A Holistic Approach to Leadership

Leadership is not about being the best. Leadership is about making everyone else better.

 Horses have a natural capability to sense another’s leadership ability, or, for that matter, the lack of it. Out of curiosity, they will seek the company of those who can lead.

How many of you have seen horses gravitate to certain people? Those individuals who can walk into a pasture, coral or arena, and all the horses begin to approach them as if they are a magnet. They possess the energy and the feel of a leader.

Heart Soul Confidence-Based Horsemanship programs are not just for people who have horses. These programs are for anyone who has the desire to experience personal and/or professional transformation. In the field of self-development, people who utilize horses as their teachers, experience powerful and lasting results faster than m any other forms of self-discovery and change.

So what makes a good leader? Why do some find it so hard to be the leader their horses need them to be? I have heard some say, “I am not a leader.” My reply is, “We are all the leaders of our own lives.”

A good leader must possess Inner Balance. Even the best leaders have moments where their leadership is less than what they are capable of being. This happens when they are out of balance within themselves.

A confident leader has learned to master Inner Balance. I believe that Inner Balance is comprised of four components or quadrants which are; mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Mastering means all four quadrants exist in harmony.

Let’s look at each quadrant from a holistic point of view, one that is all-inclusive.

Mental Fitness:

Knowledge and thoughts are this area’s focus. Knowledge is gained through books, videos, coaching, teachers, and through experiential learning. It is what empowers us to achieve our desired outcome in any situation. By applying this knowledge to various situations we gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. We can then store this knowledge and its application for future use in opportunities towards achieving our goals.

It is important to acknowledge that our thoughts about the knowledge we’ve gained through an experience, one where increased understanding has occurred, can either enhance or can hinder our ability to apply this information successfully in the future.

If we can successfully store the actions that helped us to obtain our desired outcomes in our mind, then allow that experience to repeat itself in our mind’s eye, the next time we attempt to physically achieve the same task, it will be accomplished with greater ease. Jim Afremow, PhD writes about the power of the mind and the above technique in his book, The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train and Thrive.

The power of thinking the same thoughts, preferably thoughts that are motivating, over and over, we will begin to lay down neuro-pathways that communicate to our nervous system regarding our specific physical action.

Experts estimate that the average person thinks between 50,000 – 80,000 thoughts per day. Which means 2,100- 3,300 thoughts per hour, or 35 – 50 thoughts per minute. Wow, that’s a lot. How many of those thoughts are filled with emotions, such as: fear, anger, quilt, and shame?

In order to achieve Mental Fitness, we must first learn to stop the background chatter and silence our minds. One of the best ways I believe this can be accomplished is through meditation.

There are many benefits to meditation, including: gaining a new perspective on stressful situations, managing worry, increasing self-awareness, reducing negative emotions, increasing imagination and creativity, increasing patience and tolerance, and the most important benefit is mastering your being in the present moment.

Not only is this important in your everyday life, but I hope you can see how much this will enhance your confidence-based horsemanship skills. Horses respond best to a leader who has learned to master their Mental Fitness. The reason for this is because horses are sentient beings, and they are masters at conserving energy, their life depends on it. They react to each other and to their surroundings by remaining in the present moment. If they are constantly responding to a frantic or tense leader, it can cause them to be in a constant adrenaline state which expends valuable energy.

Emotional Fitness:

Emotional Fitness means that you are controlling your own emotions, and not your emotions in control of you. Emotional Fitness is the ability to adapt emotionally to any circumstance.

I like to look at our emotional being as the gate keeper that controls how our knowledge and our thoughts are going to be delivered to our physical body, as in the execution of our plan that then gets turns into actions.

The job of our gate keeper is to seek experiences that bring us pleasure and protect us from those that bring pain.

Our thoughts originate based on the information we’ve gained through our experiences or the knowledge we’ve gathered. Our emotional body (gate keeper) influences which neural pathway a thought will travel to get the message to the physical body, which then puts it into action.

If we are experiencing fear, doubt, anger, frustration or any other negative emotions, the pathway that thought is going to take will be through the Sympathetic Nervous System.

The Sympathetic Nervous System prepares the body for intense physical activity and is referred to as the fight or flight response. If we physically try to achieve our goal utilizing this type of energy it may be expressed as reactive tension. It might even manifest as aggression. Both may result in an undesirable outcome.

If on the other hand, we are feeling positive emotions, such as; confidence, patience, inspiration, hope, joy, and optimism, based on the knowledge we’ve stored from previous experiences similar to the one we are attempting to achieve, the neural pathway taken to get the message to the physical body will be via the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This will allow us to response instead of simply reacting. With this energy pathway the physical body relaxes, the heart rate slows, and we are more focused in the present moment, and can successfully achieve the task at hand.

Physical Fitness:

The body is the vehicle in which we express ourselves and achieve our desired goals. Being physically fit is important for a leader. Good leaders lead by example. They have both stamina and agility. This is especially important when working with horses. Nutrition, exercise, sleep, and meditation are all important to empowering your body to perform to your full potential.

Spiritual Fitness:

Spiritual Fitness is an internal experience, characterized by one’s personal capability of meaning, connection and transcendence. It can mean possessing an understanding and deeper connection to a higher power and a purpose that gives meaning to one’s life. Sometimes this higher power energy is referred to as the Universal Energy.

Elephantjournal.com wrote: “Quantum Physics states that everything that exists in the whole universe is made up of energy that constantly flows and changes form. This has been proven many times by Nobel Prize award winning scientists, however because we are used to thinking about ourselves, and everything in the universe as tangible, it can be quite difficult to accept that everything is just energy.”

If we are deficient in Spiritual Energy the other three parts, Mental Fitness, Emotional Fitness, Physical Fitness, cannot live up to their full potential. This creates disharmony in our bodies. Horses can sense our disparities and will react. Their reaction will mirror our imbalances.

Horses are more than just an animal we use for our personal entertainment or just a tool serving to achieve some desired athletic goal. They are masters that can help teach us lessons, but we can only fully appreciate their teachings if we are first willing to listen to them not only as our partners but also as our teachers.

Horses give us immediate clear, unbiased and honest feedback to what we do, or don’t do, when we engage with them as partners. This helps us to become stronger in our leadership skills by observing how horses respond to our interactions with them.

Horses can teach us to take a holistic approach to developing our individual leadership that will allow us to utilize and master all of the four quadrants that make us whole beings.

Mental Fitness is obtained by gaining knowledge to help us achieve our desired outcome. Controlling the background chatter allows us to receive the thoughts that contain the knowledge we need to successfully achieve our goals.

Emotional Fitness is being able to feel our emotions and use the information we have received. By changing something, either physically or mentally, in response to the message received from our emotional body, it can keep us moving forward or get us back on track towards achieving the task, be it achieving a goal or to simply relaxing and enjoying the current moment in our lives.

Physical Fitness is managing your body such that you are empowered to perform to your full potential.

Spiritual Fitness is the energy that flows consistently within all the other quadrants that make up the whole being. It allows us to be in harmony, not only with ourselves, but with our horses, and the partnership between us.

A confident leader must be willing to master Mental, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual Fitness, in order to prove to their horse(s) they are worthy of being their leader. Everything means something to a horse. We may unconsciously be sending our horses confusing messages about ourselves as their leaders, and this can also be true for our other relationships.

Cindy Hartzell © 2019

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