Episode 159: 5 steps to blow your own mind

What would happen if you got in the habit of surprising yourself with what you are capable of? The more you surprise yourself with what you can do…the more you can open your mind to what is possible.
What if the SIDE EFFECT of your measurable goals…is who you want to become? What if confidence is a byproduct?

1- pick something that excites you and scares you a little
2-decide why you want to do it
3- decide why you haven’t done it yet
4- list as many steps as you can think of now (this won’t be accurate)
5- decide if you want to commit
AND…YOU MUST know in your bones if you’re willing.
Otherwise it’s ok to start over with a new goal.




Stacy Westfall: Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I help riders become confident, communicate clearly, and get better results with their horses. This week I’m talking about the power to blow your own mind by doing something that you currently think is impossible. Can you think of something that you’ve done where you were totally amazed that you achieved it? If nothing pops into your mind don’t worry, you are in the perfect position to blow your own mind. In the first six months of 2022, I think getting in the habit of surprising yourself with what is possible is magical. Last week, I shared my idea about being thankful for something that you’ve created. And I want you to actually pause for just a moment and think about that idea. You created something. I think it’s so interesting to think about something you’ve created lately. I think it’s really fascinating that we actually create new things every day, and I think we overlook them and the practice of overlooking them or downplaying them is actually why we’re not as amazed at the whole process of creation. Let’s go non-horsey for a moment. If you think about it, if you write a note to a friend, if you make a gift for someone for Christmas, if you cook dinner for someone, especially when I think about Thanksgiving dinner and the preparation that typically goes into something like that, it is actually very likely that you create something new every day. And I think the habit of people downplaying what they create, what they have to offer, what they put into the world, I think it kind of stems from the same thing that I was talking about in last week’s episode, which is people are often worried about feeling vain or narcissistic if they think in these lines. So here’s a way of thinking about it that might–might work for you. What if instead of thinking that you were vain when you thought about, Wow, look at what I created, instead of thinking that what if you thought, I’m a human having a human experience? Sometimes I create amazing things. Sometimes I make a mess. I think that more people are comfortable accepting the idea that they make a mess than with the idea that they create amazing things. So maybe it could just be an exercise to try both of them on. Maybe you could think that the human experience was creating amazing things and sometimes making a mess. Both of them, I do both of them. I’m willing to accept that. So maybe that’ll help break into just the edge of accepting some of this because here’s what I know. When you start looking at yourself as a creator, it makes it easier for you to see how you could create more things. And like I mentioned in the last podcast, if you can give yourself credit for the things you create, it matters because then you can look at it more clearly. You can see what worked, what didn’t work, what you could do better. It can change your life if you’re not afraid to embrace both sides of the learning, the good and the bad, the–the amazing things you create in the messes that you’ll sometimes create. When I was reflecting on this, I thought, you know, I want to give some examples. So I looked back and thought about my students that joined me in 2021 inside of my programs and some of the things that they created. And it was interesting because I was talking to one the other day and I said, Can you believe if you went back to January 1st if I said, you’re going to do this by the end of this year would you believe it? And it’s so cool to have people be like, Wow, no, if I go back to January, I would not believe that I accomplished that. And yet here they are today and they’ve accomplished it. So here are some of the things that I saw my students do. I had one that learned to train her own yearling and she took it from–it was really funny–it was one of the videos that I get sometimes, and it’s a little bit of a nail biter like I’m watching it and the and the yearling is kind of dragging her around. And that’s where she started. And in three weeks, she taught it to lunge with excellent ground tie, tie to the wall, haul in the trailer. It was amazing the progress that she made with this yearling. And then I had another one who learned how to navigate fear because she was retraining a horse that was beginning to rear pretty consistently. And another one learned how to trust her intuition while transitioning to different riding locations. So her horse was pretty good at home but moving to different locations would bring up a lot of different things, and she actually conquered riding at a location that had previously been terrifying. And then not only did she ride there comfortably, she was even able to go there and ride on this horse that she had previously been afraid to go to this location and ride, and she was riding the one horse while ponying yet another horse. She really conquered that. Then there’s another one that, you know, learned how to dream bigger and took a lot of action steps with her horse right now. But one of the things that came up was the idea of competing someday in the Western Dressage World Show. And this was like a mind-blowing idea. And there were all kinds of reasons why that might not be a logical choice. But at the same time, she embraced it enough to buy a plane ticket and go down to Oklahoma and attend this year’s world show to make the longer-term goal of showing. They’re easier to imagine because now she’s been to the location, so there’s immediate action even on these things that aren’t like checklists done yet. And yet that is a checklist that’s being done. And another thing that comes to mind is a student that wanted to show in Western dressage but didn’t have the area the access to do it right now, and so made the cones, measured out the arena, and recorded and entered a virtual Western Dressage show. When you stop and think about the dedication that takes just to, you know, decide that you’re going to do that to create the the–the cones, the arena to go to practice, and to do all of that stuff on your own, it’s pretty amazing. And although these students all had amazing results in this kind of like checklist achievement side what is really impressive to me is who they became. And so it’s so interesting, sometimes we want things like confidence and it’s like, well, how do you do a checklist for confidence? It’s actually these–these two things, they work together. When you set goals, then you can find out what you need to do to become the person that can reach that. And so often in the achievement of these more checklist kind of a goal, physical action things, you actually are becoming the person that is, for example, confident. Here is an excerpt from one of the students at the end when I asked them to do a course evaluation. This is just a few sentences from a longer paragraph: Prior to this course, I used to become upset with myself for the emotions I was experiencing and I wanted to get out of my head. This course helped work with me instead of against me. Now I believe that I am a smart, confident problem solver and a capable student of the horse. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed challenging my beliefs, the personal growth, and gaining skills that have not only helped me on how I perceive and approach obstacles in horse training but also in life. I’ve learned how adjustable horses are, and as it turns out, humans can be, when open and liberated from situational and self-judgment.

Stacy Westfall: Did you hear that? That is a good line right there. Liberated from situational and self-judgment, I’m telling you, if you get there, you can go anywhere you choose. So do you see how this works? This is why goal setting is so exciting to me because the goals help us become the person that we want to be that confident person. That person the is a problem solver, a capable student of the horse liberated from situational and self-judgment. For this podcast, I want to talk a bit about who you could become on the way to reaching your goals. I love looking back and being amazed at the things I’ve done, and all of these ladies can look back and be amazed at what they accomplished. And then what happens is they can take that feeling with them into the next goal. So think about it right now. There’s an excellent chance that you’re doing something in your life that you once were not sure you could do. Outside of the horses, maybe it’s driving a car, being a parent. Maybe it is owning a horse. Maybe it’s running a business. So sometimes you have to think in a broad sense to be able to get started with this thinking if you haven’t practiced it. But right now, what if the person you are right now thinks that you can’t do something? It seems impossible. But what if that’s not true? What if the person you are right now is capable of doing that thing? I told you guys, you know, back in Episode 149 that I didn’t consider myself a runner. And yet this year I ran a 10k. So, you know, 10 years ago when I said I wasn’t a runner, was I correct or was I wrong? You know, I was–I think I was wrong. I was just a runner that hadn’t realized I was a runner yet. So it’s kind of cool when you can start thinking about the impossible in a different kind of way. Just because something seems impossible because right now you haven’t done it yet doesn’t mean that you can’t do it or if you could magically look forward 10 years that you haven’t already done it. So it’s really interesting if I really wanted to, what could I do? What would I have to do to close the gap between impossible and done? So what I want to share with you now are five different steps that I go through when I’m working on this because I’ve warned you before the goal setting is coming. And this is a sneaky little beginning of the goal-setting because I don’t believe in just sitting down on New Year’s Eve and writing whatever comes to my mind because I don’t think it’s going to be really accurate. And here’s why. For me, the way that this works is I want to be intentional. So the first thing I do is I pick something that excites me and scares me just a little bit. So I want it to be big enough that it’s not just like a rinse and repeat. I want it to excite me and maybe just scare me a little bit. Then number two, I want to decide why I want to do it, because this kind of separates out whether or not it’s really mine, or whether it’s just sort of like one of those things that floats around the world and you just kind of grab hold of it and you think, Oh, yeah, that sounds like a good goal. So number one, pick something that excites me or scares me a little bit. Number two, decide why I want to do it. Number three, decide why I haven’t done it yet. Number four, list as many steps as I can think of right now. I had–full disclosure. This will not be accurate. If you do this exercise and then a year later, after achieving your goal or 10 years later after achieving your goal, if you look back, you will have a lot more steps than you think. But right now? List as many steps as you can think of and then number five, then that’s when you decide if you want to commit. See how this doesn’t work if you just write down 10 things come to your mind on–on, you know, December 31st, January 1st, somewhere around that New Year’s thing? Because you need the time to actually understand if it excites you. Does it scare you a little bit? Why do you want to do it? Why haven’t you done it? How many steps can you think of to get there? That helps me a lot of times with the timeline of whether I’m thinking about this as being a one year goal or a five-year goal. And then, then that’s when I get to number five and then it could be on the list for what I actually want to commit to.

Stacy Westfall: So this is where I want to circle back around to the idea of last week’s podcast, being able to be compassionate, or having self-compassion, while you’re doing even an exercise like this. Because if you can learn to be thankful for doing the list that’s going to be something, and here’s why. Remember the quote that I read last week? Here it is again. “Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Here’s an example of a little thing. This five-step list that I just gave you is a little thing that’s really a big thing. Because there are so many opportunities to beat yourself up right here on the list. So let’s look at number one. Number one, pick something that excites you or scares you a little bit. I wrote down like the first thing that my mind wanted to do like on its own unattended and it was like scared? I don’t want to feel scared. This is a terrible idea. I want something that’s only exciting. I need a new list. So if your brain did that, it was in good company because mine did too. Like, I don’t think it’s natural to think like, I want to pick something that kind of excites me and scares me a little bit. If I look back over the years, I just wanted the–the warm, fuzzy side of it. I wanted to deny that there was going to be a positive and a negative inside of it. So a lot of times people won’t even start this list because number one doesn’t sound appealing to them. But if you make it past number one, let’s look at number two decide why you want to do it. I wrote, “insert pleasant feeling or outcome here.” This is usually when–and it’s OK to do this–this is what it’s all like rainbows and sunshine, and it’s like, I want to have an amazing relationship with my horse and I want to be able to ride without a bridle and without a saddle. And it has all of this like warm, fuzzy stuff that goes with it. But that’s actually what I want to do. Why do I want to do it? What do I believe is represented in that relationship? Do I believe it is a deeper understanding between myself and my horse? Do I believe that I will understand my horse better, myself better? What is the why behind, for example, wanting to ride bareback and bridleless? So when you can dig down to the why, then you can–you can start to think about whether you’re really willing to commit to that. But for right now, if you made it past number one and then number two, like, let’s just keep going because number three and four are really kind of there really where–where the rubber meets the road. So number three, decide why you haven’t done it yet. And when you do this just write it all out. Like, write everything that you might label as an excuse or a fact or a reason. Write down, I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough this, I don’t have enough that. You know, write down whatever comes to mind and just get it all out there. And then also look at how many of those are self-judgments. I’m not–it’s not possible for me. You know, I’m never going to be able to figure it out. There are all these different things like why you haven’t done it yet that are going to be crisscrossed in your mind. And when you write down why you haven’t done it yet, it could be something as simple as, it just occurred to me to think this big. You know, just write down why you haven’t done it yet, because then if you make it past that one, then I want you to list as many steps as you can think of right now. So I’m going to jump back to an example that I that I shared of one of my students that has set a goal to go show at the Western Dressage World Show. Like in that example, she was like, it just didn’t occur to me. So it’s a much more simplified “why you haven’t done it yet”. And you could list, like all the reasons why it didn’t occur to you because you’re going to come up with some different beliefs maybe, or maybe it just is a new thought and that’s, that’s good enough. Now, number four. List as many steps as you can think of. Now if you’ve never done something before, odds of you actually nailing all of the steps that you need, it’s probably not very accurate. But the goal here is to get as much out of your mind and go to Google, look, write down everything you can think of because the goal right now is to actually really, truly look at what it’s going to take. Because this is going to help you do two things, it’s going to help you think of the timeline and it’s going to help you decide in number five whether or not you want to commit. Because if the goals are really big, I’m going to jump back to the bareback and bridleless if the goals are really big like for me, that was a 10 year goal. Now I can do it much faster and I can teach students how to do it much faster. But it’s still not an overnight thing for someone to learn, and it’s not an overnight thing for your horse to learn. And so when you are writing down as many of the steps, it’s going to be helpful to know how big that goal is, and that’s where the steps are going to do it. And what’s kind of interesting is. I’ll be impressed if you get half of the steps written down because there are so many more steps. The coolest thing about this is that we’re all on our own unique journeys. Every time I do this again with a different horse, there’s something unique. There’s a unique twist to doing it, even when it is a little bit of a repeat. And when you’re doing something new, you’re going to run into things that you didn’t account for. You know, there’s going to be a day that maybe you twist your ankle, there’s going to be a time that you’re going to need to like, recover from that. Maybe something goes on with your horse and you’ve got to take time off. So even when you list out all the steps, there’s going to be other things that will come up. But writing it all out there helps me get to number five, which is deciding whether or not you want to commit. Because to me, before things can make it on my list for 2022. I have to really know, deep down, that I’m willing. I really need to know, deep down, that I’m willing to commit to it and take those action steps because if I don’t know that deep down, then I think that’s when you can become a statistic for just being another person who sets a New Year’s resolution and doesn’t follow it throughout the year because there wasn’t enough planning, there wasn’t enough thinking, there wasn’t enough of this idea of really understanding in your bones if you really, really, really want this, or whether it’s just this warm, fuzzy idea. Because if it’s just the warm, fuzzy one, then when the going gets tough, it’s going to be hard to know where to get that energy to go through to the next step with.

Stacy Westfall: So, at this point, if you’ve gone through all five of these steps–I’ll read them again real quickly here. If you have number one, you pick something that excites you or scares you a little bit. Number two, you decide why you want to do it. To me, this is like the “who” you’re going to become. And then, number three, decide why you haven’t done it yet. That’s kind of all the excuses, limiting beliefs, whatever comes up for you right there. Number four. List as many steps as you can think of right now. Number five, decide if you want to commit. And this is where this exercise alone could be the entire exercise because it’s OK to get to step five. And decide this is not the actual goal for you. This is why I think this process is actually avoided and people just jump to the, you know, one night write down 10 ideas that pop into my head at midnight, which might not be the best time to be making these decisions. And–and they just go with it and then they’re like, Oh, look, I didn’t follow through. I think if you go through all of these steps and then you really take a nap, I don’t know, do something like, wait until you know that it’s in your bones that you’re willing to go for it. And if it’s not, also be willing to admit that something’s not quite right with that goal and you’ll know the difference. I trust that you will actually know the difference. You can feel the difference between I’m excited and a little bit scared, and this just doesn’t fit. This just is not really what I want. It might be close. So just remember, starting over once you get to step five is not wrong or bad. I actually would argue that if you get down to step five, you realize everything that’s going on and you’re like, you know, I really thought I wanted to ride bareback and bridleless. But now what I really see is I really, really want to understand my horse more and I really want to understand it. And this year, this means to me that I want to know how I can understand and ride on a really loose rein, which feels like it’s–it’s a stretch because my horse right now, you know, wants to flip its head and is a little bit charge-y when I’m riding down the trail. And although going without the bridle like sounds like something, it doesn’t actually sound like me right now, so I want to modify it. Then you just go back through and you do it again from that other understanding. You’ve got to get to the point where you know in your bones that this is what you really want to stick with. Because if you force yourself down a path that isn’t quite right from the beginning, that’s going to get really challenging right from the beginning. And even if you do pick a road that’s going to challenge you like meaning like, let’s say that you do pick the road of, you know, going to the Western Dressage World Show there will be plenty of challenges that will come your way inside of a goal that excites you versus trying on somebody else’s goal and trying to start on a path that doesn’t really feel like you. And I’ll tell you, there’ve been so many ways–my actual path to get to the bareback and bridleless didn’t start with that as the goal directly. It started with being able to be successful in reining on a loose rein, which the definition of like one of the–one of the–it’s called a general in the reining book, it says the horse should be willingly guided with little or no apparent resistance and dictated to completely. And so inside of the goal of reining, I was working my way towards what would eventually become the bareback and bridleless. So it’s so cool because sometimes you don’t have to know the biggest, biggest thing. You just need to be able to see the next thing that actually triggers like excitement, and just a little bit scared not terrified. And so we move down this road, but you’ve got to make sure that you really want to be on this road. Now, if you go down this road and you realize that you’ve gotten to step number five with a goal that you really thought you wanted, but it doesn’t really quite line up and you’re willing to scrap it and start again this is where you get to practice self-compassion because I think being thankful for engaging in the process is enough. I think that the process of going through this type of looking at what you might want to set for a big impossible goal in your future is being open to fully exploring something and then picking. I think so many times people try to like, close their eyes and pick so then they can commit, and it’s like, no open your eyes and like fully explore and then decide whether or not it’s worth picking. So can you see how this little five-step process is actually a place to start practicing bigger thinking? So an idea here would be that you could become a person in 2022 who sets big goals and treats themselves with compassion on the way there. If you can do it for you, you’ll for sure be able to do it for your horse. Have you actually started your 2022 list? Have you started dreaming about what is possible for you in 2022, even though right now it’s impossible? When I was thinking about this, I actually was, you know, reviewing 2021. And one of the things that came up for me was, Oh, I have these three miniature horses that didn’t make it on the goal list for last year because the three miniature horses, they weren’t on the immediate list. They’ve been in the back of my mind for years, ever since I donated my other two to a nonprofit. I wanted to go ahead and get more and then train them. And so even though they weren’t directly on my 2021 goal list, they were sort of floating out there. And so that meant that like when the time was right, they were in front of me and it was like, Yes, that’s the one. Yes, that’s the one. And so I think it’s amazing to think that even when you get goal-oriented, it’s not limiting. To me, I find it freeing because I can see what I’m working towards and then I can remember that there’ll still be plenty of unplanned surprises along the way. So I love future thinking because it helps me pick a path into my future, but it’s not something that I then use against myself and beat myself up with. And when you can crack that, when you can separate those two things out, when you can start looking into the future and planning and dreaming while being compassionate during the process, oh, doors can open and horses like being around you better when you’re being self-compassionate because you radiate a completely different type of energy and they actually believe you are capable of compassion across the board when you make mistakes. You’re compassionate when they make mistakes, you’re compassionate. I’m telling you, it’s pretty key. Thanks for listening, and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.


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  1. Mayra Segovia on December 9, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    Stacey, yes, I always dreamed of riding bit less & brideless but, I’m trying now to ride my horse w/a rope halter & a bareback pad. And, I get a horrible feeling in my chest & I do get anxious. I’m sure my JJ picks up on my energy & he is so good to me. He lets me ride him around the round pen only in a very slow walk & he’s always checking back w/me. To make sure I’m okay. I’m nervous but, I make myself do it. From this podcast I have realized that I should not be aiming for such a difficult task at hand. Instead I should aim to ride my JJ w/my saddle & my rope halter to see if I’m more secure w/myself when I ride him. I know I will feel much better, right now writing this down makes me feel happier & lighter inside. Thank u for this exercise. Much appreciated. Mayra & JJ Segovia

  2. Marijan on December 1, 2021 at 9:42 am

    This is a lot of work! But great advice right now as I review my 2021 accomplishments and look to 2022. Especially the “decide if you want to commit”.

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