Leading through Hard Stuff

White horse galloping in field with forest behind it

I have a client/colleague/friend who I’ve long admired (one of the great perks of coaching leaders who care about our world). She inspired me when she shared her practice of offering gratitude every morning by telling herself, “I get to do this hard work every day.” For her, leading through hard stuff is a motivator, a burst of energy, right off the bat when she wakes up.

I’m not going to lie I’m not always one who welcomes the hard stuff. I’ve learned a lot of ways over the years to not shy away from the hard stuff and move through it. I also know that a lot of the things I’ve chosen in life and work are hard for others but don’t necessarily feel that way to me.

This weekend I had a moment, though, when I realized I was loving doing something hard. For the last six months I’ve been taking horsemanship lessons and exploring equine-assisted coaching (keep a watch out- hopefully that will be a future offering of mine). I haven’t worked with horses since I was a kid and I’ve always wanted to be able to have deep connection and understanding of/with them. So I decided last fall there was no point in continuing to wait on that.

Horses are highly sensitive creatures, with nervous systems that are designed to keep them alive as a prey animal. As a highly sensitive being myself (in most species 15-20% of us are), I can relate to this. Working with my own sensitive nervous system while working with other beings with highly sensitive systems can be amazing and it can be overwhelming, especially when I am at the edges of my knowledge (one of my teachers says often “frustration comes where knowledge ends”).

Last weekend I was working with a horse new to me that hasn’t had nearly as much training as the other horses I’ve worked with. She’s highly sensitive and can spook easily. And that happened while we were doing groundwork. I could tell that she didn’t know what I wanted her to do. I tried to give her the clarity she needed from me as her leader, but the truth was I was getting frustrated. I didn’t know what to do. She reared up and backed away from me with speed and force. My teacher always tells me, “you can’t let go of the lead. You stick with them.” When you’re nervous system is already amped a bit, this can be particularly hard. But, I didn’t let go. She pulled me clear across the arena and I held on, staying on my feet the whole time. When she finally settled, we both stopped and took some deep breaths together. I walked away from the lesson feeling full! It was hard! And I loved getting to do it.

My epiphany following this weekend is this- we are all offered hard things in our lives. Some people get way more than others. We can make choices about how we frame and are leading through hard stuff handed to us. But we can also CHOOSE to tackle hard stuff. The hard thing we’re grateful for and motivated to work on is unique to each of us.

What hard thing are you choosing to be grateful in your life/work? Do you want to explore leading through hard stuff through coaching?

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