Even the steeliest competitor is going to experience emotions when they miss the mark. It’s human nature. Sometimes the pain is necessary, but often it’s avoidable.
I’m going to share the goal-setting tips that helped me win a barrel racing world championship one year, then the mistakes I made the next year.
Small Goals, Big Results
One of the best tricks I’ve found when reaching for big goals is to set smaller goals along the way. Think of it like a set of stairs. The easiest way to get up a staircase is by taking one step at a time. I didn’t just leap from the bottom of the staircase to the top to win my gold buckle. It took 12 years for me to find the right horse and the motivation within myself to return.
In ProRodeo we have “limited rodeos,” which means that you have to qualify for these rodeos that pay a ton of money in whatever parameters that rodeo sets. Maybe it’s the previous year’s world standings or winning a rodeo they label as a qualifier. Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is one of those. I had to earn my qualifying position into that rodeo as one of my small goals, and I did it. That’s where my 2021 story begins.
Step by step, we went through our 2021 season with small goals. Make top 50 in the world standings, make top 30, qualify for this rodeo, make the short round here. One by one, we checked our small goals off the list. I did the work and next thing I knew, I was headed to the National Finals Rodeo.
Each run at the NFR, I had fun and found myself making moves up the world standings to win money in the go-rounds, the aggregate title, and finally the world championship. Winning felt easy.
But here’s the thing with material wins—one is never enough. I immediately locked my eyes on another gold buckle in 2022.
The year 2022 was a dream season inside the arena in a lot of ways. I had a profitable winter showing, where I had qualified for all the big limited rodeos and won a fair amount of money. That gave me the chance to pick my favorite rodeos to run at the remainder of the year and spend the rest of my time with family.
But my focus wasn’t on appreciating seasonal success. It was on the end result.
When I returned to Las Vegas, the entire nation watched me mess up. It’s not deeper than that. I made mistakes, just like any competitor can on any given day.
But those mistakes on that stage felt like a punch in the gut. I was struggling both personally and professionally, and I felt like the whole world was watching.
I won more than $100,000 at the 2022 NFR. I ended the year as a reserve world champion. My horse is incredible and healthy. My family and friends love me. This is what I’m choosing to focus on.
Winning and losing only matter in our own minds. There will only be one winner at an event. However, you get to decide what a win looks like in your life, just like you get to set your own goals. You also get to decide what the next step is if you don’t reach a goal.
Here are some questions that can help you figure the “next.” The key to bouncing back is to learn how your
actions affected the outcome. With that knowledge you can grow and build on your experiences and leave the past behind.
Did I honestly put in the work to achieve this goal? If not, what are some things that I can change to put the required effort to reach it?
Am I ready to achieve this goal? If not, what work do I need to put in to bring my abilities up to what this goal requires?
What small goals can I put in place to help me take steps to reach this goal?
What do I need to change externally to bring this goal within reach?
I know my answers to these questions, but only you will know yours.
The more I learn about barrel racing and life, the less it feels like I have figured out. I do know that I have been both the triumph story and the heartbreak story. I’ve won a gold buckle and lost one in dramatic fashion. But I’m still standing. I hope that my journey through this rollercoaster can help you find some peace and inspiration in your journey, no matter what point you find yourself at in that process.