The sounds around me disappear into the background, I can only hear the beating of my heart and the breath entering and leaving my lungs. I feel butterflies in deep in my stomach, sometimes to the point that I feel like they will try to escape. I can only see my dog, the obstacles and the course in front of me. My muscles are tense, my pupils are slightly dilated and I need to pee, just a little.
Any of this sound familiar? This is how I feel before I step to the line, this is how my body reacts.
If you were to ask me how I felt at this moment what word would you associate with these feelings? Stress or fear? A lot has been put into that moment. Agility classes, hours of training, hours on the road trying to keep myself in shape and the time trying to keep my dog in his top physical form. There are some unknowns and some things that can go wrong.
Now shift your thinking. Attach the word excited instead of stressed. Would my body react any differently? Racing heart, shallow breathing, sweaty palms, strangely relaxed bladder; all reactions to a sense of thrill and excitement.
Our brains are able to reframe that fearful energy into anticipation of an exciting experience.
Simply by saying “I’m excited” our thoughts can shift from all the things that could go wrong to all those things that could go incredibly right! Don't get me wrong, fear and stress are completely normal, natural and valuable reactions. It is what helps keep us safe and it is a normal reaction to dangerous activities. But, we aren't talking about jumping off of a tall building and hoping to fly; we are talking about dog agility.
Ok, so we don’t like to think that we are that gullible, but the mind is a powerful tool in performance anxiety. Anticipation allows us to think of what will happen and how we will deal with it. Stress and fear do not properly prepare our mind in the same way. Excitement can drive us towards predictable results from our actions. Excitement can allow us to watch and react to what is happening in the moment. And those moments on course don’t allow us to think then react, you simply need to be in the moment. If you are excited you are anticipating a positive outcome, leading to endorphins and pleasure.
You have made the decision to step to the line. This is the moment that planning and preparation is transformed into action. Fear turns into excitement and doubt slips away.
Instead of being concerned about what can go wrong, try to think about all the things that can go so right. That perfect start line, amazing contacts, amazing gamble, all the bars staying up, tight turns and incredible weaves. Let excitement and shameless enthusiasm dictate what is ahead.
“…I feel stronger and weaker at the same time, I feel excited and at the same time terrified. The truth is I don’t know what I feel…” – Spider-Man
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This post is part of Dog Agility Blog Action Day – check out the other posts on this topic HERE!