Do I really need advice from Goldie the Goldfish Guru? Am I really that broken?

A lady came to see me recently.  She reads my musings and had braved the freezing cold weather to come over to the stables to give me a carrot. Yummy!

I could hear her chatting to Elizabeth. The gist of the conversation went along the lines of: there is such an overload of self-improvement information out there, not only from professionals in the field (no pun intended) to non-professionals in the field (pun intended). If horses are offering their advice, where will it end? Soon even goldfish will be giving advice to people. Do I really need all this advice? Am I really so broken?

Well, I’m not a goldfish, I observe and muse from my field only, not from an aquarium, so you will have to look elsewhere for advice from Goldie the Goldfish Guru!

BUT, my observations from my field tell me that many, many people wear themselves out (and with the domino effect their family, friends, and animals) by repeating the same old, same old time and time again.  Sometimes they do it without realizing it, and sometimes they are still waiting for a different outcome and are amazed when it never happens.

They have a poor ability to understand or to profit from experience.

I do realize that there is a self-help overkill going on. But this is what I think: Do I really need to work so hard on myself to fix myself? Am I that broken? Maybe, maybe not.

Self-help books, videos, DVDs etc. are not there with the intention of trapping you on the treadmill of self-help gurus. Nor are they there to make you focus on what is wrong with you (this usually backfires and creates more problems along self-loathing instead of enlightenment).

I believe self-help is not to be viewed as a tool to fix something that is broken, but more as a tool to provide motivation for you to master your life. That is your choice.

I see it as a tool which provides you with the power to know that you are not a victim of random fate.  It is for those who do not seek to blame others for their short-comings or perceived ill-fortunes, but who wish to rid themselves of their problems thereby living a better, fuller lifestyle – whatever their definition of that might be.  Whether in personal self-development or improving their dog training techniques!

It isn’t always necessary to repair what isn’t broken – i.e. what is wrong with me? Rather, it helps to provide a shift in perception of “what is wrong with me” to how can I do this differently to get improved results? This shift can help you rid yourself of repeated negative lifestyle choices which might have limited your success in the past.

This can apply to personal development, dog training, horse training (believe me, I know what I’m talking about on that score), and so on.

This shift in perception or awareness is the challenge you face if you wish to improve and free yourself of types of behaviour which might have held you back from successes in the past.

The bottom line is: ask yourself how much value is being added to your life by the advice of others!

Enjoy your ride.


(Photo: Mittinger

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Comfort zone or chicken?

As a horse, I am very much a creature of habit. I’m also a prey animal, which means my nature and instinct keep me on my toes looking out for any potential predator threats that might be cruising around somewhere on the edge of my field, waiting to take me by surprise.  That’s why I like being in the herd – safety in numbers. There are more equine eyes to keep a lookout for possible dangers!

Having said that, I do have my favourite place in the field where I like to relax and stand quietly in the sun. Just last week, all four  mares laid down at the same time to soak up some of the winter sunshine. We felt secure and safe in our field.

To give it a human expression, we were in our comfort zone.

People have great tendencies to get into comfort zones too. Sometimes they never get out of them. They resist any pressure put on them to get them out of their comfort zone. This pressure tends to bring up all sort of unwelcome fight-or-flight emotions like anger, fear, self-doubt and distrust.

It’s a bit like the feeling I have when I’m on the outside of my field without the rest of my herd members.  All I want to do is get back on the other side of the fence and into my comfort zone again.

How do you feel when something comes along that forces you out of your comfort zone?  Do you feel fight-or-flight emotions like anger, fear and distrust too?  Do you regard that as being bad for you?  Fear can bring with it a whole wheel-barrow full of emotions, which you feel you want to avoid at all costs.  So fear holds you back from doing things and then you never get the chance to find out if the fear is justified (assuming one doesn’t self-sabotage any intentions to get you out of the comfort zone in the first place!). You tend to create stories about how it is better for you if you don’t get out of your comfort zone.

But, maybe if you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you might never give yourself the chance to learn something new.  To learn something new, one has to have one’s senses heightened or stimulated in some way – “fear” can bring about this heightened awareness in the form of clarity and greater focus.

Now, I’m not implying that you should use fear as a primary motivator. Rather, I’m saying try not to let the fear make you miss learning opportunities you might have chance to experience through heightened awareness and clarity.

As young foal I rarely left my mother’s side. Then I was weaned. Now, with over twenty years experience of being away from my dam, I’ve learned a few things about fear. My comfort zone has expanded; I’ve learned not to be head-shy or frightened of things from above me. And I have even enjoyed the grass on the other side of the fence, without my herd mates.

I’ve learned that “It’s alright to have butterflies in your stomach. Just get them to fly in formation.” – Dr. Rob Gilbert, motivational speaker and sports psychologist

Enjoy your ride!


(Photo: Mittinger

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Don’t beat yourself up about it.

Tears began to well up behind her eyes and I knew she was beating herself up.

No, not one of my horse friends who share my field with me, but Emily. She’d received a far worse mark than she’d expected for some test or other at school. She couldn’t believe it. She’d practised hard for the test and she was devastated with her result.

She wrote herself off as being a FAILURE!

On top of that, she didn’t dare tell her mum Elizabeth about it, because she was in hospital and had been operated on only the day before. A double whammy for Emily.

Anyway, during the next visiting hours, Emily did tell Elizabeth about it, and do you know what Elizabeth said to Emily?

Firstly, she tried to placate Emily and tell her that although the results were disappointing, she must learn to stop seeing this as a problem with herself. The message being

There is no failure, only feedback!

And there’s the thing. Things hadn’t worked out as Emily had planned, so she went into a downward spiral of self-blame and calling herself a failure. Elizabeth told Emily that whatever happened in this case was neither good nor bad, nor in any way life threatening. It was only information.

When Emily was little and learning to ride me, Elizabeth lead me around with a lead rope. That didn’t mean that Emily had failed as a rider, just that she learned the results of learning to ride in that particular way. She gained confidence and now can ride very well without having to be lead around. It’s all a learning experience. She used the information or feedback each time to improve her riding skills.

So, Emily decided to talk to her teacher about it and gather more information from her as to why she had given Emily such a low mark.  Once she’d had this talk with the teacher and gathered information, she then worked on a plan for improving her grades in the next test. Step-by-step. Learning from what she observed and basing her actions upon what she’d learned.

I’m sure you are well aware of Thomas Edison who after trying 9,999 ways to perfect his electric light bulb, famously insisted that “I did not fail. I just discovered another way not to invent the electric light bulb”.

It is important to differentiate the processing of this information: if you have a sense of failure, your behaviour will always be affected adversely by the low self-image it creates. Lower-levels of achievement can then become your subconscious goal!

It’s your attitude that keeps you going. You learn from mistakes and can then turn the outcome, however painful or disappointing it might be at the time, to your advantage.

You start to recognize the behaviour that gets you results and adjust accordingly.

Emily can do it. And so can you.

Enjoy your ride.


(Photo: Mittinger

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Just let go .. and have a laugh doing it!

We had visitors in the stable last week. Some friends that The EEEs haven’t seen for a long time. (That’s Elizabeth, Ernst and Emily). They laughed a whole lot together.

It seemed to do them all a lot of good. Their laughter created a bit of a domino effect and the bonhomie and “positive” energy continued for a good while afterwards.

When was the last time you had a good laugh? I mean a thigh-slapping, roll on the floor laugh? Think back to that time. I’ll bet you are smiling just recalling it.

I don’t laugh myself, but I would if I could. I can see and feel the effects that laughter or the lack of it, has on the people in my life.

I have noticed that children laugh a lot more than adults. Adults don’t really seem to have all that much fun all that often. They tend to get caught up in all the negative things going on around them. Too much doom and gloom on the news, and hanging out with people who don’t inspire them to other things. It’s easy to succumb, I’m sure.

There are many scientific reports around which confirm that laughter is good for you, body and soul. Elizabeth was telling Emily about how laughing releases endorphins and decreases stress hormones.

What makes you laugh? If not laugh-out-loud funny, what gives you a feel-good buzz? I know Elizabeth has a few DVD compilations that she likes to watch or listen to when she needs a lift.

She also likes to get together with people who are jovial company, and don’t revel in doom and gloom and despondency.

Let go.  Lighten up – feeling better is just a thigh-slap away!

Without wanting to sound flippant, try to be light about your life. Try to find humour in situations where possible. Obviously without hurting others in the process.

Seven days without laughter makes one weak.  ~Mort Walker

Enjoy your ride.


(Photo: Mittinger

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Are you waiting for Hope? (And I don’t mean Bob!)

The other day I heard someone saying I live in hope. I’ve also heard Elizabeth say things like Hope springs eternal or Hope against hope.

The Macmillan on-line dictionary defines hope thus: [intransitive/transitive] to want and expect something to happen or be true and hope against hope thus: to hope that something will happen or be true, even though you know it is very unlikely

Being a horse I look for security in the herd and good leaders.  I’m not sure what this hope thing is but it seems to me there are two ways that human beings perceive hope:

There are those who spend their lives living in hope wishing for things to change. And there are others who provide hope and create a way of bringing about change.

I guess the difference between the two is what one does or does not do with hope.

Whichever way you look at it seems that there is some kind of scarcity involving hope!

For those who live in hope, it seems that there is a desperation characterized by them waiting for other people to provide the means for them to be happy. A passive activity. Are they playing a waiting game, I ask myself?

I can stand around passively on my field for quite a long time. But I am not living in hope. If I want to go and eat some grass then I have to go and do it. The grass is not going to come to me! I have to take action to get it. If I do not take action then I am not going to get my grass.

Disappointed describes a lot of people I have seen over the years. They have developed a longing for things they do not have.  They put a great deal of their energy into wishing and wanting and waiting. They live in a cycle of hope – expectation, disappointment and then … passive waiting.  They seem to think that they can do nothing about their lot in life but sit back and wait for things to happen.

The waiting game again.

Small children do not usually have a lot of patience. They do not know how to wait. Waiting is learned over the years: waiting in line, waiting for someone (usually adults, teachers, parents) to tell them what they should do. Into adult life which can be spent waiting for “it” – the sign to appear from heaven. When the sign does not appear, most people give up and go off and start the cycle of hope all over again feeling powerless over their situation.

Because, because, because …  because being “powerless” is a condition you have learned over the years to keep yourself  resisting what you really  can do for yourself right at this moment.

Instead of passively waiting for other people to provide the means for you to be happy, become the creator of your own hope. Take action. Arrange for it to happen!

Do you want to remain a wisher or become a creator? Work on creating a new awareness for yourself and of yourself.

Enjoy your ride!


(Photo: Mittinger

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Did you achieve those goals you set at the start of last year?

Did you stick with your plan? Or did you get sidetracked once more and forget about the goals you wanted to achieve?

Like horses, your mind is a creature of habit. It likes routine. To achieve your goals you have to shake up your mind and get it out of its cozy safety zone to create the motivation you need to achieve the goals you set yourself.

Either you develop a habit for becoming and remaining motivated and successful or you maintain the same habits and things stay the same as they are now.

For things to change you have to remove the mental blocks that are keeping things the same.

So, what is your goal? What is it that you have been meaning to do but never got round to?

Here is something to try: write down all the reasons or excuses that you come up with for not doing what you wanted to do. Your list might look something like this:

  • I have too many things to do.
  • I do not have enough time.
  • It will take me too long.
  • I will start next week or month or whenever.
  • I’ll finish this thing first then I’ll start on the next thing.
  • No-one understands me.
  • I have to spend time with my children, family etc.

Is your list of excuses for not sticking with your plan longer than the original list of goals you set yourself?

What happens is that you talk yourself out of doing something – the most common excuse or valid reason is time… I did not have the time. Or I’ll do it later.

As you know, later never does come. Things do not get done. If you are not aware of what is going on then later usually becomes NEVER!

You have very likely formed the habit of rationalizing why you have not got round to doing something. You have created your own excuses and convinced yourself that they are true! For example, you keep telling yourself I do not have enough time. You repeat this for long enough for it to become true for you. This is why you do not achieve your goals.

“Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself succeeding. Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade. Your mind will seek to develop this picture. Never think of yourself as failing; never doubt the reality of that succeeding mental image. The mind always tries to complete what it pictures.”  – The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale

The reason for not achieving your goals is not usually the lack of time. The usual reason is that you have bought into the excuse you have been making about not having enough time. You have convinced yourself you do not have enough time so you make sure you do not have enough time. You will indeed find other things to concentrate on instead of working towards your goals.

Now, break down how much time you spend commuting, working, cooking, doing homework with the children etc and find out just how much time you really do have left over each day.

If you invest just a few minutes a day working towards your goal then you will achieve more than if you do nothing. You have to re-school your mind and convince it that you do have enough time to get things done. Think of the reward of the result:

Remember: if you want something different, you have to DO something different.

In 2011:

  • Decide what you want to achieve.
  • Get rid of the excuses for not doing it.
  • Stop thinking about why you think you cannot achieve something and start thinking more about the end result.
  • Give your mind new instructions to help you stay motivated.
  • Keep telling yourself the reason why you want to achieve your goals!

When your mind tries to get you to give up ignore it. Push on regardless. Think how getting it done will improve your life.

The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them. – Jim Rohn

This year, put yourself in a shoe size bigger than you thought you could fill.

Enjoy your ride!


(Photo: Mittinger

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What you resist persists. Or, how good can you take it?

Often a negative thought cycle can begin with just one, thought-less, meaningless negative thought which can quickly spread like a bush fire. If this negative thought cycle is not checked it can serve to destroy your life.

You feel this way because you are used to having negative thoughts.

So, what’s to be done? Well, as this year comes to an end and people are doing the usual round of New Year resolutions, I have been looking back on 2010 and thinking it is time to give you a summary of my musings. These are especially for those of you who are still sitting on the fence as to how you can develop a solid base of self confidence and belief in yourselves.

Firstly, you need to know that you can develop belief in yourself. But you do have to want to and you have to learn to apply methods and techniques in order to to do so. The good news is that you can train yourself to stop struggling and learn  to believe that you are your own master and can take control of your circumstances.

Here are some random observations I have made whilst musing and er, observing from my field!

  • Stop indulging in excess – food, shopping, alcohol, hours of television are short-term fixes – “shiny new things” so to say, but for long term improvement you need to spend your spare time with more positive “therapies” that help you grow as a person.
  • Despite reinventing yourself, remember you are you. Compare yourself with yourself, not with others.  Who were you a year, a month, a day ago? Compare yourself with that and then move on from there. If you want to be successful, you have to learn to be comfortable in your own skin. As I have mentioned before, find out what you have to offer society and do it. You too have something good to offer your world.
  • Learn to take charge of your destiny: Make a list of things that are getting you down and develop a course of action to combat these things. Decide to make them a thing of the past.
  • Learn to trust your instincts. Find out what contributes best to your success and what does not. Learn from the conclusions you have reached.
  • Learn to speak well about yourself. Self-deprecating humor works for stand up comedians. Negative thoughts and negative thinking lead to a negative life. Learn to introduce positive statements about yourself. There is however, a fine line between modesty and being unbearable.
  • Learn not to let others affect you with their negative outlooks: be careful who you spend time with. Being around positive people that care about you can bring about great changes in your life. You cannot control what other people think so stop trying to. Improve yourself first. Your success will radiate to those around you.  Guilt is a learned emotion. In order to be good to others do not feel guilty about being good to yourself.
  • Learn to find out what it is you want to achieve and  not turn your back on what you are good at. Learn how to incorporate your talents into some part of your life. If you had dreams as a child, do not let your dreams die on you. If you do, you are on the way to becoming an “if only” person spouting I could have, I should have. It is up to you to make every day of your life count for something.
  • Moaning about your current life is giving you a hiding for nothing. If you don’t like it, then work towards changing it. Analyze where the need for change exists, base decisions and actions on the results of that analysis. Make tomorrow a better day.
  • Learn to become “unstoppable”. Everyone has fears and doubts at the start of the course, but when you jump over the first fence and learn to push aside your fears and self-doubts things can become easier. Our fears are usually based on the unknown. Yesterday is history. What you are looking for might be on the other side of the fence you have to jump.  Be prepared for twists and turns along the way.
  • What you resist persists: learn to embrace change and transition. What worked before might not work now for the new and improved you as you become more receptive to new things. Accept success unconditionally. You have a valuable contribution to make to this society so decide what it is and make your voice heard. By that I don’t mean become loud and boorish. We horses are sensitive creatures and generally do not like loud people or situations. I mean learn to speak up for yourself. Let your strengths and wisdom come through.  Outer strengths reflect inner confidence.
  • It is always easier to see the bad in people and this can become a persistent habit. Look for the good. Look for the silver lining. Look for the up after the down. Look for the positive after the negative.
  • Learn to not let your emotions master you. This is a huge one and one that Elizabeth is still learning. Emotions can often muddy the facts. Learn to analyse a situation. Obtain information and then work towards solutions. Losing your way in emotional reactions gets you no-where fast. They are a waste of energy and time which could be better spent elsewhere.
  • Learn to develop a sense of pride. Which do you prefer – people to feel sorry for you or that people notice your confidence and abilities? Think Rocky: be someone who bounces back after taking a hit, rather than going down and staying down.
  • Learn to take charge of your life. Take responsibility for your future. If you rely on others to do it for you, it might just never happen. It is your responsibility to make your life as good as you can take it. Look out for the things you want and need to make your life better.  Learn to recognize opportunity when it comes knocking and grab hold of it and make it work for you.
  • Learn to use positive words and phrases. Your attitude is an extension of your  thoughts and beliefs. Let problems become challenges and the past become history.

Get started today and life might seem just a little more manageable.

Today and everyday think of all the great things that are taking place in your life.

Enjoy your ride!


(Photo: Mittinger

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