When your life-life messes up your dog-life.

grit mindset May 21, 2024

Compartmentalizing our lives seems to be the norm - we have our dog life, our work life, our parent life, our spouse life, and so on. I find that most people keep some type of emotional divider between the many complex aspects of being a human. In coaching, I often have to remind handlers that the skill they need for competing is already present in some other area of their life - that's how separate we tend to keep our different lives.

But occasionally, an aspect of our non-dog life overflows and affects us in the ring. And it usually catches us completely off guard.

My analogy is this: We wake up every morning with 100 energy units to spend. On trial days, we would prefer to spend 90 of those units on our dogs and the trial. However, we use some energy running our home, dealing with work, or with our families. If we are lucky, we get to spend half of our day's allotment on our trial.

But what if something is going on with a family member? Or what if our job is extra demanding? Or what if something else in our life is using up all the energy units we have (and more)? Well, it doesn't take a math whiz to realize we won't have much (or anything) left to give to our dogs and the sport we love.

This is when our compartmentalization strategy fails us. Maybe we aren't consciously thinking about work when we walk into the ring, but we are stepping to the line, possibly depleted and distracted. How could it be any other way? Yet, time and time again, handlers beat themselves up over being unable to perform under such conditions.

I think this is where the concept of "toughness" comes into the picture - both positively and negatively. On the positive side, handlers perceive that if they were only tougher, these things wouldn't affect them so much. On the negative side, I don't believe in denying what's happening in the rest of their life in order to run their dog.

While I personally don't think "tough" is the right word, I get the concept and the desire. As competitors, we long to achieve a mental state where we can perform well under any set of circumstances and where we can block everything out, at least while we compete. And while that may be the "holy grail," I'm not sure it's always realistic.

Instead, I like to think of this desired state as my point on the horizon toward which I'm steering the S.S. Mindset while showing myself grace when my life-life overflows into my competitive environment. So much of developing a consistent competitive mindset is dependent on self-awareness which means being honest about where your energy and attention are being spent.

Just by looking at how your dog life is impacted, your mindset is getting stronger - tougher. And for those times when those nice, neat compartments are overflowing, cut yourself some slack and adjust your goals accordingly.

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