Lessons in success from the Canadian Open
The idea for this blog post was actually inspired while I was away in Edmonton last weekend competing with my dogs at the Canadian Open. I went into the competition hoping for some medals with my sheltie Dice, but although she did win two bronze medals at the event, it was actually my young dog Heist that I felt was most successful over the weekend.
Did he get on the podium?
No. He actually didn’t have a single clean run all weekend.
So where did this feeling of success come from?
I realized that real success isn’t always measured by gold medals.
What made his runs so successful was that he was working with me better than he ever had. He was thoughtful, balanced, and overall we had brilliant teamwork. That is what truly mattered to me.
Not winning events.
Not beating out my competitors.
Simply improving on a personal level as a team.
We’ve all had clean runs that we’ve somehow managed to get through. You know…the ones where you get out of the ring and you have no idea how the dog actually managed to make it through clean! Then we’ve had amazing runs that had one little bauble…maybe a knocked bar or even an off course, but you recognize that the almost clean run was actually better in many ways than the clean run.
Here’s one of Heist’s Canadian Open runs that despite errors was one of my favourite runs with him. He handled many skills that he has struggled with in the past as well as stopping on this dogwalk after only 6 days of re-training from a running contact.
When it comes down to it, agility isn’t just about competing against other people. It’s about competing against yourself, and pushing to be just a little bit better every time.
If you are competing strictly with others, you lose momentum very quickly as soon as something doesn’t go to plan. If you expect to win a class and you don’t, you immediately feel defeated or even more pressure to do better in the next round.
But what would happen if you were most concerned about making every run the best one possible?
Focusing on every run as an individual event that had no relation to any previous performance?
I often tell my students to “etch-a-sketch” their previous run. Just like the etch-a-sketch toy…you created something, now it’s time to shake it clear and start from a blank slate.
Many people count themselves out of the race as soon as they reach an obstacle in their path. True… a bar down may take you out of the gold medal position, but it doesn’t mean that your next run can’t be one of the best you’ve ever had. Many of us give up on a subconscious level once a run doesn’t go to plan because we can’t let it go.
Just because your dog missed a weave entry or knocked a bar in the previous run, doesn’t mean that you will get the same result in the next round. Past runs good or bad are in the past.
As an example of this, this past weekend one of my students came from having no clean runs to running clean and winning the Canadian Open Final. Had she held on to the mistakes in her past runs, they likely would have haunted her into the finals. Instead she assessed the issues at the end of each run before moving past them with confidence. When I talked to her before the finals, she was in a great headspace mentally. She recognized that her major mistakes in previous rounds were all in areas that she had hesitated about making handling decisions. In response, she vowed to make confident handling choices.
In the end she made two great handling choices for her dog that allowed her not only to run clean, but to win by a narrow margin.
She wasn’t competing against everyone else…she was competing against herself. Your own mind can be your greatest advantage in competition or your biggest handicap.
Imagine if she had gone into the finals thinking about how she was having bad luck this weekend and feeling that she didn’t stand a chance in the finals against “so and so”.
Do you think the results would be the same?
So next time you’re training or competing with your dog, think of what success means to you…not to everyone else.
Remember, if you think you can or you think you can’t you’re probably right!
This weekend was a great reminder for me of how it’s not always about the final placement.
Sometimes it’s about the personal success along the way.