Sometimes things get fuzzy in sports and some perspective is exactly what you need.

Very often my phone will ring, or I’ll get an “emergency” text and an athlete client will be in a funk. Their focus unconsciously shifts to the many distractions around them—often things they have no control over, or an obsession starts with the outcome. The fun disappears. Everything becomes overwhelming, their experience becomes tedious…and the spiral downward starts.

Sound familiar?

In my business as a high performance coach, it’s all about achievement and winning, reaching higher and getting to the next level. If I don’t generate the results for a client, and help them maximize their potential, I’m out of a job. And, that’s the way it should be—I help performers achieve more.

The tricky part here is that, funny enough, focusing on the achievement is not the best way to go about elevating performance.

Let me explain…

In order to get to a high level of performance and reach reasonable targets, there are two key areas that are important to elevate performance and sustain it. Enjoyment (having fun) is the first piece of the puzzle and achievement is the second piece. And, the order of priority is very important.

Enjoyment is priority #1 in sustainable high performance. Can you succeed without it? Yes, for a short period. But, over time, when enjoyment is not at the centre of performance, I get the call like I mentioned above. Sport isn’t fun, frustration sets in, the spiral downward begins, and results are elusive.

From a young age, many equestrians pursue achievement so aggressively and persistently that they actually forget about the enjoyment part. They assume that if they go after achievement—and get it—enjoyment will just follow automatically.

But it’s not quite that simple.

I was a direct victim of the fun vs winning phenomena when I was a professional athlete playing professional golf. I would practice as hard and long as I could to get better, continually pursuing golf perfection that I thought was needed to succeed in professional golf—and I slowly slipped into a state of misery—not knowing that enjoyment is critical in having a sustainable professional golf career.

Having the opportunity to now look back, if I focused more on seeking enjoyment in the game and really enjoyed the journey, my career would have been different. If I put my focus on the real reason why I was playing the game, because I loved it and it was fun, and created a plan around that, results would have naturally followed. I blindly pursued achievement, but forgot that enjoyment is a big part.

So what does that mean for you?

You might consider your perspective of enjoyment and achievement and try shifting the enjoyment to the front of the line in your equestrian experience—no matter what your level.

Think about why you ride? Is it to enjoy the sport or achieve something or both? For almost every rider it is both. You want to do your best and have fun. If you want to have fun and achieve more, remember the order of importance and that enjoyment will support the achievement and not the other way around.

Making enjoyment a priority will very much help in your pursuit of achievement and reaching your potential in your riding. Putting achievement first may not help you maximize your equestrian experience and could put you on a path where your original purpose (your love of the animal and the sport) may get lost in the shuffle.

So, go ahead and achieve in your riding! Have a plan, work smart and make progress. But, don’t lose site of enjoying the sport and your purpose for doing it. If you focus on this balance, sustainable achievement will be possible and you’ll maximize your time in the saddle.

This idea is transferable to everything you do. The more you enjoy something, often the more you’ll achieve!

About the Author

John Haime is President of New Edge Performance. A former professional athlete and current bestselling author of You are a Contender! Build Emotional Muscle to Perform Better and Achieve Morein business, sports and life, John understands how athletes think and feel…he’s been there—under the most intense pressures of amateur and professional sports. John coaches athletes in all sports and is trusted by some of the world’s leading athletes—professional and elite amateur. See to learn more.