I entered the arena on a rainy late winter day wearing a pair of borrowed chaps and a crisp new cowboy hat pinching my forehead. It had been twenty years since my last competition of any kind, horseback riding or otherwise, and I was nervous. Would I remember the pattern and all the rules? Would my I cue my horse correctly? Would I make a fool of myself? The answers all no, respectively and seemingly conversely.
But really it’s not so strange that even with my highly imperfect performance, I was not made the fool. Instead, the pressure of competition flexed my mental muscles of focus, grit, and confidence. I could practice riding until my legs fell off. But without competition to test my mettle, the skills practiced would eventually atrophy.The pressure of competition flexes our mental muscles of focus, grit, and confidence.Click To Tweet
Competition is healthy whether it’s physical or professional. It is a way to supercharge and laser-focus our personal growth. Challenges give all our practice time a purpose. Here’s why you should foster your own competitive streak today.
Competition is Healthy and Stymies Stagnation
Public competition serves several purposes.
First, I get to find out how well I’m really doing and get better at it. Nothing like getting your butt handed to you at a competition to focus your next twenty practice sessions and motivate you to do better. Not that I would know anything about that.
Second, I get to share my passion with friends and family. Seeing other people lit up by what they are doing, risking their ego and often their money to pit themselves against others who are similarly lit up, is inspiring.
This is true even if you don’t ride horses or ski or mountain bike or whatever they are doing. Watching my friends run marathons, start small businesses, and generally take risks for their passions inspires me to do the same for mine.
Third, the world needs people who are lit up right now. Now is not the time to ostrich in the sand, heads down just hoping that by doing internal work the external progress will follow.
We need to make our work external, subject to crucible of public opinion and possible (let’s face it, probable) failure. Others (and our kids) need to see us out there getting bloody for what we believe so they will do the same for their beliefs. No pain no gain. No risk no reward.The world needs people who are lit up right now. We need the crucible of public opinion and failureClick To Tweet
We Need to Dare Greatly to Know a Great Life
Brené Brown calls the act of displaying your talents publicly, opening yourself up to ridicule and praise, “entering the arena.” She pulled the phrase from Teddy Roosevelt’s famous speech about the Man in the Arena.
The analogy evokes images of bloody gladiators striving valiantly despite the odds. In fact, if you aren’t in the arena, Brown believes you should keep your comments to yourself. If you aren’t out there, risking your neck for what you believe, then your sideline quips bear no relevance.
Moreover, to paraphrase Rosevelt, only the one out there “daring greatly” will know life’s “great enthusiasms.” There is no high without risking the low.
I am a perpetual practicer and learner. Collecting information like a little girl with shells on the beach, I catalog each fact and idea. I burnish them with repeated use until they shine in my mind so bright I need only glance toward them to recall them.
My own barometer of mastery determines if I aced my subject. I can then pat myself on the back, and go on my way without any outside critique. It is safer that way, bloodless.
And really, that’s fine. But this is my one wild and precious life and fine is not good enough. I have more to contribute than feeling content with myself.This is my one wild and precious life and fine is not enough. I want more than feeling content.Click To Tweet
Find Your Arenas and Get in There!
Your arena could be a 5K run that you really RUN, trying to get a novel published, or joining the Masters Swim and doing some meets. Whatever it is that makes you a little bit scared and a lot motivated, that is your arena.
This blog is one of my arenas. It is way outside of my comfort zone to write publicly about my life and experiences with health and wellness. The whole marketing and promotion side is very difficult for an introvert like me. But I love sharing practical tips for personal growth in the hopes that it will help another Mama, so I keep on.
The reining show I mentioned at the start was a big step into actual competition too. For those of you who have never seen a reining competition, the rider executes a memorized pattern usually consisting of of circles of various speeds at the lope, flying lead changes, spinning the horse, and a stop where your horse slides for ten or twenty feet.
Reining done well, as it is in this video, is exciting, fast, and flawless. It almost looks easy. It is not easy.
Overturn your spin by a quarter and your score for the entire run is a zero. Back up more than two steps accidentally and your score is zero. Touch a rein with your other hand, turn the wrong way, forget the pattern you’re supposed to execute that you just learned 20 minutes ago: zero, zero, zero.
So guess what I got? A zero! My horse gets excited in competitions and moves quickly. So when I miscued her even the slightest bit she backed up like her front feet were on fire. Four steps back before I could blink and then I instinctively touched my rein with my other hand. Zero!
But other than that, I rode her well, kept her calm and collected, which is no small feat, and stopped her good and deep at the end. I finished well and I’m proud of that. I’m already looking forward to my next show.
Regardless of the context, I know that competition is healthy for me and my personal growth journey. Every time I put myself in the “arena” I learn more than I ever could just practicing on my own. I hope that I inspire others to test their abilities too. Mostly I hope I inspire my daughter who loved getting mama’s 5th place pink ribbons from her ranch riding class. Above all else, I need to light up in this world for her.
How do you put yourself out there in the world? What’s your arena? I’d love to hear in the comments!
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