Are You Enjoying the Ride?

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In response to my last post I had a friend share some additional information regarding goals including an article and review from someone who had done their master’s thesis on goal setting. Some very interesting stuff! One thing caught my attention and had me thinking from the article review below:

I seldom write comments on any article, but I especially liked this one as it actually corroborates a lot of information in current goal setting research. I wrote my masters thesis in self-concordance, the degree to which a person sets goals that are congruent with ones need for autonomy, competence, and relatedness (the three contributing factors that make a goal either intrinsic or extrinsic), and in the end it seems that the one who meets the most goals is not happier than the one who can enjoy the process.

Why do we set goals? Why do we want to achieve them? Because it makes us happy? Does the process matter? Is winning what it is all about? I’m going to talk about this in relation to competing with horses, specifically barrel racing but it could apply to many other life goals or sports.

The process of winning at barrel racing includes many hours of riding, training, tack maintenance, truck and trailer maintenance, hours of hauling to events, horse health care, feeding, watering, hoof trimming, grooming, working on improving our riding skills and  not to mention the money it takes to do all this! It can take a lot to get to each race! Though the amount of work put into each thing surely varies from person to person, barrel racing can be a tough sport and after all that work and preparation we have less than 20 seconds in the arena to show for it. You get one chance and it is over quick!

It got me thinking about the reactions that come at the end of those competition runs. Of course if you have a good run and win money most people are all smiles. Hit a barrel or a slow run and the reaction definitely varies from a shrug and a pat for the horse to yanking and cranking on the horse and someone in a bad mood for the rest of the day. Then there is the interaction between those who won and those who didn’t. There are those who gloat and go on and on about themselves and some competitors who can’t genuinely congratulate someone else that did well….but then there are also those winners who simply say thank you and return a compliment and those who can have a bad run, congratulate those who did well while confidently looking forward to working on their mistakes and the opportunity to do well at their next run. I would say the latter are the definition of “good sportsmanship”.

Do these reactions say anything about us or what our motivations are? Is it possible that our goals can make us unhappy and that if we are not enjoying the ride, it shows? Do we think to ourselves “I will be happy when win”? Can we lose sight of why we started and actually get so lost in competitiveness that we start to not even enjoy what we are doing?

I think yes, we can be too ambitious and focused only on goals/winning. And yes, it can take the enjoyment out of the “process” and I think we can lose sight of what a privilege it is to even own horse! As well as the responsibly we have as their caretakers to put them before  our pride. How sad would it be to lose sight of that special bond that grows between horse and rider and the awesome feeling when everything comes together when you are training and not competing?

It makes me think back to high school and studying Shakespeare’s plays. I remember Shakespeare’s warnings about the dangers of unbridled ambition. Our ambition can catapult us to great heights only to continue on and ruin all we have achieved if not checked.  Certainly the dangers of hanging our emotions and self worth on these things alone are easy to see. We will end up unstable emotionally and easily discouraged if we face challenges and losses if our self esteem is based on just the win.

So what is my experience with this? I would say so far I have enjoyed the ride most of the time. If I was down or unhappy with my competition runs it didn’t last long. Perhaps it is because my life changed so much and I know how it feels to lose what is REALLY important. I realize that every day is a gift and today should be enjoyed as we are not guaranteed tomorrow. I love competing and I have goals, don’t get me wrong! I like to see my studying and hard work pay off as much as the next person! But goals don’t dominate my journey or happiness. I am grateful for what I have and how far I have come. I think that I value being content and happy so much today after feeling such intense loss and sadness that it would be unlikely that I would ever let goals or ambition ever take any of that away or minimize the blessings I already have. But just in case, I am glad this came up and I can make sure to keep it in mind.

Are you enjoying the ride?

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Never Give Up! Chelsey

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