Train yourself like you train your horse - by Don Jessop

Train yourself like you train your horse - by Don Jessop

May 21, 2019

Train yourself like you train your horse - by Don Jessop

The more I learn about training people to teach their horses, the more I learn about my own human brain. And this is what I mean...

A horse responds to the signals we send. For instance, if I want to train a horse to circle on the ground for me... I send a signal, lifting my hand and guiding the direction of the movement I desire. The horse does not organically understand the signal and usually does nothing at first. But with a little support and a process of cycling through signal, support, and rewards system, the horse begins to understand the signal. The more often I train, the easier it gets to solicit a response from that signal with the horse.

As a teacher of humans, not just horses, I must also train a person in the same fashion. I must send a suggestion to the student to do something. Usually, the student doesn't know what to do or how to do what I'm asking, so following the same pattern, I ask them again and again with support, and rewards for effort. After several cycles, the student begins to understand my suggestion and does the task quickly and effectively. 

This all relates to myself and my brain in that the process for progress is always the same. I must decide on a signal, send the signal, support with something else to ensure the response happens, reward the effort, then repeat the process. Repeat until I begin to respond to the signal consistently. I call that "the training cycle."

Let me explain how this can all fall apart by telling you a story:

"I want to lose weight." Susan's says to herself.

So Susan begins hunting for inspiration and support. She finds it in a local gym and signs up for classes. But then life gets too busy and she never makes it to the classes. What can she do?

Let's tackle this like a horse trainer. - Susan, at this point, gets no daily reminders to go to the gym. And she beats herself up for not doing that thing she needs so much. So she puts a reminder on her phone to buzz her every day at 7:00 AM. The remainder says, "Get up and get fit!"

The next morning at 7:00 AM her phone buzzes. It's a signal to get going and instead of jumping out of bed, she makes a spur of the moment decision to ignore the signal because... "today is just too hectic." 

"Maybe tomorrow." She says as she starts her normal daily routine.

So what's wrong with Susan? 

Well, nothing really. She's simply ignoring the signal. She's not responding to her own signal. Would you allow a horse to do that? Would you reward a horse for doing that? Ironically, this is something many of us do on a daily basis. 

So what Susan does next, like most people, is begin making a new and improved signal. She realizes her reminder is failing her and she decides to make a better one. 

"I just need a better reminder." She thinks. Then promptly makes a new call to action that will buzz on her phone each day. This new reminder has a picture of her favorite fit person at the beach. It reminders her of her goal to get thin again. But like most people, within twenty-four hours, she's non-responsive to the new reminder. "Life is just too busy." She consoles herself.

"Maybe, I just need more reminders," She says to herself after failing again. So she plugs in a reminder every hour. But it soon becomes apparent that this too fails her. This kind of thinking never works because the flooding of reminders only desensitizes us to the reminder. After a while, we begin to ignore the reminder, or worse, resent it. Just like a horse, if you send the signal too many times without support or follow through, the signal becomes meaningless.

Another problem is that her idea serves as a "reminder" and not a "signal," and she begins to ignore it. She tells herself that she will respond to the reminder when it shows up but doesn't actually "train" herself to respond the way you train a horse to respond to signals. Can you understand the difference between a reminder and a signal or trigger?

So what's really wrong with Susan? 

Answer: Again, nothing really. She's as normal as every other human. But she is missing something big. Something good trainers know about but too many people never learn. And here it is... It doesn't matter what signal you use or how often you use it. What matters is that you train the subject to respond to the signal every time!

It doesn't matter what signal you use or how often you use it. What matters is that you train the subject to respond to the signal every time!

So what Susan needs to do... is train her body and brain to respond to the buzz of her phone instead of ignoring it and treating it like a reminder. But how? Currently, all she does is postpone the response. This would be like asking a horse to circle, then getting a response from the horse a week later.  Or worse, it would be like asking the horse to circle and the horse saying, "Hey, yeah, good idea, I should do that someday, I don't have time right now, but maybe later, when I'm not so busy."

So what I'm saying is that the real magic in influencing change takes place in the actual training of the response to the signal, not the significance of the signal.

Instead of hunting for better reminders or more reminders, Susan must take five minutes out of her busy schedule to send herself a signal, then immediately force herself to give a response to that signal. The response must take place within ten seconds or less. Then she must repeat the cycle until it's solid. She must train her body to see the signal, drop everything she's doing and immediately respond in some way. Even if it's a minor response. She must stop seeing it as a reminder and start seeing it as a "go now" trigger, or signal-response system. Only then, will she truly act, instead of merely thinking about acting someday.

You wouldn't send a reminder to the horse to circle tomorrow. You would ask the horse to focus now and expect a response within a reasonable time frame. Right, so that's what Susan needs to do.

Now Susan has a sister. Her name is Claire. Claire is a clever person with the same goal as Susan to get fit. She's studied with great influencers and understands this process for progress. She spends a few minutes each day training the signal/response/reward mechanism in her body and brain. She's getting so good at responding to the signal that when her phone buzzes in the morning she doesn't ignore it. She gets her shoes on and drives to the gym. If she can't get to the gym for some reason, she does something at home. But what she doesn't do... What she NEVER does... is ignore or postpone a response to the signal.

Claire knows what will happen if she makes a habit of ignoring signals. So she forces herself to respond to the signal each day. She trains herself to respond to the signal by spending just a few minutes ensuring the signal still works. She doesn't wait until the signal arrives either. Daily, she plays the game of signal/response/reward to a mock signal, until her body becomes responsive. Only then, can she be sure that when the real signal appears each day she won't hesitate.

Let me ask you... If a horse continues to ignore the signal, do you let it be... look for a better signal... or start demanding responses? 

Your answer to that simple question will determine how well you understand the process to progress. And this simple process works across the board. It works for horse training, it works for teaching people, and it works for changing your own behavior. Of course, there could be better signals. There are always better signals, for different situations, but if you keep getting hung up on the idea that better signals or better reminders or more reminders, is what you need, you'll never make progress.

I want you to take a challenge!

I want you to pick a subject you'd like to make an improvement upon in your own life. Decide on a simple signal that will trigger you into creative activities related to that subject. Perhaps it's a picture on your phone, a buzz or ringtone at a certain time, a sticky note on the wall, writing on the mirror, or anything else. Then choose your response. You don't have to carry on for hours when you respond, it could be as simple as a deep breath or standing up and stretching, or sitting down to write a note. But action must be taken when the signal is present, otherwise, you're no better than the horse that doesn't respond to signals. And nobody wants to be around a non-responsive horse or lackadaisical human.

Once you've decided on a signal and response, (keep it simple at first) start the training cycle. Spend five minutes mastering your response to the signal. Do this for a week, each day. Then, magically, watch how you'll beat procrastination like a pro.

Read the challenge again if you need. Then get after it! Start training your brain to activate your body instantly. Ten seconds or longer is too long to respond.

Don't read this and say to yourself, that's a good idea. I should try that sometime.


Do you want to get fit? Put a sticky note on your mirror, then train yourself to respond to the sticky note. You have ten seconds to respond to that note. It might just be a simple stretch or deep breathe, but you know if you don't respond, you're not ever going to respond and you'll always be a procrastinator. You must STOP reacting to instinct and instead start responding to the signals you design. You must decide that this process will change your life. Repeat the process until you can walk into that space where the sticky note is and instantly respond to it, even in some small meaningful way.

Do you want to ride your horse more? First, put your call to action on your calendar. "Today at 4:00 pm I'm going to ride." Next, train your mind and body to respond to that signal. Take five minutes now and pretend you just got the buzz on your phone calendar. Get up out of your chair, walk to the door, open the door, then come back to the chair and sit down. Practice this response to the signal a few times, then when the real signal appears, you'll respond, because you know if you don't... you have no chance of ever making it.

Whatever you want to change in your life, map out your signals and responses. Take action and join the elite group of people who actually achieve things in life rather than wait for things to be given to them.

This may seem like a complex idea, but I believe in you! I believe you can see how reminders don't work well. What works, is turning those reminders into triggers that launch you, like a firey ball of powerful energy out of a cannon pointed right at your goals. What works is training your responses to those reminders before they actually show up. 

Comment, share and engage with me. I want to see you make progress in your dreams with horses and your goals with yourself!

God bless!

PS. For more information on my courses, take a look at the Horse Mastery Group. We don't just get into horse training, we get into people training and training your mind and body to be a powerful asset for your amazing future.

Horse Mastery Group - check it out now!




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