Friday, January 4, 2019

process v outcome: a look to the future

Upper level event rider Matt Brown wrote in part 1 of his series for Chronicle of the Horse about the importance of focusing on process goals rather than outcome goals.

While outcome goals are often the big shiny Holiest of Grails --- and make for the easiest representation in a single photo or sound byte: "We Did The Thing!" --- Matt's whole point was that they're somewhat false and unreliable goal posts.

That a fixation on that specific outcome leaves us vulnerable to all manner of forces beyond our control. From the untimely abscess or unforeseen financial hiccup, to the plain old uncharacteristically bad day in the show ring, or the altogether unthinkable.

pc Amy Flemming Waters 
And when the unforeseen and uncontrollable does inevitably strike (bc doesn't it always with horses?) we are that much more likely to find ourselves disproportionately disappointed, demoralized, and depressed.

Instead, Matt says we're more likely to find satisfaction, fulfillment, and happiness in reaching our goals when we focus instead on the pieces of the puzzle within our control: those small progressive steps in building up to that holy grail. The pieces that need to happen in order for the Outcome to become possible, but that don't rely on the Outcome actually happening.

Does that make sense?

Anyway, it's a useful framework for me. Especially bc this year.... might be different.

 pc Austen Gage
For years now, I've written about not feeling incentivized to compete in recognized events. Area II in general and Maryland in particular have such a rich and vibrant eventing community; the calendar is packed with awesome unrecognized events held by the same venues (and often over the same tracks) as recognized events.

I've derived immense satisfaction from starter trials (for roughly half the dollars per entry), and have not felt much incentive to change. Personally I don't see value in the extra cost unless I'm trying to develop a record for a sales horse or qualify for something (ymmv obvi!!).

Except. Well. Charlie is not a sales prospect. BUT. Qualifications. It turns out there *is* something out there piquing my interests. I'm not exactly sure how (or if) it'll all work out - it's not a big show or championship and actually doesn't explicitly involve riding at all - but it's interesting to me and is sketched roughly into my 5 year plan.

The catch? There are ridden prerequisites. Specifically: a certain number of points earned by qualifying results at USEA sanctioned events at Training level or above. The number of points earned from each completion depends on the level - more points for higher levels.

But the minimum qualifying level remains: USEA Recognized Training.

 pc Vispera Photography
I don't have a burning desire to do upper level eventing, and am not necessarily confident that Charlie's body would hold up to it. But T seems attainable. And for Charlie, as a horse, getting these qualifications seems like a good and realistic goal for him (although it's worth noting the qualifications are based on rider and can be earned with multiple horses).

Luckily the points can be earned over a period of many years - it's not like Waredaca's Classic 3DE or the AECs where you have to earn qualifying results over the course of a season or specific timeline. So from a timing perspective, there's no urgency to accumulate all the points this season -- there's no rush.

From a pressure perspective, the qualifying results aren't impacted by any poor performances along the way. Meaning, any bad results (let's say we had a bunch of jumping penalties, or a repeat of Plantation) won't nullify the qualifying results earned previously, like you might see in cases where a rider is trying to qualify for a 4* or whatever.

And going back to where we started, the Process v Outcome perspective, it's giving me some food for thought. Obviously the Outcome here is pretty clear: earn the qualifying results by completing the necessary number of recognized events at T.

So let's break that down into component Processes. Per Matt's earlier article, these processes should fall fully within my own control. And ideally they could each be successfully fulfilled even if we don't achieve that overarching Outcome (altho the reverse wouldn't likely be true).

With that in mind, I've arrived at the following (each of which have sub-bullets that may or may not get broken out into eventual future posts):

1) Continue preparing for a move up to T
2) Organize necessary paperwork + memberships
3) Plan a thoughtful calendar considering favorable venues
4) Budget appropriately and realistically (and early)
5) Maintain a comprehensive wellness plan for Charlie
6) Invest in developing my skill set and toolbox as a rider
7) Focus on positive experiences and additive mileage
8) Be flexible and accept setbacks with poise, bc #horses
9) Enjoy the ride!


 pc Austen Gage
In writing this out, I'm hoping to accomplish two things - First obviously being a road map to a successful season complete with qualifications.

More than that, tho, if everything goes well but we don't move up to Training? Or do any recognized shows? Or earn any qualifications? I still want these goals to reflect what it'll mean to have a good, happy, and fulfilling year with my horse.

In other words, even if my stated Outcome for the year is a total bust -- let's say I change my mind or, ya know, one of any myriad other things changes.... -- focusing on the above processes should by design still put me on track for happy horsing. Theoretically haha.

So we'll see how it goes haha. It's mildly terrifying to write this out, vague and fuzzy around the edges tho it may be. But also really exciting and energizing, which is kinda the whole point anyway, right? We'll see tho, wish me luck!

32 comments:

  1. I never think it's a bad thing to outline what you want to achieve and the steps to get there. I also think it's super important to not make it the be all and end all. I like how clearly you have laid out the steps and the reasoning, I think it makes a really defined path and therefore more achievable. I hope you guys have a good year!

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    1. Thanks! It’s a lot easier for me to visualize what it all might actually look like if I lay it out like this haha. And yea definitely agreed that there’s nothing wrong with having a clear sense of where you want to go, so long as it’s not setting me up for disappointment if something out of my control gets in the way!

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  2. Yessssss!! All the luck! I love this goal 🤗

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  3. I’ve been mulling my own process goals. I love yours. I think that they are a challenge and success does not come down to a specific thing.

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    1. Thanks - that’s exactly my hope : that success could take many different shapes and still fit within the above parameters. We shall see!

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  4. So what is this mysterious outcome goal that has piqued your interest? Or did you say & I missed it?

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    1. Ha no that’s a totally fair question and I did *not* already day it. Mostly bc I’m honestly not sure if it’s realistic or even likely. And I tend to prefer avoiding saying I’m going to do something unless I’m reasonably confident I will actually do that thing lol. But: to answer your question, it has to do with the administrative side of eventing and requires some fairly steep investments up front without a guarantee of any real outcomes. I’m going to tackle these ridden requirements first bc even if I never pursue the rest of it, it probably won’t feel like a waste. And if I still am this interested in a year maybe I’ll see about the rest !

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  5. Ooh I didn't know you had to do recognized events for this qualification. That's kind of a monetary bummer lol. But hopefully it will be worth it in the long run!

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    1. Ugh yea they definitely expect their pound of flesh!! You also have to be a member in good standing of literally ALL the things. Ugh. Money. We will see tho. I’m sure the riding part will be fun no matter what else happens ;)

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  6. While I agree with the basic premise of not putting all your eggs into the basket of achieving a specific outcome, I also think that without any specific outcome in mind things can get fuzzy and scattered. Much like my entire life HA! I really, really like how you merged the two concepts in your own goals having a specific outcome but also myriad of process goals to focus on along the way. I hope it works out and you feel fulfilled an successful in 2019.

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    1. Definitely - outcomes are important. Not every horse person has horse related outcomes (bc sometimes there’s apparently other real life stuff that requires more attention I guess but I don’t know anything about that lol) but generally: yea it’s hard to get anywhere if you don’t really know what direction to start. Like Matt’s point - obvi Matt has goals and specific outcomes he wants (his example was being selected for the US Olympic team, not exactly something that can happen without enormous effort and upfront investment), but his point is that we have to align our hopes and dreams with the pieces that go into that outcome that we can personally control.

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  7. I think your goals of 4-7 should be everyone's goals. They're certainly mine, at least the ones I've been mulling over in my head and not yet fully verbalizing.

    I still haven't fully figured out what I'd like to aim for my year looking like for riding. I feel like too much of my life is currently too ambiguous with a lovely question of "Am I actually getting this business off the ground and quitting my job?" or "Are we actually moving back to WA state...?"

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    1. Ha yea I feel ya. Not every year is the right year for big horse goals and there isn’t a lot of sense in forcing it!

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  8. My trainer once told me that I should pursue being a TD, because I'm the only giant nerd she knows who has read the rule book cover to cover and closely follows rule changes and rule change proposals. Or, ya know... submits said proposals to USEF. Twice. LOL. I told her that I don't think I would want to be an official, that's too... "official" for me. I'm too much of a plebeian! It's a very cool program though, and the sport is definitely in need of more support staff. Most of those roles are currently filled by an older generation that will probably be phasing out en masse relatively soon.

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    1. Oh man.... being a TD always looks good on paper, but then again my only interactions with TDs is for disputes as a rider, or when I need them to deal with a problematic rider when I’m a volunteer. Seems like a lot of shit falls to them and it’s no wonder so many TDs are kinda surly! Totally agreed tho about the fact of all the old guard aging out. There’s a real need for more fresh blood. We will see tho - as with anything in the horse community it can be tricky to get a toe in the door unless you know the right ppl.

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    2. I have a friend that is a breeder/ex-ULR/FEI steward and we were talking about this very thing not long ago. How basically all of the current group of officials are her age or older, and there are very few of the next generation coming up through the ranks to take their place. I think that's been part of why the new program has been refined and supported so much.

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  9. I love Matt's philosophies, and is Charlie not the happiest looking dude?!

    PS I'm stuck on the fact that a photographers name is "Amy Flemming" for those who have seen or read Heartland, lol.

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    1. Oh haha I haven’t seen that! But yes Charlie is generally a happy dude lol ;)

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  10. I love this process vs outcome outlook! The process is where we spend most of our time, anyway. The outcome can be the result of the process, but it's really just a blip in the grand scheme of things

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    1. Agreed completely! And so often our feelings about long term plans or goals can change quickly and without warning. So like,.. it’s worth being a little more holistic about everything lol

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  11. OOOhhh I think I know what you're aiming for and I just have to say, you'd be great! Fantastic goal, nonetheless, and C def has what it takes for training

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    1. Oh wow really ?? Lol! But thanks yea I think Charlie will be fine the real question is will I?? Lol...

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  12. Love this! I have been reflecting on my own goals for the 2019 season and I find myself aiming for a lot of what you are desiring as well - above all a happy horse and a good relationship!!

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    1. excellent - ultimately that's really what it's all about anyway, right?? good luck with your own goal setting!

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  13. I like goals where 'the big thing' is made up of lot of other fun experiences! The riding and Training goals sound fantastic for you and Charlie.

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    1. agree completely - i'm hoping for a year full of experiences !! :D

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  14. This sounds great! Lots of good things that you can do to still have fun and hopefully get enough qualifiers to do the thing!

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  15. Good luck! I haven't set my goals for the year yet but I usually have some of each type.

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  16. I think you two will do just fine ;)

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  17. Great! Good plan! Good process goals!
    I think I have mostly process goals this year too. Maybe I'll blog about them??

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