A lesson in perseverance

August 17, 2013 at 4:28 am Leave a comment

Today I was competing at the first day of the USDAA Eastern Canada Regional Championships. There were many people desperately hoping to get their final qualifiers for Cynosport. There were many relieved people…and a lot very disappointed people where one thing or another seemed to go wrong. Today I got to experience both as my sheltie Dice earned both her final steeplechase and grand prix qualifiers. Unfortunately my young border collie Heist didn’t even make it through most of the courses as I chose to excuse myself from the ring with him several times.

Which brings me to the topic of my post; dealing with disappointment.
It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, how well your dog is trained, or how prepared you are for the competition, sometimes you just screw up. That’s just the way it is when you are working on a team. Both you and your dog need to be “on” to have a good run, and since they are dogs and not agility robots there is always an element of unpredictability to any run. And hey, let’s be honest here…we make our fair share of mistakes as handlers as well!

Of course that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel disappointed, frustrated, or even angry at the time. All of which I admit to feeling today!

Our thoughts go to things like, “why did it have to be this run that he [insert screw up here]!” And “Is it ever going to come together?”
Many times we start to doubt ourselves in response to feelings of disappointment. We feel that we aren’t a good enough trainer or that our dog would be better handled by “so and so.” But guess what? They screw up sometimes too!

On my way to the trial this morning, I decided to listen to an inspirational podcast to help lighten my mood (part of Your Do Over podcast by Matt Theriault). He told a story that really hit home for me. He said one of his mentors once showed him a $20 bill and asked if he wanted it. He said yes. Then she crumpled it up and asked him again if he wanted it. He said of course…it’s still $20. Then she dropped it on the ground and stepped on it, and once again asked if he wanted it. Of course he said yes. Why did he say yes? The value of the $20 bill hadn’t changed. Even though it was a little worse for wear it was still worth the same as it originally was.

The morale of the story is why do we feel that we lose value as handlers/trainers etc. when we experience some failure? Just because we screw up sometimes doesn’t change our value. It doesn’t erase all the success we have or determine how much we will have in the future.

You can deal with disappointment by internally attacking your own value, making excuses, or giving up all together. I spent the early years of my agility career going off and sulking when I was disappointed while how my run went. Over the years I’ve learned to be much better about keeping disappointment in perspective but that’s not to say it doesn’t still affect me.

So today when the agility gods weren’t favouring me, I reminded myself of the story I heard in the podcast. I push myself past what happened today to move on to better things tomorrow.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

Today I’m focusing on that little voice and by doing so I’m ready to start a new day with a fresh positive attitude! Bring on day two!

Happy Training,
Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

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