Best of William Micklem - 11 - FEAR AND THE ‘MAGGOT IN THE MIND'

Never underestimate the power of the mind, not only as a power for good but also as a negative power that can subconsciously restrict your activities and achievements. Fear is often connected to a negative attitude. There are two connected aspects of this negativity:


The first is when you focus on all the things that are wrong rather than those that are right. I make it a golden rule to work from what my students and their horses can do, rather than what they can’t do, and this makes a huge difference. It enables quality practise from the beginning, then increased confidence and accelerated progress are largely inevitable. Secondly with so many riders there is that ‘maggot in the mind’ saying “I can’t do this…the other riders are better… I’m dead!” What is needed

instead is a ‘good genie’ saying “This is fun…I can do this…Yes!” In both these cases by working from the positive there is a hugely beneficial effect on your performance. Being positive is very efficient and self motivating as a method of training and pulls you forward, while negativity just builds barriers and destroys confidence and dreams.

So the engine of success is readily achievable action steps and thinking positive. The secret is to first set your long term aims and plan backwards to where you are now. Then execute these bite-size steps directed specifically towards achieving your medium term goals. This stacks the odds in your favour and produces the opposite of a vicious circle. Being confident that we have the internal resources and method to take on a new challenge, we accomplish more and in turn become more confident. A good coach will also encourage you to watch riders and trainers who are obviously doing good quality work, because their standards and confidence will rub off on you.

This is the beginning of role playing.


The use of role playing and modelling is a powerful tool I use to overcome such challenges as fear and a negative attitude. Role playing is more natural to humans than many realise, because role playing and modelling is already used to some degree by us all in our daily lives. It is almost impossible to go through life without learning from and copying those around you. My twist to this basic truth is that you can make this more effective by first identifying what is missing in your mental armoury and then find the right role models to improve your performance in these

specific areas.

Having identified the mental attributes required, a role model is selected that you like and know well – often not a famous person. Just by focusing regularly on the role model and their desired qualities our behaviour will automatically move towards this image. This is a huge achievement for little investment. Role playing allows us, for example. to tap into the ‘I am the greatest’ spirit of Muhammed Ali, the ‘can do’ attitude of blind cross country skier and Canadian Winter Olympian Brian McKeever, or the courage of Paralympian Tanni Grey Thompson, and protects us from the paralysing pessimism that is all too characteristic of many underachievers. With regular use of role playing you will find that one image or key word can trigger a wide range of desired qualities. Alternatively I use a number of specific Hats to make the whole process even more accessible and

effective. (See my web site under Habitual Hats.) The greatest value of role playing is that gradually you will not be role playing, because these attitudes will become an established part of who you are on a daily basis.


Of course if you fall of regularly you have every reason to be fearful and every reason to change your coach! In my next blog I will talk more about learning how to fall and how a good coach can help

overcome fear and avoid most falls. Even a novice rider can suddenly become secure when their weight is in the right place. More next time. Happy days. William


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Comment by William Micklem on March 9, 2010 at 3:59pm
Good man Geoffrey...your human and humane qualities and your humour shine through...I look forward greatly to meeting up one day...William
Comment by Geoffrey Pannell on March 9, 2010 at 3:50pm
Ah , the maggot in the mind . Can't remember how many times I have used this in lessons since you first wrote about it William!!! Will be getting the insectiscide out to clear the maggots from my mind , 10 days to the start of the event season!!! ALL systems go.
Comment by William Micklem on March 9, 2010 at 3:14pm
....thanks for compliment....but can't resist saying that the advantages of sitting trot without stirrups are often outweighed by the disadvantages....first have your horse through in the back then sitting trot may be possible....your article was write well...keep going...William
Comment by Anna Trinder on March 9, 2010 at 3:07pm
good one - I like the maggot and good genie analogy, I will use when students next tell me they can't possibly do sitting trot without stirrups on their bouncy horse!
Comment by Janet B on March 7, 2010 at 2:27pm
So true. Thanks for the great reminder that we can control our happy thoughts, that can control our outcome!! Janet

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