Tip of the Month: How to Focus Productively
by Daniel Stewart
Keeping your mind focused on what’s productive (like your show goals) instead of what’s destructive (like previous disappointments) can be quite easy if you know how to do it. Question suggestion is an interesting mental training tool that can help you stay focused on that task. The rationale behind it is that asking leading questions like, “What can I do to relax?” is better than simply telling yourself what to do like, “Quit freaking out!” Leading questions stimulate your mind to look for answers. For example, ask yourself “How can I stay focused at a show?” and you might come up with answers like, “Take a few deep breaths/recall a positive memory,” etc.
Another reason to consider question suggestion is that the productive answers to your questions seem to have a way of filling up your mind so that there’s no room left for negative random thoughts. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, self-directed questions like these stimulate your mind to search for a solution to a problem rather than allowing it to be consumed by the problem itself. Here are a few tips on creating positive questions:
- Get into the habit of always asking questions that begin with the words how and what because they tend to direct your answers towards solutions. For example, “How can I remain calm?” can be answered with, “Repeat a motivating motto like ‘Keep calm, ride on.’”
- Always avoid asking questions that begin with the word why because they can direct your answers towards the problem. For example, “Why do I always get so nervous?” is often answered with something like, “Because my horse keeps refusing and everyone’s better than me!”
- Never answer your questions with the words, “I don’t know!” You can do this by pausing for a brief moment after asking the question so you can look for the answer. Rush your response however, and you might not have the time to find it (resulting in the dreaded “I don’t know!”)
- Ask yourself leading questions about how you look and/or feel. For example, “What do I look like when I’m confident?” or “How do I feel when I’m focused?” Once you’ve created these mental images in your mind, change your body language to match it.
Always remember that when it comes to mental focus: The results you get often depend on the questions you ask!
Published July 2013 Issue
The Northwest Horse Source is an independently owned and operated print and online magazine for horse owners and enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines in the Pacific Northwest. Our contemporary editorial columns are predominantly written by experts in the region, covering the care, training, keeping and enjoyment of horses, with an eye to the specific concerns in our region.