Embrace the Messiness

by | Jun 7, 2020 | goal setting, mindset | 1 comment

I took a riding lesson this week that challenged me to figure things out and get comfortable being uncomfortable.

There was an angled line that went vertical – 5 strides – oxer – 5 strides – vertical. I haven’t ridden an angled line like this for several years. I’ve been in the show jumping world, and then my event horse was young and green. Amazing how time flies!

When my coach told me the plan, my first reaction was to say, “I haven’t done that in a long time.” That statement was code for “please break this down into smaller steps so I won’t mess it up.”

I’m positive my coach understood my subtle message but chose to challenge me. “You’ll remember. Find your line and go forward to it.”

I had to take a few courage circles. I wasn’t nervous for my physical safety. The courage circles were to find the gumption to push forward and do something I wasn’t sure would go as planned. To push forward and do something with confidence, that I wasn’t confident about.


“Courage circles to push forward and do something I wasn’t sure would go as planned. I need to do something with confidence I wasn’t confident about.”


I messed up the first two times. Jumped the vertical and my horse drifted left, so he was off the angled line. I got too caught up in managing straightness through my reins instead of my legs and couldn’t stay on course.


I felt a sense of panic. Or was it shame? I messed it up. I knew I needed it broken into smaller pieces. This was a bad plan. What if I messed it up again?

But my coach wasn’t yielding. She again reminded me that once upon a time I was good at this and needed to flow forward. I would find the flow.

Deep breath.

One voice in my head said, “what if you mess up again?”

Another voice said, “but what if you don’t?”

And then I remembered. Part of getting control of our mind is to choose control. This is one of those simple but hard rules. To be confident, you must choose confidence, even if you don’t feel it. You’ve got to tell the shadow voice that says “what if” or “should” or “can’t” to STOP TALKING.

I took a deep breath and reminded myself to come back to the present moment. Feel my horse and see the line. It’s not about what I didn’t do last time, or what I might mess up next time. It’s about what I feel right now. It’s about staying focused on this moment, stride-by-stride.

I cantered into the line. Visualized a long balance beam on my track and focused on the fence post at the end my imaginary beam. Ride towards that post. Don’t take my eyes off it. Let the energy flow and go forward.

It worked like a charm. Pangloss and I did it well! As I went over the third element I felt something click. It was like my body remembered how to ride angled lines, like riding a bike. Turns out my coach was right. I just needed to find the flow.

To be a better rider and athlete, learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. This is one of the hardest things for adult amateurs. We often want to break things down, practice pieces and parts, and make sure we’re “ready.” Adults don’t like to mess up.

Embrace the messiness. That’s where the learning happens.

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1 Comment

  1. Becky Desmond

    Excellent blog. I also think that the horse, as an athlete, would also find confidence in success during a “messy” moment. Then it knows what it can do when the less-than-perfect fence comes up. (Not talking about a disaster waiting to happen, just those jumps that aren’t perfect.

Hi, I’m Shelley!

My exercise philosophy is simple – consistency beats perfection, strength should radiate from our core outward, and short, high intensity workouts are awesome. I’ve been a physical therapist for almost 20 years and see so many people struggle with consistency, accountability, and injury. Intrepid Wellness was born out of a desire to help people gain confidence, embrace the importance of fitness, and go after their goals.