Recently I was introduced to Dr. B.J. Fogg’s Tiny Habits method for establishing behavioral changes. He has a TED talk that summarizes his research and method which revolves around creating many tiny habits to eventually lead to a larger outcome. The idea is to make a tiny habit so small that you need very little motivation to do the habit. That habit is then done regularly immediately after an already existing habit. Eventually these tiny habits will grow and many tiny habits put together can lead to large outcomes without requiring great motivation. This concept fascinated me and I decided to try it out for myself.
I have had an on and off meditation practice for several years. I enjoy the results of practicing and I am comfortable with meditation itself, but I have not been able to have the outcome of a regular daily practice over the long term. This is due to many excuses, distractions and irregular scheduling of my day. I thought about how I could use the tiny habit method to help me with my practice. My actual sitting in meditation was not tiny as I do twenty minutes a sitting. But the habit I needed to create was the actual process of walking to my meditation room and sitting down in my meditation chair. Once that happened I knew the meditation would follow. I wanted my meditation to be in the morning so I would have a great start to my day. I thought about other morning routines I had that I could use as the established habit. I have cats and I have two litter boxes on the upstairs level in the room right next to my meditation room. I clean them every morning right after I get up. So, about a month ago I decided that every morning when I go to clean the litter boxes I would first walk into my meditation room and do my meditation. Then when done, I would clean the litter boxes. It has worked as I have been doing a twenty minute meditation every day. If for some reason my morning routine gets interrupted, I still do my meditation when I go to do the litter boxes, no matter the time of day. The meditation habit is so ingrained now that I think of doing it without any prompts. So this method does work and I have also used it for a few other habits and it has worked for those as well.
It started me thinking about how this could be applied to riding horses and riding in competitions. How could a rider change a physical or mental habit little by little by establishing new tiny habits? I thought I would come up with a few examples and leave it open to you to come up with tiny habits that you can create to help you build towards larger outcomes. A common habit of some riders is to let their reins get too long which leads to many other problems. It can be overwhelming to think about fixing that for the whole ride. But what if every time a rider passed through the ends of the ring they shortened their reins? I would think over time this would be a habit that would need no thought and might grow into always keeping a good rein length. The same thing could be done with a rider who holds their breath. At each end of the ring they could exhale and take a new breath.
For a rider that gets nervous and tight when they ride some tiny habits off the horse before mounting could lead to a less tense ride. Thirty seconds of stretching after tacking up could lead to that rider feeling more lose and relaxed in their body, which would help them be relaxed once mounted. We all know a relaxed rider creates a relaxed horse and this becomes a cycle that builds relaxation for both. To add to the relaxed ride the rider could take another thirty seconds and be with their breath, breathing calmly in and out after walking into the ring. Neither of these would take a lot of effort, but they could lead to great changes over the long term.
What are some tiny habits you could create to help your riding? Just thinking about the blocks to your riding success and breaking them down into small parts should make your perceived problems seem more easily surmounted. You can be in charge of the changes you will make to improve your riding. Try coming up with a couple of new tiny habits you want to establish. Share them in the comment section and keep us all posted as to your progress. As a community we can all support each other and help come up with new ideas for change. Good luck!