Every morning, at about about 7:30, a blue cart rattles down the aisle of the stables, it’s wheel vibrating off the uneven ground of the dirt floor. It contains the first meal of the day for the horses, now alert and active, some talking in a low rumble, others unable to contain their excitement, kicking the doors. They know what the sound means because they hear it every morning and every evening (midday, as well, during the winter months). They say horses don’t wear watches, but you don’t need a clock to tell you that it’s feeding time at the barn. This is a routine that they are familiar with and have adapted as part of their life in a ‘stable’ environment.
As part of my ongoing effort to become more focused and creative, get more done and accomplish my goals, I have now developed a regular routine. Taking the advice of mentors (in books, videos and in person) I am up early, keeping a diary of my activities and thoughts, jotting down ideas or inspirational words from others and reaching out to others for connection and community. I am writing content, updating my website, adding new photos on Facebook and Twitter and offering new events for my MEETUP members to attend. I’m trying to eat healthy and sleep enough to refresh myself. BUT, it didn’t happen overnight.
Like most of you, I had a job for 30 years with daily responsibilities and routine, before retiring in 2014 (give or take a month here and there for maternity leave or change of job sites). But, when I no longer had to rise and shine, get dressed and be at work at a specific time, it became a challenge to develop a different routine, based solely on my own desire to get things done and set deadlines as part of my new business, Harmony and Healing with Horses. Because my husband and I had enough retirement savings and pension to live on comfortably, I didn’t feel pressured to produce immediate results and bring in a regular income. My part time life helping others with their horses and as a riding instructor was always seen as contingent upon both my desire to continue and the level of interest of others, with their willingness to pay me for my services. As I discovered how much fun it was to bring a smile to the face of new riders, young and old, and found myself in love with the idea of teaching others everything I could find on horses, horsemanship and riding, there was no turning back. This was not simply a hobby or a part time passion-this was my second career.
I’ve shared with many of my students and friends the life changing moment in my new career when I discovered the work of Carolyn Resnick and liberty training. It is the real reason I continue my work at HHH. Every moment spent with the horses is a chance for me to learn more about my story with it’s unique lessons of how beliefs and attitudes, habits and behaviors develop and create a pattern of daily actions that impact our ability to find peace and balance, happiness and success in our life.
Which brings me back to morning routines. How many of us routinely make our bed in the morning? brush our teeth? eat a healthy breakfast? take a shower? All very obvious behaviors for the first part of the day. Except maybe making your bed. That seems unnecessary considering most of us don’t worry about anyone seeing the pile of sheets and blankets left in a wrinkly mess. Only for company…But as Admiral William McRaven, US Navy Retired says in his book, “Make Your Bed”, it’s the little things that can change your life and maybe the world.
Change starts with small steps of routine and discipline. While it may not seem important to keep a regular schedule when you’re self employed or creating a second income from your passion, the first thing I did was set up a calendar and keep a running total of the income I was earning from each and every encounter with clients and students. Taking my retirement income for granted at first, I realized that if I really wanted to grow my new business, I couldn’t tap into my first income to support my second. I started lists of things I absolutely had to do on a regular basis. I followed up on every email and every phone call. I filled notebooks with ideas and thoughts I’d had as well as the words I’d heard while listening to multiple audiobooks and podcasts. Each idea had the potential to become a new event, a new blog, or part of my growing presentations as a teacher and facilitator. Each new contact had the potential to create a larger network of clients and students or just a great way to make friends.
I kept my daily routine simple, but regular, telling myself that two days a week was in the office, 4 days a week with the horses and their owners and one day for me to choose my activities-work or pleasure. The more I kept to my simple routine, the more it felt like I was acting purposeful and maintaining a sense of balance in my life.
I think the hardest thing for me was looking at each step as its own lesson, like teaching a horse to WHOA when I stop moving my feet, whether or not we’re attached with a halter and lead rope. It starts with the horse moving past me when I stop, maybe circling me frenetically. It looks ugly. Then, with small exaggerations, asking for the same thing again and again, rewarding the smallest try, it begins to sink in. With a chance to repeat the lesson over and over, the horse understands what’s expected so as to feel the calm that comes with finding the move that works every time.
I am now 4 years into this new routine and it is getting easier to find the WHOA, the sweet spot that feels like it makes sense and works for me. It helps that I’m naturally organized and as a health care professional for 30 years, able to understand human behavior. It’s a process, a learning experience, though and it never ends. I told myself that in writing this today I would be fulfilling my promise TO MYSELF and to you that I would complete one meaningful task today. Now comes the reward…a day with friends, music and dance or a small moment of gratitude for being given a chance to grow and learn every day!