Try Something New

One of the several books I am presently dipping into is William Steinkraus’ Reflections on Riding and Jumping. If you aren’t an equestrian or are and haven’t heard of this remarkable man, I would highly recommend that you take a moment to discover more about his love of music and horses.

William Steinkraus is one of the most successful riders in show jumping history. He rode for the USA in five Olympic games, won four medals, including the 1968 individual gold in Mexico City and was on the United States Equestrian Team for twenty years, serving as captain for sixteen of those years. He is also a talented and avid musician and plays chamber music on the viola and violin if I am not mistaken.

Early in this particular book (he wrote extensively and was also an editor in his “day” job), Steinkraus made the following observation:

One of the principal distinguishing characteristics of the good rider is his technical resourcefulness. If what he’s doing isn’t working, he’ll try another approach until he finds something he can get by with, at least for the moment…

It’s surprising what a big deal it is for most people actually to try something new. Thinking about it is one thing, but having to try it out on your own horse or with your own body means abandoning what you have always done before. Many riders can’t bring themselves to do this, even when they’re seeking advice in the first place because they aren’t having much success with their old techniques. Every clinician has had the experience of describing and demonstrating a particular physical attitude he wants the class to assume, only to find that half the class isn’t even attempting to do what he suggested. Consequently, most riders display the same faults year after year, their progress blocked by their won resistance to change, forever bogged down at a lower level of success than they are capable of achieving.

This is as true at the barn as it is in life.  People get into trouble when they get in the habit of acting without thinking or when they become dogmatic in their approach to problems in riding and living. In most cases, you can think your way out of a problem. Moreover, just because something worked for you once doesn’t mean that the exact same approach will be warranted every time you face a new problem, even if it looks essentially similar on the surface!

There are of course certain well-worn systems developed in the equestrian arts for dealing with the age-old equestrian problems of lengthen, shorten, turn and jump, but rigid thought eventually makes a supple mind brittle. So it is in life. When you break it down into its component parts, life and its daily challenges are not really all that complicated. That said, no moral code, system of rules and regulations or magic pill can work in every situation. We still must learn to think and feel in creative ways to emerge victorious at the end of the day.

Life is dynamic. There is no doubt in my mind that technical resourcefulness in living can typically take you much farther than a more circumscribed approach. Be careful not to develop too many habits. Stay light on your feet. Look for opportunities for growth and development. Stay humble. Don’t assume that you’ve been there an done that the moment a conversation or situation begins to take shape.

You can be progressive in your approach to living. Many people die mentally and emotionally long before they are physically dead because they sacrifice wonders of change for the familiarity of comfort. The comfortable or familiar approach rarely leads from glory unto glory, in fact, it constrains to diminishing returns in satisfaction and success. If you feel bogged down in any area of your living, this may well be the reason. Take note and take a new approach!

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13 Responses to Try Something New

  1. Colin says:

    It is surprising how hard it can be to stop doing something that you know is a bad habit, especially in a physical activity. It’s like the mind-body connection has created a pathway and it really takes some work to overcome the wrong thing that you have built. I think that it why in many physical activities you hear teachers say it is easier to teach someone that has never done it before than to teach someone that has tried on their own and already developed bad habits.
    While it is useful to be able to see this and move out of it in a physical activity, I think the real leverage lies in making sure that these bad behavioral habits do not get stuck in other parts of our lives. One thing that helps me out of these traps is to just be mindful of everything I am doing, because chances are that there are many ways to be more efficient and effective. All it takes is the ability to see beyond what your current system is.

  2. Isabelle says:

    Good points, thank you!

  3. Strawberryfield says:

    Voltaire wrote, “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.” I find sometimes it takes a little more time to rethink something. I’ll almost set it aside but keep coming back to it and all of a sudden a new approach will come to me. Being open to new ideas or new ways to do things is one of the secrets to staying flexible, youthful and progressive.
     

    • Gregg Hake says:

      I’ve often done that too, that is, worked something until I couldn’t get any further for whatever reason, left it on “hold” and then came back to it when I sensed the time was right. It usually works!

  4. Thank you for your words. They are an inspiration to lightness and flexibility and newness. Just the consideration brings a clean joy and an eagerness to so live.

    • Gregg Hake says:

      Interestingly enough, lightness and flexibility are both goals in riding too. So many parallels to life!

  5. Joy says:

    Great consideration Gregg. Thank you.

  6. Mark Miller says:

    I printed a copy of this post. It has so many excellent points that I am sure it warrants further reading!

  7. Ricardo B. says:

    I can vouch for this, many times over. In fact, the only times in my life that significant growth, expansion and the excitement of life’s true adventures have come have been on the heels of letting go of what’s comfortable – whatever habits and routines have wrapped themselves around that – which simply gave the space necessary to accommodate the new something. I’ve gotten familiar with this by now that I no longer object to being stirred from my routines, whereas I’d be just like other certain old folks who grunt anytime they are ‘inconvenienced’. Life is far to great to be stuffed into a box!

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