12 life lessons I have learned this year

By Annette Paterakis

As a coach it is my aim to keep learning and improving myself continuously in order to better help and serve others. I read as much as I can, listen to audio books on my travels, get coached myself regularly and attend trainings throughout the year. In an attempt to summarize all the things I learned in 2017, I have come up with these 12 lessons I would like to share with you.

1. Ask more

This year I started interviewing successful riders in the showjumping sport. I’ve been humbled by how much you can achieve and learn when you just ask. I was always a bit shy and I definitely had to get out of my comfort zone when asking riders like Daniel Deusser and Laura Kraut if I could interview them. But quite quickly I got used to asking and I’m so excited to share all the things I’ve learned and the insights I got from these amazing riders in my next book (watch this space!)

2. Be grateful

This year I implemented a new habit into my morning routine. I now start my day with 3 things I am grateful for and feeling those positive feelings in my body. At first, I didn’t feel much but after a few weeks, I started to feel more and more grateful throughout the day and realized how lucky I truly am. Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.

3. Work smart instead of hard

What I have realized through my research into peak performance is that practice does not always make perfect. If you work hard on things that don’t create a real impact, you might be wasting time. Getting on 8 horses a day and just walking, trotting and cantering around is not what makes you or your horses that much better. Instead, practice deliberately. Train with full attention, focus and a clear plan, and let improvement be your aim.

4. Stay focused on what sets your soul on fire

What is it about riding that really makes you happy? It’s probably why you started riding in the first place. One thing I have learned so far by interviewing top riders, is that they all have two things in common. They love horses and they love to improve. So, what sets your soul on fire?

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

5. Go with the flow

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Life is not always sweet and easy, but how we respond to it makes all the difference. We can fight the things that are not going well or, we can see it as feedback, find out what we should learn from it and work on that one step at a time.

6. Read more, watch less

For me, one of the most inexpensive ways to learn is by reading a good book. For inspiration on great books to train your brain, read my previous blog here. If you would like to read more but feel like you don’t have the time, consider how much time you spend on social media or watching TV. Could you spend this time on reading instead?

7. What you focus on is what you get

If you want to feel stuck and unhappy, focus on the negative, comparing yourself to other people and all the things you don’t want and like about your life. Would you rather feel empowered and grateful? Focus on yourself, what you CAN do and what you do already have. It’s that simple. 

8. Be authentic

Another important lesson I learned from interviewing riders this year is that at some point most of them realized they are just like anyone else. No more and no less. If you ever feel like you don’t belong at a show and looking at the riders list makes you feel small, remember that, at the end of the day, we are all the same. Stop comparing yourself with others and don’t ever aim to be like another rider. Stay authentic and just work on improving and becoming the best version of yourself.

9. Ask great questions to get great answers

Did you ever come out of the arena, asking yourself, “Why did I ride so bad?” What are the odds you get a negative answer to that? Whatever you ask your brain, it will try to answer. So ask good questions if you want to get good answers. For example; what went well? What could have been better? How CAN I improve?

10. Be patient and trust the process

Focus on improvement, learning and getting better and keep working smart on the whole process. Then, let all your expectations about the results go and be patient. The best things happen unexpectedly.

11. Keep doing what works

At the beginning of this year I changed my morning routine and added a few things (to find out more, take a look at my morning routine here). As a result however, I focused less on my breathing exercise, which for me is the most important exercise of all. It wasn’t until September till I finally started to listen to the feedback I had been getting from my body as a result. I strengthened and refocused my attention on my deep breathing exercise each morning and evening.

12. Enjoy life now

Many extraordinary athletes have described how they felt surprisingly little after finally winning or achieving their lifelong goal. It might sound corny, but at the end of the day all we have, is this moment. Success is a journey, not a destination.