WPRA Barrel Racer Nicole Aichele gives the Best Advice on the Mental Game!!
Nicole, your mental attitude is outstanding. Of course we feel at OTRR that is 95% of the battle. Tell us how you maintain such a positive attitude and what advice you would give someone that is working on their mental game.
Mental game to most is in regard to what you are thinking during your run or how you prepare for your run. While I admit those things are extremely important, mental game to me runs much, much deeper and has to do with how you are living your whole life, not just the few minutes before and after your run.
I really wish I could say I maintained a positive attitude all of the time, but the truth is it is a constant battle. Although I am BEYOND embarrassed to admit to this, I remember one morning after Blondie had a vet scare and I hadn’t gotten sleep in days, I decided I was going out to have a good breakfast. I was excited about this because I hadn’t eaten well in days… So, I went to IHOP. Well, this was on the 4th of July and IHOP was slammed. I decided I didn’t want to wait that long, and settled for a McDonalds breakfast, but when I pulled up they told me that they had stopped serving breakfast just a few minutes before. So then I went to a coffee shop that had sandwiches and other things that looked really good, went up to the door and found out it was closed. I finally gave into a subway breakfast but as I started ordering they too, told me they stopped serving breakfast a half-hour before. At that point I bursted into tears, called my best friend and bawled to her about how “All I want is breakfast and no one will give it to me!,” listened to her laugh hysterically and say she was sorry, went to the Wendy’s drive thru, ordered a frosty with a red face and swollen eyes and went back to the trailer, defeated. The truth is, I think it is completely unrealistic for anyone to think that they can or should be on their A-game at all times. Rodeo life is hard! When things aren’t going quite right and you keep focusing on holding it together and keeping a great attitude, eventually something is going to send you overboard, even something as stupid as not getting breakfast. The important part is what you do after you’ve hit your rock bottom. It’s the difference of throwing your frosty on the ground and quitting, or feeling sorry for yourself in the time it takes you to eat it, deciding you are fine, you can do it, and begin pushing on.
With that being said, I really, really, try to keep myself from having those types of breakdowns often, as I’m sure you can imagine. I am a believer in God, and I rely on my faith to help push me through the hard times. It helps keep things in perspective for me, and that is a huge key in keeping a positive attitude and your mental game strong. When I am out on the road doing what I love, I realize I have been given opportunities that many around me can only wish they had. It’s tough to really grasp the importance in that, but when I talk with people who tell me that they wish they could be doing what I am doing, and when I can see the honesty in their eyes… It’s incredibly humbling. It makes me want to hand over everything and say “HERE! YOU GO!”
Another thing I have come to learn is how important it is not to focus on other people. What I mean by that is not to let envy and negative things overtake you. It’s easy to look at others from a completely exterior perspective and compile a list of everything “wrong” about them. Things like, “they didn’t train their own horse, must be nice to have daddy paying for everything, ect.” Everyone single person has struggles and battles they are fighting and reasons for what they do. It’s easy to get in a group of people who are on a mission to talk about everyone and their mother and then out of the need to join the conversation, you start throwing in your own gossip. When you find yourself talking about other people in a negative light, or even thinking these things to yourself, switch gears and start talking or thinking about your own downfalls and struggles. With this being said, make sure you aren’t talking bad about yourself, such as “I’m so stupid, I do nothing right, ect,” or going on and on about your neighbors, aunt’s, mom who is driving you crazy. That’s not the point. The point is to face the things in your life that you want to change. Realize that struggles that you have in your life are not something to be ashamed about, we ALL face struggles. What we don’t all do is use them to grow in ourselves.
And lastly, always be willing to help those around you. I don’t care what reasons you have not to, if someone is in need and you realize it, do whatever you can to help them. I’ve been in the position where I have needed someone and people have passed me by knowing I need help. That hurts. Don’t let someone else feel that.
I could go on and on about this, and I know I’ve gone way off base so I apologize and will try to wrap all of this up to (hopefully) making sense. My key to keeping a strong mental game, is realizing it’s not always going to be good runs and easy drives. Rodeo is full of mistakes and hardships so make sure you are learning from them and not dwelling on them. Stay focused on your goal and improving yourself and your horse and don’t waste time or short yourself by focusing on others. When you are going down that alley, clear everything out of your head and have the confidence in yourself and your horse to make a stellar run. NEVER take out your own frustrations on your horse. They didn’t sign up to jump in a trailer to be hauled thousands of miles, be unloaded, ran hard, and loaded back up to do it all over again. They do it out of respect for you, so make sure you have the right respect for them. Most importantly, laugh at the mishaps and trials, as they are nothing in the grand scheme of things and there is always another rodeo around the corner.
Thank you Nicole for talking to OTRR! You are the BEST! If you missed any of Nicole’s interviews please click here to read more about this awesome barrel racer.
*All pictures were provided by Nicole and used with her permission.