Four important life (and leadership) lessons I’ve learnt from horses
Working with horses has taught me so much about leadership and life in general. Here’s how I discovered the four Ps: passion, patience, perseverance and purpose.
‘Wow, you’re really passionate about this!’ people say to me when I tell them about my work.
I always take this as a compliment (unless it’s my kids, rolling their eyes because I am telling my horse tales again). I am proud to be passionate about what I do and want to share the insights I’ve picked up along the way.
In the course of my leadership coaching, I’ve seen countless people have ‘aha’ moments. And, I’ve had so, so many myself. For this, I’m grateful to the horses. Their help has been invaluable not just in leadership but in life! Here are just a few of the lessons they have taught me. I call them the four Ps:
- Practice presence
We’ve all been here. You’re in a meeting with a client and suddenly you remember that your child has ballet/football/music practice that afternoon and what can you make for dinner that’s quick and easy? Then, you realise you haven’t heard a client’s question.
Or, you’re doing homework with the kids and your mind starts wandering to the meeting you have in the morning. They realise you are not fully present and start to act out, bored and distracted.
We do this all the time, but presence is so important – not just when you’re with clients – but in all aspects of life.
How have I learnt this lesson from my horses?
Horses live in the ‘now’. They are not dreaming about the future or dwelling on the past. As such, they do not understand when we are not present with them and it makes them feel unsafe. They sense that incongruence between our actions and intentions that leads to a lack of psychological safety. We feel this too, right? It just becomes so obvious when a half tonne animal plants his feet and refuses to co-operate. Ever tried to make a horse do something they didn’t want to do? Hint: it’s virtually impossible. Just ask our stockhorse, Bart.
If you’re having trouble remaining present, and there’s no horse available (haha) then try looking up some techniques such as these from Headspace.
- Pause for patience
As well as being in the moment, horses remind you to slow down, step back and not rush.
Again, our equine friends will sense impatience and not react favourably. I’ve learnt this over the years through experience! We have a saying when working with horses, “Act like you have five minutes, it will take all day but act like you have all day and it will take five minutes.” No amount of pulling will make them move faster unless they can see a good reason.
Horses not only reflect my own impatience, they have a calming effect on me, showing signs of physical affection which help me when I’m feeling stressed out or rushed.
If you’ve ever been impatient (I think we all have!) then you probably know it often gets you nowhere. And, some studies have linked patience to better mental health, achieving your goals and better health in general.
Who or what helps you slow down? Is it your cat? Partner? Kids? Friends? Being in nature? Hiking? Swimming?
- Push that perseverance
This is a big one!
Having resilience and not giving up is something I’ve had to learn working with horses over the years. You have to see them as a team member and because they’re so large, if what you’re doing doesn’t work for them, then you have to find a new way.
I think this is particularly relevant for these COVID times, with nearly half of Australian businesses surveyed in Julyreporting a decrease in revenue. Many have had to ‘pivot’ (including us!). Yet, I’ve heard so many inspiring stories of people finding new ways forward.
- Passion and purpose
A few months ago, I was asked to give a presentation about finding your passion to WoManly, a business networking group on the Northern Beaches.
I really love this group. We relate as a group of women experiencing the same highs and lows that come with starting and running your own business, while juggling other responsibilities and commitments such as parenting. I decided it was a wonderful forum to share my personal growth through my work with horses.
To do this, I used stories that showed how my career had grown my own sense of purpose. I even shared a poem I had written, called One Life, about my journey. Talk about feeling vulnerable! But it really resonated with my audience, and before long they too were sharing their own experiences.
What does this mean?
In everything we do, we have to try to embrace the true essence of who we are. I said at the beginning that horses tap into my passion, and I think it is important to tap into yours as well. And I mean in your life in general, not necessarily just in your work.
Finding purpose give you a new energy. That’s how you achieve authentic leadership and explore new possibilities.
If you’d like to learn more about us and our life-changing leadership training with horses, visit Leading Edge Professional Development