The mental flexibility required at the moment is immense. The world is in a state of flux, and change is now a daily occurrence. Staying balanced during this time is a feat of mental gymnastics. Letting go of pre-conceptions is a huge part of mental flexibility. Making the most of what you can do, rather than hankering after the unobtainable is a life lesson in happiness.
This lesson can be applied to anything. This week I had to let go of my notion about how long my child should do swimming lessons for, as it is simply not practical to do swimming lessons during this time. Once I had let go of this fixed idea in my mind, other possibilities opened, other sports that are less restricted than swimming. It was a prime example in the merit of letting go.
The same applies in our schooling sessions. Sometimes we can come out with a fixed idea of what we want to work on today. And sometimes it will go to plan, but other days it simply won’t. At this point you are left with two options; battle away with your horse because, that’s what you had decided to do, or, take a step back, let go of your fixed idea and do something else. This is not “letting your horse win” or “not standing up to them” it is simply having a plan b. A lesson learnt through force and stubbornness will never be as effective as one learnt through enthusiasm and collaboration. So letting go, may be the best thing you ever do.
Be kind to yourself, the world is a complicated place, always and even more so at the moment, but learning to let go of your fixed ideas, will help you to flex and adapt in a rapidly changing world.
It’s too hot…I struggle in the heat, my brain hurts, I can’t do what I usually do and have to change my day around so that I do all the outside things early and late rather than during the day as I usually do. Flexibility, that skill that is so important at the moment, becomes even more important during hot weather.
Flexibility, the ability to adapt easily to changing circumstances, is, I think, one of the most important skills that we can learn. I think they should teach children flexibility in school rather than some of the things that they seem to spend their time doing. That would be a far more useful lesson, than how an oxbow lake is formed (literally the only lesson I can remember from geography at school, and has had no practical application ever in my life, whereas mental flexibility I need every day and have never been taught!)
At the moment we need flexibility every day, every hour, as the world and our circumstances change in a kaleidoscope of chaos. Applying flexibility to our horses is just as important as applying flexibility to our own lives. If you bring your horse out to school him and you had planned to a particular exercise that your trainer had given you, it is important to make sure that that exercise is relevant for this day. If it is an exercise to stop your horse rushing, but your horse is very sluggish when you try to school him that day, the exercise is no longer relevant. It is better to think of a new exercise than simply to carry on with the other exercise, because that was what you had planned.
So the next time you come out to ride, make sure you are responding to how your horse is today, and training him from there, rather than simply following your plan. People change, horses change, we need to be flexible to adapt to what is before us.
In this brave new world, it is okay not to be okay. It is okay to feel like you cannot cope. It is okay to struggle. None of us were prepared for this. No strategy devised for keeping ourselves happy and healthy ever had these restrictions placed upon it. But time will pass, this will end. Remember, every day that passes, we get one day closer to the end.
Humans are incredibly adaptable. Already people have come up with new ways of living, new strategies to get them through their days. We are, when faced with no other choice, remarkably inventive. I hope that you have found new ways to be, new ways to cope in this new world.
Share your tricks and tips with others. If we all have one good idea and share them, imagine how many good ideas we will have altogether? Lots! Anything that works for you, whether it is a game that you are playing with your horses, or a way to make baked beans taste more interesting…
Discard the old rules that you had. I have always had screen time limits with my child, not any longer! In the grand scheme of things another hour spent watching television is not the end of the world. Most of the rules that we held were designed for a world we are no longer living in. You need to flex with the changing circumstances, you need to change according to what is happening in front of you.
The only thing that shouldn’t ever change is kindness. Today we need kindness more than ever. We need to not judge others, offer help if people are struggling, check in with your neighbours, your family, your friends, your work colleagues. Everyone will be coping with this differently, but everyone is affected, in some way.
There are no words for this time. We have no map to follow for this time. All the normal rules no longer apply. The ways we previously lived our lives, filled our time, occupied ourselves no longer work. The world is different, shockingly so.
All we can is adapt, and then adapt some more. Never has the ability to be flexible been more essential. Human beings are endlessly flexible, we do adapt and change to our unique circumstances, and more extraordinarily we get used to it really quickly. Within a matter of weeks this strange new world that we are inhabiting will become our new normal.
So all we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep going, keep smiling, keep being imaginative in how we meet the challenges before us. And this time will pass, we will look back on it in wonder at how we coped. But we will cope. Better than we think we will.
Please be sensible during this time. I know it is boring, but now is not the time to try and back that nice 3 year. The NHS need us to stay out of hospitals. I know it is so tempting if you aren’t at work, the sun is shining and there is your 3 year old all ready and waiting. But really don’t!
There will be plenty of time later, there will be time to do everything that you want to do. But now is not that time. Now is the time to follow the guidelines, do what you are told and be sensible!
Please look after yourselves, stay safe, look after those around you, the elderly and the vulnerable. Shop from small local businesses, support your friends, neighbors and family. At this time of separation we are more connected than ever.
…and I’m not just talking about your joints! Flexible joints are great and definitely worth working towards for both our riding and our general well-being, however a flexible mind is a fantastic thing to aim towards.
A flexible mind means that you can cope with the unexpected, roll with the waves. A flexible mind makes you adaptive and gives you the ability to respond intelligently to change. A flexible mind gives you a brilliant tool to cope with the changeable nature of the world.
You had planned to go for a hack on Sunday. You had decided on the route, and really wanted to do it, but then you looked at the weather forecast. It is forecast to be really windy. An inflexible mind thinks “but I’m going for a hack, because that is my plan.” This could lead to all sorts of disasters, such a scary hack, a spooky horse, loss of confidence. A flexible mind might think, “how annoying, never mind, why don’t I go some ground work instead.” This approach means that you have a good session with your horse despite the inclement weather and then the following weekend when the weather is better, you have a nice hack.
You can see the effects of an inflexible mind and the problems it can cause. Whereas a flexible mind allows you to adapt better to changing circumstances. And remember that flexible thinking is a skill, so can be learnt. If you just read that and thought “I can’t do that!” that is a great example of an inflexible thought!
If you think being more mentally flexible would help, here is a link to an article about it (click here). Remember small changes make all the difference, we can’t transform ourselves overnight and also we are all doing the best that we can do, so that we can be the best versions of ourselves.