The end of that “what if” can go in any way imaginable.. and it usually does. Our imagination storms up thoughts and stories of events in the future that will likely only happen in our minds. But why is it so negative? Why do we get these thought that don’t serve us? How can we alter the way we view these intrusive thoughts to become at ease with the possibilities of EVERYTHING. This is how me, as a human first, barrel racer second have looked at these “what if” stories I’ve been telling myself and changed the narrative for the better.

Reasons why “what if” is ruining your moments

It makes you distracted. Spending energy debating the likelihood of a bad thing happening, then going through all the potential actions you’d take is a big distraction. We are using up our precious brain energy being focused on something other then the reality that is. The reality of the present moment is gone through your imagination of what if. It becomes a foggy place for our brain and perspective to be. Getting lost in those stories can set us up for pretty obvious results, since we ultimately dictate out actions with our thoughts.

TIP: Becoming grounded and present by observing your thoughts to help see them more clearly and up close. You’re then able to understand what they mean, which makes them a little less scary.

An example from a competitor standpoint.

If I were approaching an event with the visions of all the variables involved in my success. I guarantee I would not be focused on what to actually do in the moment of my performance. Feeling less connected to the present moment is always a negative when it comes to competition. Anxiety, nerves, uncertainty are all side effects that will set us up for a less than ideal performance. Trust me, I know.

Now, from a human standpoint

“What If” can look like major anxiety. It’s really unsettling to be fighting with your brain about a false, futuristic reality before anything has even happened. Have you ever gotten mad because you just thought of something happening, or someone being unfair? Thanks to our minds running wild, im sure we can all answer, yes. Getting grounded in the now can help put some of those thoughts to rest. Mindfulness and awareness is key to understanding and taking back control of your thoughts.

Start there. Start by taking the time to be with your thoughts. Learn about them, what are they telling you?

There so many things that can go wrong but there’s also so many things that can go right!

Have you heard the saying that goes along the lines of “what if it doesn’t work, but darlinggggg what if it does!?” We cannot ERASE thoughts, but what we can do is REPLACE them with more positive ones.

Example: What if I hit a barrel? What if im late? What if they don’t like me? What if I forget something important? What if I prove it to myself that I am prepared for this moment? What if I allow what is going to happen happen? What if I will be ok with it no mater what? What if, even if I fail, I will still be happy I tried. What if, I know I am prepared and thats all I can ask for from myself. What if it turns out better than I could have even expected? The possibilities of “what if” can be beautiful if we allow it to be.

My story

I have seen it change how I approach the relationship with myself and others. I naturally am a bit of a skeptic, I need to see it to truly believe it and even then, that isn’t always enough. I allow my brain to decide how I feel and how I should feel in the future. It involves someone or something else out of my control. As a perfectionist and over controller, both things I am working on. I realize so many things are out of my control. I need to become as peace with that. I need to always work on me, be happy within myself so the outcomes don’t affect me as much as they could. I am choosing to let go of the ideals I’ve had and will continue to have about the future. I am choosing now. I am choosing to be ok with outcomes as long as I stay true to myself.

Just realizing is a good step in the right direction of taking power back from these intrusive thoughts. What might happen is out of out control. How someone acts is out of out control. But, what we do have control over is realizing when we get into a whirlwind of these intrusive thoughts. Simple notice them and say “hey, I hear you up there! That’s not the story I choose to see or believe right now. We don’t know it true and I cannot control the future outcomes anyways”. Notice yourself. Notice your thought patterns in different situations and different relationships in your life, humans or horses. How we respond is telling us everything we need to know about ourselves. Just listen to it.

This is more about intrusive thought. This is about learning about you. Why are you being triggered? What is your trauma of your past trying to protect you of now? Is it important? Is it serving you now? Will it serve you in the future?

Asking these types of questions will help you take power back from the stories we unwillingly keep telling ourselves. Realize you are not alone and realize you can control these for the better, for a happier more grounded self. You will be amazed how the joy of the present moment can change your perspectives of the future. Allow it to be!

Be in the now, focus on the control you have and take everything in stride. You are stronger then you realize.

With much love,

Shelby Olyschlager