I was ten years old, learning how to ride a horse at camp. The key difference between western and eastern style riding, I was finding out very quickly, was posting while trotting. In western riding, you kind of just held on for dear life while bouncing around. In eastern riding, I had to figure out how to rise halfway up in my seat and then go down, in rhythm with the horse. “Just don’t overthink it," the well-meaning counselor said to me. Little did she know that those words would just cause me to overthink it even more. I ended up trying so hard to sync up with the horse that I leaned too far to the side and slid right off. It all happened so fast that I was stunned. 'I was trying to do everything right,' I silently screamed inside my head, as I fought back tears. You can guess what my counselor said to me next, right? “It’s okay, Julie. You’ve just got to get back on that horse now!”
I love the feeling of setting goals and intentions. It can be around New Years, a new month, a new season, a new project, a new hobby - you name it. Whenever I start something, I feel amazing. For the first full week and a half to be precise I am on fire, and nothing can stop me.
Until life inevitably does. I get a migraine headache, or someone needs my help, or I’m just too tired, and I don’t do whatever I said I was going to do every day. Suddenly, I’m filled with self-loathing, up to my neck in guilt, and I’m wallowing in my bed, watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy. That’s alright, you won’t get any judgment from me. I know we’ve all been there. That’s why I want to offer you a few tips on how to get back on that proverbial horse when you’ve been bucked off (or you just slid off gradually like I did).
· Eliminate the shame, self-loathing, and guilt. For me, that’s the toughest part when I don’t follow through on something I said I would do. That shame, self-loathing, and guilt keeps me panicked and pinned down, unable to move forward. Once I let go and accept the fact that things didn’t work out as well as I had hoped they would, I can move forward.
· Write it down. Whatever you’re feeling, just write it all down. Don’t worry about how it looks, how it sounds, or how mortified you would feel if anyone read it. Just write it all down, and then crumple, rip, or burn that piece of paper (if you can do it safely). Once you’ve gotten out your emotions about your setback, you can move on.
· Take a very small action. For me, sometimes it starts with a very small piece of whatever I wanted to accomplish. Instead of telling yourself you’re useless until you write that novel, try writing a page. Instead of saying you just need to run that marathon, try running a mile. You get it. Little actions propel you forward, and big to-do lists can be stifling.
· Be gentle with yourself. Look, I know you really want to beat yourself up right now, but trust me (I know from experience) it won’t actually help. You already know that you didn’t reach your goal. Don’t belabor the point, alright?
Once I got over my shame and disappointment that I couldn’t trot perfectly on my first try, I did get back on that horse, with one simple goal: to stay on this time. I’m proud to say that not only did I stay on, but once I was focusing my attention elsewhere, my camp counselor called out, “Nice posting, Julie!”