Cloudy, Dark Agility Days – Part 2, by Bonny Quick

This blog is a continuation from Part 1, which you can read here.

Every now and then when I’m training someone, I realise that the thing that’s really blocking them from improving is their attitude. Often that is characterised by them avoiding situations where they consider a ‘failure’ might occur, because they are afraid of the self-inflicted consequences.

Our attitude can make us unable to benefit and grow from going ‘wrong,’ unable to laugh in the face of our errors instead of crumble – because we are too busy inflicting mental self-harm.

As a trainer, this is one of my worst-case scenarios. When I train someone whose attitude is too self-punishing, too frightened of ‘failing’… well it’s like trying to teach a dog to be fast and confident when it’s under a cloud of anxiety or nervousness. Building up the confidence, changing the attitude, becomes far more important than repeating handling or dog skills.

Attitude counts for so much. Our attitude to our dog. Our attitude when we practise. Our attitude to and perception of what we believe to be ‘failure’. Our attitude towards ourselves.

Like clouds – our attitudes are constantly changing, shifting… and this happens whether or not we are aware of those changes. Sometimes the first step is just to be conscious of our ever-shifting attitude – because our attitude shapes our experiences and what we do or do not gain from each event in our lives.

If you are going to try to win, at some point you are going to lose. Trust me on that. Your stepping stones to success are going to be built of failures. That’s not a bad thing. It’s necessary. So you have a choice… we all do.

We either deny ourselves the pleasure of trying, of trying again… and then of trying harder. Or we go for it – with some awareness of our attitude – and with an ambition to embrace fortitude, even though we recognise that sometimes we won’t feel strong or resilient. And that’s okay too.

We’re all going to not win, at some point. And yes, we are all going to beat ourselves up about it on some occasions. I’m not going to always greet every mess up with a grin. No way. Next time I mess something up big time there will be at least a few moments where I am self-critical. It’s really useful! It allows me to learn, develop and get better.

But I try then to notice it, to realise what I’m doing, and be like – woah! Job done now. And then treat myself a little like I treat my dogs… You haven’t lost, Bonny; you’ve learned. So you’ve been clever there, Bonny. Nice one, good job! “Reward! REWARD!”

There’s a mental habit I now incorporate into my routine. At the end of every run I always spend some time rewarding my dog – whether we just got eliminated or went into first place. During that time, I am aware of mentally rewarding me too. Win or lose, I always did something well, just like my dog did, and I allow myself a few moments to recognise and appreciate that.

Hey you! Nice one!

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