The Rider’s Mind Podcast Episode 51: Handling Habits

Whether you judge them as good habits or bad habits, we all have habits. Habits are behaviors which we repeat enough times that they become automatic.  In this episode, I share more about the many layers of habits and highlight some things you'll need to consider when trying to handle your riding habits.

I was recently asked about changing bad habits on the barrel pattern. The rider kept doing the same things over and over in a run and they wanted to make a change. There’s a lot that goes into changing habits and it often isn’t easy to just switch your habits. There are neural pathways formed related to our habits, so they often are deeply ingrained. 

We tend to label habits as good or bad. I try to just think of them as just a habit. Try not to judge your habits as positive or negative. There may be one habit you prefer over another, but we don’t want to add extra energy to the habit. A habit is just a behaviour we’ve repeated. 

A lot of our habits are created without us even knowing.

Habits can be created when our mind looks for the easy way. We sometimes look to get out of pain. For example, if we have a sore hip, we may unknowingly create a habit of walking a certain way to relieve that pain. Maybe we feel anxious and turn to food to feel more grounded and satisfied. There is a reptilian part of the brain which is looking to conserve energy and hit the “easy button” to feel better. 

I chose to call this episode handling habits rather than changing bad habits because working with habits is really about moulding yourself into a new way of being. It might be a health habit, a speaking habit or a riding habit you are working on. Whatever it is, you’ll need to create new neural pathways. Some habits are hardwired a little deeper than others.

To change a habit, new ones have to be created.

You get what you focus on. You’ll need to think about what you do want to do, not the habit you shouldn’t do. Focus your attention on what you want to do. 

Many habits are connected to our identity. We may need to change our identity to change our habits. For example, if I identify myself as an emotional eater, I need to identify myself as a healthy eater. 

Making small changes over time is what will add up to big changes.

I’d recommend reading James Clear’s book Atomic Habits for more information on changing habits. He explains habit pairing or stacking. For example, if I want to start gratitude journaling, I might pair it with my habit of having a morning cup of coffee. When I have my coffee, I’ll also write in my journal. James Clear also talks about how rewarding it can be to track our habits. You can also reward a habit with a dopamine hit from a “treat” you enjoy. 

Habits are happening subconsciously, but we can consciously make a change.

Changing habits on the barrel pattern can take time. (Think about how much time it would take to retrain yourself to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand.) Habits are often deeply ingrained and it will likely take a focused effort to handle them. If you are aware of your habits, it makes them easier to change. In the seconds when you are making a run, it can be difficult to have that awareness. You have to be present and focus on what you want to do. 

You may also need to deal with subconscious beliefs in order to handle your habits. There can be no doubt in your mind that you need to adopt this new habit. Don’t adopt a habit just based on someone else’s opinion. Choose to adopt habits that you truly believe will help you. 

Trust in your training and know you can focus on the one thing you are trying to change. Barrel runs are fast, so avoid having a “to-do” list of 9 things you want to do in the run. Pick one thing to focus on doing and let the rest happen. 

Have grace with yourself. 

There are lots of layers to habits. Give yourself time to handle your habits. Be present. Ride the stride. Be aware of your actions. Trust your training. Catch yourself in your habits. 

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Learn with Me
If you’re looking to make changes to your mindset, be sure to sign up for my free Next-Level Mindset Mini Course

You can also get on the waitlist for Stride, my next-level barrel racing group. This group receives video training and coaching from me and Stride members also have access to special guests. We work on habits in our group and strive to improve ourselves in order to be better riders and competitors.  

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