5 distractions and how to beat them

By Annette Paterakis

Have you ever let distractions get the better of you and rule your thoughts and, with that, your results? You are not alone! We all have specific distractors that can drive us mad. The good news is we can train ourselves to keep a laser-sharp focus and to stay in control of every situation. Here are 5 ways to do just that.

1. Friends

A few years ago a client of mine was able to compete at two major events in Europe. But with that invitation also came a lot of distraction. Her friends and family wanted to come watch, which she obviously really enjoyed. However, she also needed to stick to her routines in order to stay focused. So we discussed how to best communicate with everyone on her team, and with friends and family. She let them know when she would be available, and when she wouldn’t be. This created clarity and understanding for everyone involved.

2. Phone

Many studies have been done about what happens to our brain when we are on (or even just around) our smart phones. It has shown how this can have a negative impact on mental activities such as targeted attention and problem solving. This happens because in order to focus deeply, we need our prefrontal cortex (a structure in the front of our brain) to quieten down the rest of the brain. So when our prefrontal cortex – which works kind of like a muscle – is undertrained because it constantly gets distracted, it is time for a workout regime. Train your brain by staying focused on one thing for a set amount of time, like following your breath or staring at a point in front of you for example. Every time you get distracted by thoughts or noises, just go back to your focus point.


“Imagine you are in one big bubble together with your horse.”

3. Thoughts

Thoughts too can be a massive distraction. Especially when you consider we have about 50 to 70 thousand going through our minds every day! However, you do have power over your thoughts. Try and be still at least once a day and take the time to ‘observe’ your thoughts as if they were clouds passing by in the sky. Encourage useful thoughts and let negative or distracting ones simply pass by into the horizon. Over time and with greater awareness you will realize you have much more control over your thoughts, than you thought 😉

4. Interviews

With success also comes distraction. You have more people watching you, cheering you on and wanting your attention. Reporters can be one of them, asking if you have time for an interview for example. Make sure you keep prioritizing what is most important, to stick to your routines and decide what can wait until after you are finished. Don’t plan in an interview before a Grand Prix for example as you might loose track of time and fail to prepare like you planned.

5. People watching

Perhaps one of the biggest distractors to riders is people watching. It might seem so innocent yet many of my clients mention they would rather not spot certain people on the side of the ring. I personally think this comes from a fixed mindset. If you feel like you need to prove yourself in order to be liked or respected, you add a lot of unhelpful pressure to your riding. The truth is, there will always be people who have something negative to say or make doubtful and unhelpful comments about your riding. Just know that this says more about them than it does about you. So from now on, shift your focus from wanting to prove yourself to wanting to improve yourself. And every time you get on, imagine you are in one big bubble together with your horse. When at the in gate or going into the course, just stay focused in your bubble and on your course.