I’ve had a week. Well, really I’ve had about 6 of them in a row. You know the kind of week. Things go right, and things go wrong. You are tired and maybe not eating as well as usual or meeting the markers you have set for yourself in terms of training, or performing or what have you. When life starts grinding on me I have three basic strategies I employ that keep me on track – and even often result in dogs getting trained and horses getting ridden.

agility animal blur canine
Life gets intense sometimes.

1. Focus on Strengths

We’re a bunch of contradictions – you’ve heard me on this before but I want to remind you we are all human. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad; sometimes hopeful, sometimes pessimistic; sometimes childish and sometimes mature. We have many strengths and gaps that affect what we do and how we do things, but we tend to put more focus on our weaknesses and not our strengths. The human brain’s negative bias really works hard to make sure we think of gaps before strengths and turning that around takes conscious effort.

A strength is something that you do consistently well– it’s something you’re able to do, you’re hard-wired to do it well and you get an inherent satisfaction from doing it. It could be tackling and solving complex problems, empathizing with people, having a lively imagination or being able to make the perfect omelette. Sometimes it comes naturally sometimes it’s a skill we choose to develop.

Focusing on what you do well rather than what you’re not so good at makes all kinds of sense. When you look at what you’re not good at you feel bad about yourself and your ability, but when you focus on building strengths you become stronger, more resilient and more able to identify the moments that are in fact going well.

If you need to make a list of things you are good at and post it where you can see it go right ahead!

2. Set Things Up Ahead Of Time

Sometimes you can just head into something, do brilliantly at it and get the result you were hoping for (much easier when you’re playing to your strengths), but other times you might blunder forwards, wing it and not get the result you wanted. Whatever challenges or opportunities you’re facing you’ll stand a much better chance of getting a great result if you set things up to succeed ahead of time.

What might setting things up look like? Take a page from the amazing Holly Bushard and have a training vest or pouch ready to go – loaded with treats, a clicker, small props or material you might need to train. That way if you get home and have the energy you can grab your equipment and head right into a training session.

Setting things up might mean a routine to charge your phone or camera in order to record your sessions if you use them for that purpose. It could mean taking half an hour once a week and laying out a program. For each of us being prepared will look different but it truly will make things more bearable, and doable.

golden retriever lying on green grass
Be prepared

3. Spend Some Time Thinking/Processing.

Even when life is wildly busy you’ll find some time here and there when your mind might want to head to unhappy or dark places. Instead of using the commute to work to think about how tired you are, or waiting for the kids to get home from school to wish you could do more training, test using those small spaces to reflect and review. Set some goals, focus on successes. What exactly do you want to happen? What solution, outcome or result would be great? Get clear on the outcome you want to work on right now and how it would feel to achieve it. Then start breaking it down – slice it down, then slice it again – what can you do to achieve your desired outcome? What needs to be put in place? What will help to make what you want to happen, happen? And to ensure the best result, what are you willing to do?

These strategies sound simple, and in many ways they are. What they do though is allow us to see through the grind to success. They enable us to have little tiny wins when things are tough which bodes well for bigger victories when things ease up a little. As I told one of the youth I work with yesterday life is not fair, and life is not kind. Life is. If you are caught in one of the unfair, unkind bumps on the journey don’t get trapped by it. Take tiny steps forward through the muck.

You got this.