make sure they have appropriate veterinary and farrier care and are kept in good condition. But they’re still old. Candy is difficult for me to get excited about. I should probably sell her because I don’t like her that much and have yet to persuade Johnny of the necessity of a fourth horse. Candy intrigues me and I continue to plug away with the same dogged optimism that permeates the rest of my life. It’s hard to be enthusiastic and set lofty goals for such a tough horse, though.

I also don’t have any huge, ambitious goals right now. Things like a USDF Bronze Medal seem so far away as to be pointless, and while once upon a time, my life goal was to ride at Kentucky, I’ve concluded that’s unrealistic and possibly too scary. I love foxhunting, enjoy trail riding, and don’t feel like I need to accomplish anything. I’m happy (even if parts of this post don’t sound like it, haha), and isn’t that the ultimate goal?

That’s not to demean my fellow bloggers to who are all about the goals- please don’t read it that way! I love seeing what people are doing and how they’re doing it. It’s inspiring and it often gives me new ideas and perspectives. I can’t wait to see what’s accomplished in 2019, whether it’s earning a Silver Medal, moving up to a new level, or simply enjoying the ride.

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

6 thoughts on “The evolution of goals”

  1. i feel ya. generally, goal setting for me is directly related to my current motivation and enthusiasm levels for that specific idea. otherwise, it doesn’t really seem worth forcing it. sorry that Candy hasn’t developed into the exciting and inspiring horse you hoped for – wishing you luck in figuring out what makes the most sense for the future of that partnership!

    1. Current enthusiasm and motivation is DEFINITELY a big part of why I don’t have much in the way of goals right now! I am sorry about Candy, too- I don’t mind keeping her and seeing what happens, but it would be nice to have something to get excited about!

  2. I think goal setting is really dependent on a lot of things. For me, I’m in a similar boat with a couple of aged horses and one that’s only partly mine. I can’t set goals for the old dudes. The only goal really is to keep them happy and comfortable (and you know… alive). I totally relate to where you’re coming from with Candy too. I’ve been in that position with horses before too. For me, it was better to find them a new (safe!) home and move on, because I really do want to compete, and the ones I had that weren’t working for me would not have done that for me.
    Anyway, I think deciding to just enjoy the ride is not copping out on goals. Being happy is probably the major goal in life, don’t you think?

  3. I’m the same way. And after life punched me in the face, often my goal is “survive a day without major breakdowns,” so hey, success is relative! For me & the way I think about & work with my horses, too, what I actually do with them on any particular day depends on where they are that day & I need to be open & flexible to that. I think that gives space for more successes to, because then I don’t have to say “I failed today,” (cause really I’m an expert at that daily, ha) instead I can say “I succeeded at something else today.”

  4. The funny thing is I don’t think those goals are softer per say as they are specific action oriented goals that you layout strictly what you will do “Losing 50lbs” is nebulous at best – how will you do it? when will you do it? Are there milestones along the way?

    I love goal setting but can see how it can turn quickly to negatively reinforcing mindset in people – more than anything we need to be kinder when we fall a bit at our goals and know that they are just a tool like any fork or spoon. They don’t dictate our life or our enjoyment of our life, but they may help give some structure to our day to day.

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