Episode 185- How to determine if your self concept is slowing you down.

Self-concept is how you perceive your behaviors and abilities. It affects your motivation, attitude, and behavior. It is possible that your self concept is slowing you down more than your technical skills.

Signs your self concept might need an upgrade:
-You have trouble staying motivated to work with your horse.
-When you do work with your horse, you see mostly what isn’t working.
-When you do have success, you quickly have thoughts like ‘this is a fluke’, or ‘I won’t be able to do it again.’

Improving your self concept is more than just thinking better thoughts. It is a skill that you can learn. I give real life examples that clearly illustrate the power of this concept.


Episode 185- How to determine if your self concept is slowing you down..mp3
Stacy Westfall: [00:00:00] Now, it’s kind of interesting that it is actually possible that your self-concept might not grow as fast as your results.

Announcer: [00:00:12] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill this is the Stacey Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple: to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

Stacy Westfall: [00:00:32] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I help riders become confident, communicate clearly, and get better results with their horses. In this season of the podcast, I’m going to share with you some of the concepts that I teach to my students inside my programs. These are the ideas that are helping my students get massive results at home training their own horses. In this episode, I’m going to talk to you about developing your self-concept. I will outline what self-concept is, how to evaluate where your self-concept is now, how to decide where you want it to be, and how to build a bridge between those. So the first thing to start with is obviously a Google search about self-concept. Google says self-concept is how we perceive our behaviors, abilities, and unique characteristics. For example, beliefs such as, I am a good friend or I am a kind person are part of an overall self-concept. Our self-perception is important because it affects our motivations, attitudes, and behaviors. Let’s put this into a very quick example so that you can see why this matters when we’re talking about you and your horse. Your self-concept is going to directly impact your behavior. And to make sure we’re all on the same page, I’m going to use an example I’ve brought up on the podcast before that’s not horsey. Here we go. If you had asked me ten years ago if I was a runner, if I ran on my own two feet, are you a runner? I would have said no. My self-concept did not include running ten years ago. My behavior did not include running ten years ago. Four years ago, I decided to run my first 5K. At that point, I had been running on and off for a few years before that. Listen to this, though. I had considered it exercise. Even when I was running for exercise, I did not consider myself a runner. I was someone who whose exercise occasionally included walking and jogging, but in my mind I was still not a runner. When I look back at it now, choosing to run a 5K was actually more of a mental shift than it was a physical one because I was shifting my self-concept. I was running. I was a runner. I was going to run a 5K. I ran a 5K. And then last year I was talking to a friend that I don’t talk to very often, maybe once a year. And I was getting some running advice and she said, You could run a 10K. The thought had never crossed my mind. But when she said it because I had the self-concept, I’m a runner, so maybe. And that led me to train all last summer with two ideas in mind. I’m a runner. I could run a 10K. And this combination of thoughts allowed for a lot of flexibility in my training. That meant if I was going to a horse show on a weekend and didn’t run on Thursday or Saturday because I was running three times a week, then I just skipped it that weekend. I just didn’t move ahead in the training plan, so I allowed myself a lot of flexibility. I didn’t have any really hard expectations. I did set my schedule out to be that I would be led towards the ability to run a 10K by the end of the summer and I did. I ran a 10K.

Stacy Westfall: [00:04:22] Can you see in that example how the self-concept shift was required because the action of running actually came after the concept shift of becoming a runner. So I was having kind of results when I considered it exercise, but I hadn’t really fully stepped into the self-concept of being a runner. And as soon as I did, I had an immediate change in what I was doing. It just completely shifted my self-concept, also shifted my results. So here’s a question for you to answer. Are you willing to call yourself a horse trainer? Are you willing to call yourself a horse trainer? Why? Or why not? What does it mean to you to be a horse trainer? And I’m asking you this because you’re listening to a podcast that’s titled, Train Your Own Horse with Stacy Westfall. So my thought is that you probably want to do something with training your own horse. So are you willing to call yourself a horse trainer? I coach people who are both professional horse trainers and who are nonprofessionals. By the way, nonprofessionals mean they are training and they are not making money as a trainer. They are not a professional trainer. But I want you to look at this depending on where you stand on that. If you are not a professional and you answer that question, what’s it like to answer that question? If you are a professional, what is the next level of being a horse trainer that you haven’t quite allowed yourself to become yet? Because if you look back at my running example for you non-pros out there who are not making money as horse professionals, even if that means you own one horse and you never intend to, you technically qualify as being a non-pro. Pros make money at it non-pros don’t. If you are a non-pro and you’re listening, remember, I was already jogging for exercise when I didn’t consider myself a runner. Is that where you are with your horses? Is it possible that you are a horse trainer who doesn’t consider that you’re already training? And if you’re a pro and you’re listening to this podcast, remember this, I had already run a 5K and never even considered running a 10K. If that friend hadn’t asked, I’m not sure I would have come up with it. If you’re a professional trainer and you’re listening, what would your version of a 10K be?

Stacy Westfall: [00:07:06] My next point is you already have a self-concept. The question I want to ask you is, are you actively choosing it? There are some signs that you might need a self-concept upgrade. One of those would be if you have trouble staying motivated to work with your horse then you might need to upgrade your self-concept. When you do work your horse, do you mostly see what isn’t working? Because if that’s what you mostly see, you might need to upgrade your self-concept. And let’s say that you do go out and you do work with your horse and you do have some success and that is immediately followed with the thought like that was a fluke or Yeah, but I won’t be able to do it again. I probably couldn’t repeat that. Then that is also a sign that you might need an upgrade to your self-concept. I know this firsthand because when I went to record the collection and lead change course, I knew that people would struggle with wondering if they were ready for that. So I thought, You know what? Instead of me training a horse to do flying lead changes and having everybody watch that, I’m going to have students of mine who have never trained a horse to do a flying lead change. I’m going to ask these students to train their own horses on video to do flying lead changes because that way the person who’s watching will have a couple of different experiences. Number one, they’ll see somebody who’s doing it for the first time themselves, which also means they’ll probably see some of the more common mistakes or things, the timing issues and that kind of stuff. And at the same time, they won’t be able to as easily have the thought, well, of course, that works because Stacy’s doing it. So I recorded the collection and lead change course with students, so you can actually watch them go through the process. So this meant that because they hadn’t gone through that process before, for many of them, they felt like it was something almost impossible to believe like they could just barely cling onto the idea. It makes me think back to when I was first signing up for my first 5K. It was like, I can barely believe I’m going to submit this and commit to this. And then what’s interesting is, is to have watched them go through the process of learning all the exercises, doing the first lead change, and then still having doubt, because that is how the process goes. That’s why it’s so interesting to study this.

Stacy Westfall: [00:09:49] Like I said, with like my 5K example, I ran my first 5K and was still struggling to believe and this is when you’re right in between. You have this self-concept, I’m not a runner. Even when I broke into I just ran my first 5K, there was still that struggle back and forth between the old self-concept of I’m not a runner and the new self-concept of I am a runner. Can you hear how this would affect you when you’re training your horse? Now, it’s kind of interesting that it is actually possible that your self-concept might not grow as fast as your results. Did you hear me say that? That means that sometimes you can actually grow your results faster than your self-concept if you don’t take time to think about your self-concept. What if that is true for whatever you want to do with your horse? What if one of the biggest things that’s holding you back is actually your self-concept? I believe that one of the most common struggles I see with students is that they’re not actively choosing their self-concept, and when they’re not actively choosing it, it means they’re on default. And this default thinking makes taking action harder. This was so true for me as a runner, and it has been so true for me as I watch and coach students. The difference in my self-concept as a runner has impacted how hard or easy the physical activity feels. Four years ago, I struggled to train and run for a 5K and I’m not getting younger as time goes by. But now I get up in the morning and I run further than the 5K distance several times a week without any of the mental drama. So I’m older, but I’m running more and I’m running further. And the biggest difference was the self-concept shift that I built day by day, week by week. And I think it’s also interesting to remember that I didn’t even start out thinking I was going to run a 10K. I started out with the desire to be more fit for riding horses. I tried on several different kinds of exercises, and then I decided to commit to running in some form or manner because I liked how it was helping me reach the goal of being more fit for riding my horses. So even when you begin shifting this self-concept, you don’t have to have the biggest version available. You do, however, need to have a stretch version of it and an awareness of how you are currently operating right now, your current self-concept. Let me give you a riding example. I have a student who has been participating in both my online course, which has the live coaching with it and my private coaching. So she’s been in both last year and this year. And the change that I’ve seen in this student in the last 12 months has been dramatic. The really cool thing about this is that we actually have video footage from a year ago, so I can compare video footage from a year ago to now. And if you watch the video of her and her horse a year ago and then compare it to now, it’s a very visible change. Just a few examples. A year ago, she didn’t feel safe cantering. The horse was frequently pulling on the reins, pulling towards the barn. Speed control was an issue. Focus was an issue this year. One year later, she’s hauling this horse to different venues, recording Western dressage tests and planning on going to the Western Dressage World Show in Oklahoma. She just recorded her first Western dressage test ever and scored a 72 on one of her tests and she’s just getting started. And when I look at her progress over the last year, the biggest shift I see is in her self-concept. Because now she’s consistently showing up to her rides with a plan. She’s learned how to evaluate, review, adjust. She holds herself accountable without self-judgment. She’s providing consistency for her horse, and that is what is reflected in the videos. When we watch the videos of the horse going around, the horse appears to be a different horse because it’s reflected that consistency from her. And the interesting thing is that this is possible because all along the way, she hasn’t been just focused on changing the horse. It hasn’t been just how do we slow the horse down? Just how do we get this horse to do this? She’s focused on changing how she was showing up, which is just another way to say that she was changing her self-concept.

Stacy Westfall: [00:14:59] So here’s the process that I took her through. The first thing we did was look at her current concept. How are you showing up with the horse? We looked for the things that she was doing, the things that she wasn’t doing, the things she resisted doing, and kind of dug up like that current concept of what she thought about herself training this horse. And then we started to stretch it. First we evaluated where she was at. Then it was start to stretch it. Imagine yourself in the future. What is something you would like to do? Basically, I dared her to dream big and pushed her on it a little bit more. And then what we started discussing was, how do you begin interacting with that idea? And for this particular person, one of the steps that came up also involved a trip. So she could go on a trip. and I’m going to put it this way, try on what it would be like to be in that situation. And so she was not only imagining herself in the future, but she was also getting out there and getting near the venues and touching the concepts and being around the people. And that’s how you start to try on that, imagining the future, because that’s what then takes you to the next step, which is this how do you bridge that gap between the two? So that involves a lot of like looking at where you’re at right now, looking at where you want to be, and looking at what that next step is. And then looking back at the steps that brought you to where you are right now, ahead to where you want to be, and then right back at the one step that you need next. And so it’s this very future-focused thinking where for her she was looking at going to the Western Dressage World Show. And what’s so fascinating is to actually look at how looking at that makes her more creative right here in the present. That’s what I really want to illustrate for you in this, because it’s not just this positive thinking kind of stuff. It’s not like just think better thoughts and this is all going to get better. You’ll know because you’re going to start to see how it shifts, how you’re showing up as you go back and forth and fill in that gap between where you are right now, which means you have to be able to evaluate. So listen to last week’s talk, last week’s podcast. You’ve got to be able to evaluate where you are, imagine yourself in the future, and you have to be able to go back and forth between there. And one of the big things that you’re going to change is your self-concept. The interesting thing about last week’s podcast when I talked about evaluating your rides, is I mentioned that learning to evaluate is a skill. Well, actively choosing to work on your self-concept is also a skill. And the good news about something that’s a skill, it means it can be taught. And as you may have already figured out, these two go hand in hand, because when you’re evaluating your ride, the way that you’re evaluating it matters.

Stacy Westfall: [00:18:08] As this student, in my example, as she has grown her self-concept, she has also grown in her ability to review her own rides with less judgment, more fact. This ability to drop the self judgment has actually come more from the shifting of her self-concept. Because if you can imagine having a lot of self judgment, remember last week’s podcast, rhe anonymous writer said one of her thoughts was, This is just the way I am? Can you imagine if you’re trying to evaluate your rides and your predominant thought is, this is just the way I am, can you see how that’s going to really limit your ability to evaluate your ride? So as we shift, we’re shifting this self-concept as we move from where you are to where you want to be. Because another great question is, can you believe something before you’ve achieved it? Can you believe before you’ve achieved it? I think so. I watched my students do it when they were filming for my lead change course. They were believing that it was possible that if they followed my instruction, they were believing it was possible before they achieved it. I know that that’s how I achieved the bareback and bridleless ride. I was believing before I achieved it. Can you see how this is a concept shift as much or more than it is the individual actions? I think the most challenging part for people when they’re doing this is that dance between recognizing what needs to change and then fully realizing the change. Because it’s really interesting when you get to the other side of something, when the change is fully realized, one thing I notice for myself and with my students is it feels kind of ordinary at that point, which is just fascinating that you can take something that felt impossible and you can practice it so much that when you fully cross over that bridge, it actually feels kind of ordinary. So four years ago when I was running and planning for my first 5K, it felt like a really big deal. Now it kind of feels ordinary. But that good kind of ordinary, because basically now it takes me less effort and I get bigger results. Less effort because I’m not struggling with that self-concept and the doubt of whether or not I can do it. I just get up, put my shoes on and I go do it. So it takes less effort and I’m getting bigger results.

Stacy Westfall: [00:21:03] I do want to say this. Some of these examples I’m using could give you the impression that it’s all about how much you do. But you don’t have to show at the World Show or go run a 10K to feel the effects of this, because really this is all about how you show up when you choose to do something. It’s who you choose to be as you approach something you choose to do. Can you hear how many times I just use the word “choose” in there? It’s very active. When I think about me, a number of years ago, when I was a horse trainer and trained for the public, I was committed to the customers and their horses. I trained as a horse trainer for the public for years, which meant that I took horses in for training. I evaluated the horses. I communicated with the owners, oftentimes educating them about what I was seeing and what their goals were and how that would look to bridge that gap in between there. And when I look back at it, some of the self concepts, some of the ways that I view myself were really developed in that time. I became a decision maker. I became a person that took action regularly. I became a person that evaluated frequently. I became a person that adjusted as needed and I learned to communicate clearly, not just with the horses, but also with the customers who were paying to have the horses trained. Can you see how those are about my self-concept and how they would directly affect how I was taking action with the horses and the customers when I was a horse trainer? I’m doing this again right now as I am changing my self-concept around another area, which is being a dog owner. I have committed to getting a puppy and even though I don’t have the puppy yet, I am changing my self-concept as I prepare to get the puppy. It’s a really fascinating thing because I’m so much more proactive in it now than I was when I was in college and I bought my first puppy way back then. Now I am very actively looking at the ways that I will be making decisions differently as a dog owner versus not a dog owner. So I love going through this process in every area of my life and really looking at how similar the process is. Who am I now? Who do I want to be? How can I close that gap? What do I need to think and do differently? I’m sure this is something you will be hearing more about because puppy fever is reaching a pitch over here in my house. But if you would like some guidance with your horse and if you would like to take some of the concepts that you hear on the podcast like this one to an even deeper level and apply it to your own riding I’d invite you to come join me in my online program. When you join, you immediately get access to all of my riding courses and then you also get the opportunity to join me live on calls to ask your questions and have your videos reviewed, or to watch other students that are working through this process. Also, they are changing the actions that they take with their horses, but they are also changing their self-concepts along the way. It’s totally risk free because it has a 30-day money back guarantee. So thanks to all of you for listening and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [00:25:09] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos, and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

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  1. Heidi Ritthaler on June 5, 2022 at 2:19 pm

    Thank you for this! You are not only helping me learn to train my own horse. You are helping me parent my children. We all listened to this podcast, I have taken notes that I am posting on the wall and we are all going to read this daily for the summer. These are skills I want my girls to take into their adult hood. God bless you!!

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