The End Game
“Life in the end will be measured by significance, not a golf score. Significance will be defined by your character, relationships, values, virtues and faith, not by a golf score,” David Cook
I have learned so much about life on the back of a horse, cleaning a stall, packing a trailer, winning a state title, losing a national title, fixing a tire on the side of a road, late night drives with family and friends and a smile after a tough run. I truly believe those of us with the opportunity to live this western/rodeo/equine lifestyle are blessed beyond measure! Especially WHEN (not if) we CHOOSE to focus on the “end goal”, versus the trophies, titles and prize money.
As we embark on another wonderful season with our horses and travels, it’s important to keep our focus on the “End Goal”. The end goal is the memories, friendships and lessons that we find during the journey that enrich our lives and build character.
In today’s world, especially in America, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the chaos and chatter of HAVING things instead of who we really are, how we feel and how we treat each other. We put so much emphasis on ourselves and our kids being at the top of the leaderboard in and out of the arena instead of making sure we all have a solid foundation we can build on that will last a lifetime!
Now don’t get me wrong, I love competition, I want to win and I want my hard work to pay off just like everyone else. Those elements are still important to give us a reason to strive for something, but over time and some hard lessons, life has taught me that those elements are just guidelines along the journey. One major lesson that taught me to focus on the end goal, was my goat tying journey.
It was a month before the first high school rodeo of my freshman year that I decided I wanted to join the Iowa High School Rodeo Association. My parents were ecstatic, but my dad had one stipulation. He told me, “I’ll take you to the high school rodeos, but you’re going to be more than just a barrel racer!” So, a month before my first high school rodeo I took up goat tying. Surprisingly, it became my strongest event quickly and I began to really enjoy it. When my junior year rolled around, it was time to set some big goals in that event. The big goal: making it to the National High School Finals Rodeo! I was dedicated, I tied in the cold with baseball gloves, went to clinics, got lessons, watched videos and all the things.
When I got to my first two high school rodeos of the season, I won them both by a full second! I was on cloud nine! The next rodeo came around and it didn’t go as well, nor did the next or the next. I went home to practice and practice some more. I had no doubts that I was putting in the time, but I couldn’t seem to get out of my head and back on the leaderboard.
I was so focused on winning, listening to all the times and caring about what people thought, that I couldn’t completely focus on what I was doing. My mind was so cluttered with things that were out of my control like the standings, the draw, other girl’s times, making it to the high school finals that I was making myself crazy and my performance plummet. For eight rodeos in a row, I made mistakes, fell, pouted (see “The Pout Rule” blog), felt sorry for myself and didn’t do well.
Regardless of if I made it to the finals or not, I was determined to get out of this slump! I started looking into mental performance books and came across the book, “Golf’s Sacred Journey, Seven Days at the Links of Utopia” by David L. Cook. I found two quotes that changed my whole mindset and shifted my perspective. “Life in the end will be measured by significance, not a golf score. Significance will be defined by your character, relationships, values, virtues and faith, not by a golf score,” and “What will your epitaph say? What do you want people to say about you when you are gone?”
After digesting those thoughts, I realized the sport I love is just a sport, it’s not who I am and that at the end of the day, as long as I do the best I can in each moment, treat others right, build my character and have faith that the rest is in God’s hands. Getting worked up and focusing on things that are out of my control, only makes life more difficult for myself, my friendships and my parents.
My parents knew that what I was going through was part of what makes champions. They didn’t get upset with me when I didn’t do well or put extra pressure on me, because they knew I was putting in the work and plenty of pressure on myself, so more pressure was only going add to focusing on things that were out of my control. They wanted me to succeed and knew I could, but more importantly they knew these breakdowns were part of the process. They steered me towards God and focusing on what was in my control by listened, encouraging and telling me to suck it up when I was whining. God Bless them!
I finally gave up trying to control every single element of the game! I stopped listening for times, stopped checking the standings and focused simply on doing the best that I could do in each situation on that given day. I placed at the rest of the rodeos in the season, finished third in the state, made it to the NHSRA Finals, placed in both rounds and finished fifth in the nation! I accomplished the goal and learned so much about life in the process.
The next year I won the state, had a goat get up to win the IFYR, won a round at the high school finals, placed in another and was leading the nation up until the very last girl ran her goat. That girl was me. I did the very best I could with the knowledge I had at that time and it didn’t work out to be the national champion. I ended up fifth the second year in a row and I’m proud of that.
From all of this, I learned it’s not about the trophy, it’s about the journey. From never tying a goat until high school to a two-time NHSRA qualifier and top 5 placer with a college rodeo scholarship, amazing friendships from all over the country and so many wonderful memories. I knew I was blessed and I’m thankful my parents let it be MY journey. Supporting me from getting too low or too high, but not interrupting the process for their own needs.
To wrap this up, I want each of us to think about how we’re measuring our lives and the lives of those we love. Are we focused on the short-term trophies or the end goal? Be it the practice pen, competition arena, school, work, home, etc., are we focused on the scores or the significance and end goal? Let’s CHOOSE to support each other in reaching the end goal by building character, relationships, values, virtues and faith!
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God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.