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It’s that time of year… New Years is in just a few days. It is a time for many people to pause and reflect. What happened this year, and what is anticipated in the coming year?

The new year is also a time of anticipating change, whether the change is to be healthier, work less, earn more, spend less, or for us equestrians, ride more and master new skills.

But changing is hard.

The empty gyms and health food aisles of February are proof of the difficulty of change, as old routines and habits take over once again.

Where is the gap between creating a resolution or setting a goal and actually achieving it? Why is change so difficult?

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A friend of mine is a clinical psychologist and she teaches the science of change. The truth is that change happens in layers and setting a goal or resolution is just one step. If the other steps aren’t in place, change doesn’t often happen.

Here are three of the other parts of change I’d like to discuss here: Story, Focus, and Planning.

We will begin with “story”.

Story is about how you perceive yourself and why you want to reach this new goal. Your story should support your goal and empower you to make the changes necessary to achieve it.

If you always tell yourself, “I am just so busy, I never have time for the things I want to do, like riding!”, this story is not going to support you in making more time to ride.

Shift your story to support creating the time for riding, “I have a full life, but there is always time to recharge by doing what I love – spending time with my horse! That time makes me happier and more productive in my other activities.”

The second important element of change is focus. Try to do too much at once and you can easily be overwhelmed.

There is a “rule” popular in business and economics that has been shown to apply to many other areas of life. It is known as the 80/20 rule. It implies that a few things (20 percent) have the biggest impact (80 percent). The percentages themselves are not as important as the concept – focus on what matters and what makes the biggest difference for your progress towards your goal.

Focusing and creating a good story to support your efforts are important, but then you need a plan. How are you actually going to move from where you are now in your skills, time, etc, (whatever it is you want to change), to where you want to be?

What will you actually do in order to change? What new habits will you create and in what order?

Whether you dream of winning the blue, trail riding with friends, finally mastering the canter, or deepening your connection with your horse, you need to do more than dream, you need to get your story straight, focus on what is most important so you don’t get overwhelmed, and then create a plan of action to get you there.

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