Mary's Story — Written by Her Riding Instructor:
When Mary first came to the barn, she wasn’t sure of herself. She secluded herself from the other girls and found it difficult to step into her courage zone. She was a timid rider but gradually willing to try new things. She was fragile on the inside and out but she sought to become strong and brave. Mary became discouraged as she compared herself to the other girls in the program progressing so quickly--she longed for that positive change in her life.
Today I set up an obstacle course in hopes to introduce the win-win attitude. As we entered the arena and stopped for a moment. I looked up and asked her, “Do you know who you are?” She wasn’t sure. I went on to explain that our performance does not define us, but the principles we live by. We must win the private victory, and in her case she needed to know what defined her. She needed to abandon the lose-win attitude by rejoicing in the success of others yet win her own private victory as well. I set up the obstacle course because of the analogy made in the seven habits book:
“Life is like a great obstacle course. Each person has their own course, separated from every other course by tall walls. Your course comes complete with customized obstacles designed specifically for your personal growth. So what good does it do to climb the wall to see how your neighbor is doing or to check out his obstacles in comparison to your own? That’ll just distract you from your own obstacles.”
After setting up the obstacles, Mary rode her horse over the ground poles, around the barrels, practiced bending transitions and the posting trot. Both her and Gift (the horse) synergized well together, but when Gift was asked to trot over a bigger obstacle, Mary wasn’t ready for the forward motion, and fell off. Gift immediately stopped and lowered her head in consideration of Mary.
There were tears but once Mary regulated her breaths again, she got up and hugged Gift. In that moment, I recognized a change in Mary's countenance. There was a smile and a proactive rebound that made me jump for joy! She could have reacted negatively and blamed the horse, however this was not the case. Mary took initiative to consider the horse’s needs first, giving Gift a hug and softly reassuring her that everything was okay. As she calmed, I invited her to re-mount and try again. Courageously, Mary took the reins and was determined to accomplish the goal she had set. She brushed her self off, got back on, and we continued the obstacle course.
It takes immense courage to lift up your eyes, your head, and your heart after what could have been the last ride. Mary instead saw this pivotal moment as an opportunity for growth and goal setting. I told Mary that I knew who she was because of her character after falling. “Mary,” I said, “you are brave, strong, determined, and dedicated. That is who you have become today as you have worked through these obstacles and conquered your fears. That is who you are!” She nodded in agreement, overwhelmed with joy after having won her private victory! She was the happiest and most confident that I had ever seen. I am positive that Mary will continue to take the reins throughout her life.
(Names changed to protect privacy)