7 ways to overcome distraction and stay more focused

By Annette Paterakis

Being able to stay focused on the task at hand and fully engage in the process is the key to ride your best round and to excel under pressure. I have been able to work with and study many great riders and time and again the ones that are able to focus and completely be in the moment, are the ones that often win or do well at the shows. In case you easily get distracted by thoughts or people watching you, don’t despair, you can train and improve your own focus. However, make sure you start training in advance and don’t wait till you are at the show and the pressure is on.

Here are 7 ways to let go of distraction and stay more focused:

1. Pick one objective

A very important way to fully stay focused is to have a clear objective. When we want everything to be perfect, it becomes unclear what our mind is supposed to focus on and it will get distracted. Therefore, pick one thing you want to improve or remember and just focus on that. Often all the rest will fall into place as well. Just keep it short, clear and helpful, “upper body back” or “keep hands down” are some examples.

2. Distance yourself from what others think about you

There are always people that will judge your riding or performance in a negative way. Be aware that these judgements have something to do with how they see the world and what they believe to be true. For instance, when someone is brought up to believe that making mistakes equals being a failure, they might judge you that way too. Just remember, what they believe says more about them and their values, than it does about you.

3. Stay focused on what you have influence over

There are some things we have no or very little control over, like what other people think of us or our results and rankings. However we can get very occupied thinking about these things. Make sure you stay very aware of what you can actually change and what you can influence, and focus completely on that. What do you have control over? Your own riding, whether you prepare yourself properly, whether you stay focused on yourself and your horse, how you breathe, how you think and how you enter the arena.

4. Stay in the moment

This might sound like an odd one. But when we get distracted, we are often either in the past, worrying about when you made those mistakes before. Or we are in the future, thinking about what would happen when we win or fail. Either way, you can’t be completely focused on what you are doing now when you are in the past or future. Instead, where you want to be is completely in the present moment, focused on your horse and what you need to do right now.

5. Be ok with making mistakes

Face it, you will make mistakes in your career, you will miss distances, you will fail to stick to your plan and you will fall off sometimes. The longer you ride the better you get but even top riders make mistakes. The difference is, successful riders don’t ignore their mistakes they learn from them as fast as they can. Therefore, you want to embrace your mistakes instead of ignoring them. The sooner you learn from your mistakes and embrace the message they hold, the sooner you will not make them again.

6. Stop comparing yourself

Comparing yourself with other riders that do better or ride at a higher level can be detrimental to your self-esteem. Also comparing the way you are riding right now to your riding yesterday is a distraction. It makes you feel small and diminishes your confidence. Become aware of these thoughts, acknowledge them (the more you try to push them away the more they come back) and refocus on your riding and objective.

7. Let go of the outcome and trust you can do this

Thinking about how you might do and the results you are aiming for is a common mistake many ambitious riders make. The problem is that you don’t have full control over the end result and in that way you give away precious time and energy. Instead, focus on the process, trust yourself and your horse, let go of the “how” and focus on the now!