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Taking Control of Your Emotions and Attitudes Pays Dividends
by Jim Will, Ph.D.

How do we prevent creating negative emotions for ourselves when something happens negatively in competition? How do we overcome bad runs and resulting bad feelings to go on and win subsequent races? What do we do when we’re upset with ourselves? As you may recall in my first article, The Importance of Self-Talk, our "self-talk" – those little voices inside our head – is what allows us to manage and control our emotions.

Happiness, sadness, jubilation, depression, elation, jealousy, gladness, resentment, distrust, cheerfulness, contentment, desolation, misery, delight, gloom, joy, despair, and anger – if you're human, then you've probably experienced at least one of these emotions at one time or another. It's normal.

However, if any of these emotions control you at times, then there's good news on the horizon. You can start to change your emotions. It's really quite easy with just a little practice.

First off, one’s attitude is on display during every encounter. While we're at it, let's also look at attitudes. I always hear, "This person's got a good attitude," or "That person's got a lousy attitude." I was in a store the other day and asked a young man, "How are you doing today?" His response was a mumbling, "Fine," so I said to him, "Well, you need to tell your face." Why did I say that? Because his attitude was showing; his expressions alone were screaming out all kinds of negativism.

It's something to think about, especially when you're barrel racing in competition and in front of the public. Our attitude is showing all the time whether we like it or not. Take a look at your photos, especially if your horse fell or you hit a barrel. What does your expression say?

Katie Deupree
Katie Deupree maintained her composure
when her horse went down during the 2006
Classic. This photo says,“I am a professional!”

I was working with about a dozen people in a meeting one day, and a lady looked at me and said, "So Dr. Will, are you sitting there analyzing us?" My response was, "Well, yes I am. Aren't you analyzing me as well?" And she responded, "Well, I guess we are."

The fact is, we are all analyzing each other all the time, both consciously and subconsciously, by watching each other's attitudes and emotions. So it's easy to surmise that if we let certain emotions and attitudes – be they positive, neutral, or negative – go unchecked, we could be perceived much differently than we may want to be perceived.

If you're in the barrel racing business, you are not only representing yourself, you are representing sponsors of the event and maybe even owners of your horse (if you are riding a horse someone else owns). A negative encounter with a fan can have a terrible ripple effect, so keeping our attitudes and emotions under our control is to our advantage.

So how do we make sure we're sending out the proper signals? First, we need to recognize the fact we do have different emotions and attitudes throughout the day, especially at the arena where so much is going on. Some people are more consistent than others with their emotions. This can be either good or bad. If they are consistent with negative emotions, then they can pull others down with them. Thankfully, the opposite is true, and isn't it a lot more enjoyable to be around someone with a consistently good attitude?

I remember another client who told me he always worked better under pressure. However, the way he was handling pressure was negatively affecting other people in the office. The client would yell and snap at co-workers, put others down, slam things down, etc. Eventually, the others got resentful and developed negative attitudes themselves – thus affecting the company's overall bottom line. Although the client delivered on his end, the negative effect on the office outweighed his singular benefit. He quickly realized he needed to change his attitude.

When hundredths-of-a-second can make you or break you, every positive mental pick-me-up you can get from your coaches, sponsors, friends, family and fans can make a difference. It all starts with your own thinking, your own daydreaming, and your own self-talk. I love to refer to these internal thoughts as the "little voices in our heads" because we can say all the nice, flowery things – "Good morning" or "Please and thank you" or "Good luck" – but what are the little voices saying? Are they saying, "I couldn't care less what kind of morning you have" or "I'm not going to say thanks to that guy because I remember what he did to me at the last event" or "You need all the luck you can get, fool."

Renee Ryckebosch
Talk about postivie mental pick-me-ups from
your fans. Check out the little girl behind the
barrel during Renee Ryckebosch’s Fast-Time
Win at the 2007 Classic.

I ask you, what can these kinds of emotions cost you in terms of money, peace of mind, friendships, publicity, rankings, and wins? Each and every moment of each and every day we have a choice as to what we're thinking about. And once we start to realize we can learn to manage, control, change, and focus those little voices, we will see that those emotions and attitudes can start to change very quickly, permanently, and in a positive direction.

You need to ask yourself why you wish to change. Once you answer that question, ask yourself what you want to change into? Yes, you have choices. A lot of people feel they are victims of their past. For instance, you will hear people say, "I can't help it, I've always been that way." Well sometimes change is good.

Some people decide they are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Start paying close attention to what you, Sharon, your friends and family are saying. You'll quickly see how a lot of people are limiting themselves from growing and tapping into their true potential.

Let's all start to recognize our emotions and attitudes and try to figure out which ones are harmful to us and interfering with our "wins." Next, get focused on exactly what you want out of life. I want you to manage and control what your little voices are saying to you and start living the life you've always wanted for yourself.

Until the next time, your doctor wishes you the very best – in and out of the arena.