Today, I’m sharing an excerpt from my upcoming book Dancing the Tightrope, The Gift of Pressure, Uncertainty and Failure. The book chronicles my three-year journey of getting back on the horse after a bad accident. In the ensuing three years, what I thought would be a journey about learning to ride horses became instead a catalyst to raise my pressure threshold, to operate more in the present moment and yes, to get back on the horse. This scene takes place 18 months after the accident. I’m visiting Bruce Anderson to experience his leadership work for corporate executives. At this point in time, I had still not decided whether I would ever ride another horse.
Bruce handed me a rope and a halter, with these instructions: “Your picture is to choose one of the two horses, put the halter on the horse you chose and bring him or her to the round pen.” A round pen is a like a corral seen in Westerns. Instead of being square, the round pen is round. Well, almost round. More on that later.
However, I hadn’t gotten to the not-quite-round-round-pen yet. My mind tripped up over the word “picture”. What did he mean? Did he mean goal instead of picture? What an odd thing to say. Later I would come to realize that horses think in pictures. His word choice was not only deliberate; it was essential. But in my rush to show off, I mentally replaced the word picture with goal and set off to crush the goal.
In my mind, this would take five minutes max. It would be less but for the two gates I would have to open and close on my way out and my way in to complete his assignment.
Here’s my embarrassing little secret. I only cared about one thing at this point. I wanted Bruce to ask me where I had learned to catch and halter a horse like that. In the world according to Lynn, I was just one step shy of being a natural horsewoman. Overconfidence struck again. Secretly, there was also a part of me hoping he would absolve me from any responsibility for the horse accident. Plus, I wanted to see those cool activities for the leadership team.
So much for my wishful thinking and getting the horse to the round pen in five minutes. Yes, I caught the horse in short order. Then I had to figure out the halter, which was unlike any I had ever seen. “Let the halter tell you how to put it on the horse,” Bruce said. Talking halters were not part of my preconceived expectations, and best I could tell, this one looked more like a rope than a halter. And last time I checked, ropes don’t talk.
Finally, I got the halter on and started walking. On the way into the round pen, Bruce stopped me and asked me to feel my “negative – positive pole.” My what? There he goes using funny words again. Yes, I feel something. What I’m feeling is pissed. You are not letting me get this horse into the round pen, where all the fun will start.
“Your Negative Positive pole is like a car battery. There’s a little charge of electricity inside of you. See if you can feel it.” As he spoke, he moved his hands up and down in front of his midsection, with his thumbs up. “When something is off, that little charge of electricity will surge through you. Notice it, and give it a number.”
Well, my number on a scale of one to ten was a ten. An hour and 50 questions later, the horse and I finally walked into the round pen. Yay, I thought, now I get to do something with the horse.
Not so fast.
[End of excerpt]
Big changes often come from small moments, like the one I describe here. Ultimately, there would be many more visits to Bruce’s place after this day. However, it would take me a LONG time to understand his idea of “thinking in pictures.”
Temple Grandin wrote a book called Thinking in Pictures, And Other Reports from My Life with Autism. In the book, she described how she thinks from an animal perspective. She thinks in pictures.
On that day several years ago, Bruce was introducing me to one of the greatest tools I would come to know, which is to visualize a picture in my mind of what I want to create. Following that, he had me break the picture into smaller and smaller frames. Even the biggest, most imposing idea becomes much simpler when it’s broken down into its pieces. It’s a difficult idea for someone like me to adopt. Yet when I remember to picture what I want to create, it’s almost magical.
What picture do you have for yourself for the next year? Next five years? What would you like to have more of? Less of? How are you creating that picture right now? What is stopping you from fully realizing the picture you have?
For Week 2 of my 8 week New Year's Series, I’m sharing a process that I’ve been giving clients for twenty years. It’s called Letter to Your Younger Self. I have found it to be an incredibly profound way to access your deeper wisdom. You can find it here.