When we procrastinate, we usually try to put off something that is hard or isn’t much fun in exchange for something easier. Procrastination is something we are all guilty of. Taking the easy road seems less painful at the time, but over the years I have learned that it usually isn’t.
Running barrels and training, I have always had certain horses that are more enjoyable to ride than others. Some horses learn faster, and some horses are more difficult to train. The more difficult horses may have just as much athletic ability as the others, but it usually takes more time to teach them new things, and they require twice as much riding.
I used to catch myself putting off training my younger horses or the more difficult ones until the end of the day, because they usually take more time. By the end of the day, after riding all my others, I often found myself making excuses. It became easy to put off riding that tougher horse until tomorrow, because I could rationalize that he was just young, I had more time, I won’t be as tired tomorrow, a day off might be good for him—on and on. A day off became two, then a week, and pretty soon that young horse was also fresh.
What is interesting though is when I look back at every day I put off riding him, I actually ended up thinking about him more than the others. That downward spiral of procrastination took focus off the rest of the horses, even though I wasn’t spending near as much time actually riding the harder one. I wasn’t doing any of the horses any favors by wasting all my thoughts putting off this horse’s training. I knew I had to change my way of doing things.
In years past, whether it was schoolwork, a job to be done, or loading the trailer, I often found myself putting it off until the very last minute. I might procrastinate for weeks, and the whole time I was filled with a sense of dread for what I knew was going to be difficult. The problem became bigger in my mind than it actually was. Once I finally tackled the project, I felt instantly relieved. It was never as bad as I thought it would be, and the days of worry had all been for nothing.
After really thinking this through, I decided I would make a change and ride the difficult horse first. I noticed right away I no longer worried about him as much. I was in a better frame of mind, which sped up his training. I quickly found it didn’t take as long for him to learn new things, and my day was smoother and more enjoyable since I didn’t spend my energy dreading a hard task.
This mindset changed my whole attitude. I learned when I put the hard tasks before the easy ones, it helped me eliminate all the unnecessary stress on my horse and myself. When I knew I did not have time to ride him, I saddled and tied him or did 15 minutes of ground work. The horse improved and quickly became less of a chore, and I found myself free to focus on the other horses’ training more. This improved my state of mind and helped me be a better trainer as well.
Over the years, I have learned your mind is so powerful. You can choose to be positive or negative. By procrastinating on hard projects, you hold so much worry and negative thoughts that it’s hard to stay positive. Once you are past them, you have more energy to focus on everything you enjoy doing. It’s never too late to resolve to stop putting off the tough horses. You will be amazed at how this little change can help your overall outlook, and you might find the difficult ones weren’t such big problems after all.
This article was originally published in Sherry Cervi’s monthly World Champion Reflections column in BHN throughout 2014 following Cervi’s 2013 world title.