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September 2002
Success Harmony Newsletter

Who pulls you through your tough spots?"

In the summer, before the busy-ness of fall sets in again, I learn many of my coaching lessons from working with my horse. It may be odd to say that my horse teaches me a lot about working with coaching clients, but it is true. It may be simply because the horse is so full of raw emotions, and has no qualms about letting me know where she is at. When she is calm, her body language shows it. When she is afraid, she shows it, too. No excuses, no pretenses. What you see is what you get.

People are a lot more complicated. Sometimes, they feel afraid but won't say so. Sometimes, they are happy but feel it would be inappropriate to show it. Maybe that's why I find it so valuable to work with the horse, to learn about the body language of emotions, and to get immediate feedback on training techniques that make things better, and those that make things worse. More often than not, what I learn with the horse, applies to people as well.

I tried to take my horse to the beach the other day. I normally just ride in the riding ring and haven't yet bothered to take the time to teach the horse to be comfortable outside the barn. So, it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise that, as soon as my friend and I started to leave the barn, my horse got to the end of the driveway, realized that she would be asked to go away from her comfortable home, and she put on the brakes. Not just that, she put on the reverse gear and backed up. I turned her around a few times but she always got to the same spot and reversed from there. There was a very clear line of how far her comfort level extended.

Thankfully, my friend was riding a horse that was used to being used as a pony horse. When you go to a racing track, you will see a person on a bomb-proof horse, holding on to the hotblooded and spooky racehorse with a tiny jockey bobbing up and down on the way to the starting line. The calm and experienced pony horse provides a sense of comfort for the young, fearful racehorse. My friend held on to one of the reins for my horse, close to the horse's mouth, and we walked down the road - my horse close to her horse. We turned around fairly soon to get my horse a chance to get back to her sense of safety. We'll do this again, and again, and again - until there comes a time when the pony horse will not be needed at all. One step at a time.

Aren't we people just the same? Sometimes, we have our own comfort level about something and, as soon as we reach it, we put the brakes on. Sometimes, we even go into full reverse gear. Imagine a person terrified of public speaking. They will go to any length to avoid getting in front of the group. How about the salesperson who has had a streak of bad luck and no sales, and is afraid to pick up the phone to talk to the next prospect?

Most of the time, when we hit our limit, we seem completely unreasonable to everyone around us. Obviously, there are no monsters hiding on the public speaking stage. A sales prospect may say "no" or even be mean, but usually they will not get out of their seat and write a nasty front-page headline to the New York Times about a bad sales presentation. But fear is not about being reasonable. I could have talked to my horse until I was blue in the face to try convincing her that none of the houses down the road contained horse-eating aliens, but reason wouldn't have cut it. Sometimes, it just works better to have some grizzled old veteran to kindly smile and say, "hey, come along with me, I'll show you it ain't all that bad."

Who do you have in your life who can take you beyond your limits of comfort? When you have reached all that you know on your own, and you are afraid or unsure about going forward, what will you do? Will you put on the brakes or even reverse, because you don't know how you could accomplish where you want to go? Or will you ask someone with greater experience for advice, or to even take you by the hand and take you by the hand as you go through your first few steps. All of us had that when we were young and our Moms held us by the hand as we were learning to walk.

It has been said that people are like apples, "either we are growing or we are rotting away." Growth is often uncomfortable and it often requires a pony horse to take us through the tough spots. It is rather unfortunate that our society rewards the Marlboro Man personality (you know, the lone wanderer who can do it "all by himself").

Typically, the presence of other, more experienced people can stretch us further and more quickly than we could ever dream of doing on our own. Whenever you find yourself at the end of your driveway, with your foot on the brakes and your hand about to switch into reverse, look for a pony horse! Good chances are that, soon enough, you will be wondering what all the fuss was about in the first place…


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"It is never too crowded along the extra mile."
Dr. Wayne Dyer

"You cannot play symphonies until you have first mastered the notes."
Dr. Edward L. Kramer

"Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it."
Henry David Thoreau




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© 2002 Pavla Michaela Polcarova, CPR Coaching Services, Vancouver, BC, Canada