Sorry People, The Truth Is, Learning Is Messy

Learning Happens Outside the Comfort Zone, Physically, Mentally and Emotionally.

Dust rose from the dried earth as the hot summer sun beat down on the horse and human.  The horse was circling Keri-Lynn, yielding the body to obedience, but the mind and attitude were lacking.  Standing in the power position, rope tight, the horse circled her actively engaged in the conversation but not finding the answer of yielding his mind and attitude.

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There was a brace happening, evidenced in the tight rope between the human and the horse’s halter.  The desired outcome was for the horse to circle with slack in the rope.  This would require him to position his body in the appropriate allotted space to keep slack in the rope, not too close or too far out, while maintaining gate, maintaining distance and maintaining connection.  He had the circle happening, but was not for some reason giving the mind and attitude.  He was in the learning zone, and outside his comfort zone.

As the session continued, it looked really messy.  The horse tried to solve the puzzle of what was being asked of him.  He gave answers and ideas, all the while Keri-Lynn supported, redirected and encouraged.  Messy so much so that the owner of the horse assessed the situation wondering if the horse was more defiant than usual.  Learning is messy.  Why?

3 Reasons That Learning Is Messy.

1.  The Human:

In The Area of  The Human’s Physical State:

Learning happens outside the comfort zone physically.  In our physical comfort zone we are coordinated, use muscles that have muscle memory, use skills we have developed and are confident to use.  Learning means moving out of the comfort zone physically to move our bodies in new ways.  Tools feel awkward as right handed people learn to use their left hands too.  We may not be athletic enough right now to mount our horse from the ground.  DSCF0449Our muscles may refuse to stretch.  We believe that we can’t move graceful or physically do what is required.  Learning gets physically messy when we tangle the ropes, smack the horse with our tools when using our less dominant hand, or trip over the objects and fall down when running backwards.

But as Pat Parelli says, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”  Physical skills outside the comfort zone can move into the comfort zone as one practices until mastered.  Think a toddler learning to walk.  Many falls, tumbles and wobbles, but all physically healthy adults have learned to walk without such hindrances.

In The Area of The Human’s Mental State:

Leaning happens outside the comfort zone mentally.  In our mental comfort zone we know how to think and what to think.  We have reason, logic, knowledge and wisdom to guide us.  Learning means moving out of the comfort zone mentally to be exposed to new ways to think and analyze, assess and reassess.  It means learning about new things to think about too.  We have to observe, compare and draw conclusions.  We have to apply information, think through puzzles, reject what does not work and search for new ideas that may work. Learning gets mentally messy when our old ideas are challenged, our old knowledge is not sufficient, when we don’t know what we don’t know, when there seems to be no knowledge available to solve our puzzles, when we are thinking in circles and not seeing the straight line of reasonable logic.

Again, as Pat Parelli says, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”  Mental skills outside the comfort zone can move into the comfort zone as one practices until mastered.  Think a child learning to read.  Many wrong guesses, many stumbling over words, and long pauses in the flow of the sentence as she figures out words. But all mentally healthy adults (with the opportunity to learn to read) have learned to read without such hindrances.

In The Area of The Human’s Emotional State:

Learning happens outside the comfort zone emotionally.  In our emotional comfort zone we feel happy, peaceful, safe, in control, confident, victorious, and self esteem is in tack.   Learning means moving out of Untitled003the comfort zone emotionally and being courageous to take a risk of looking foolish, being wrong, making a mistake, failing, being confused, being out of control. Learning gets emotionally messy because we can feel anxious, fearful, confused, frustrated, stressed, isolated, useless, alone, overwhelmed, unqualified, etc.

Again, as Pat Parelli says, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Emotional skills outside the comfort zone can move into the comfort zone as one practices until mastered.  Think about a child learning to trust a “parent approved” new adult.  Many moments of shyness, clinging to mother, suspicious looks and timid replies to questions.  But all emotionally healthy adults have learned to meet new people and make new friends without such hindrances.

2.  The Horse

In The Area of The Horse’s Physical State:

Learning happens outside the comfort zone physically.  In a horse’s physical comfort zone he is coordinated, uses muscles that have muscle memory, uses skills that he has developed and is confident to use.  Learning means moving out of the comfort zone physically to move his body in new ways.  Jumps may be awkward, trotting at a consistent working pace may have never been required.  The horse may not be athletic enough right now to canter a ten mile endurance trail.  His muscles may refuse to stretch.  He may believe that he can’t move graceful or physically do what is required. Learning gets physically messy when he needs to curve his body around the circle, arch his neck for finesses movements, step under to do hind end or front end yields.

But as Pat Parelli says, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”  Physical skills outside the comfort zone can move into the comfort zone as one practices until mastered.  Think a young horse learning to jump.  Many stumbles, knocked over barrels, and dodging the jumps.  But all physically healthy, trained horses have learned to jump without such hindrances.

In the Area of The Horse’s Mental State:

Leaning happens outside the comfort zone mentally.  In a horse’s mental comfort zone he knows how to think and what to think.  He has experiential reason, logic, and knowledge to guide him.  Learning means moving out of the comfort zone mentally to be exposed to new ways to think and analyze, assess and DSCF3862reassess.  It means learning about new things to think about too.  He has to observe, compare and draw conclusions.  He has to receive information, think through puzzles, reject what does not work and search for new ideas that may work. Learning gets mentally messy when a horse’s old ideas are challenged, his old knowledge is not sufficient, when he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, when there seems to be no knowledge available to solve his puzzles.

Again, as Pat Parelli says, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”  Mental skills outside the comfort zone can move into the comfort zone as one practices until mastered.  Think about a young colt learning herd dynamics.  Experiential knowledge is gained when a nip is received for wandering away, a kick landed for challenging the wrong horse, and a bite resulting from not moving fast enough.  But all mentally healthy horses have learned to live safely in a herd by using experiential knowledge of herd dynamics.

In The Area of The Horse’s Emotional State:

Learning happens outside the comfort zone emotionally.  In a horse’s emotional comfort zone he feels peaceful, safe, confident, and not afraid.   Learning means moving out of the comfort zone emotionally and being challenged to take a risk of doing something required and being wrong, making a mistake, failing, being confused, being out of control. Learning gets emotionally messy because the horse can feel anxious, fearful, confused, frustrated, stressed, isolated, overwhelmed, unqualified, etc.

Again, as Pat Parelli says, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Emotional skills outside the comfort zone can move into the comfort zone as one practices until mastered.  Think about a young horse learning to trust the human as she introduces the saddling and riding process. Moments of uncertainty, suspicious looks, questioning attitudes.  But all emotionally healthy horses have learned to accept the human, accept the tools, accept the toys, accept the rider.

3.  The Combination of the Two, Human and Horse Together

In The Area of The Human’s and Horse’s Physical State:

Learning as individuals is physically messy.  How much more so if both human and horse are both physically learning at the same time.  The horse trips over the barrels instead of jumping and the human gets the lead rope tangled around her leg and drops the carrot stick.  Sept2013

Harmony is both human and horse athletically performing what appears to be a synchronized dance.  But that usually does not happen in the learning zone.  Messiness happens.  Beauty of synchronized movement usually happens in the comfort zone once perfect practice has made perfect.

In The Area of The Human’s and Horse’s Mental State:

Learning as individuals is mentally messy.  How much more so if both human and horse are both mentally learning at the same time.  The human is mentally focusing on teaching a new task to themselves, thinking through the steps and analyzing the horse’s puzzle solving ability.  The horse is mentally giving the same old response that use to be good enough and not appearing to recognize the pattern or solution to the puzzle presented.

Harmony is both human and horse seemingly connecting mentally and performing what appears to be a unified thought.  But that usually does not happen in the learning zone.  Messiness happens.  Beauty of unified thoughts usually happens in the comfort zone once perfect practice has made perfect.

In The Area of The Human’s and Horse’s Emotional State:

Learning as individuals is emotionally messy.  How much more so if both human and horse are both emotionally learning at the same time.  The horse is confused and anxious.  The human is frustrated and feeling like a failure.  Keri and Prince

Harmony is both human and horse mirroring peace and oneness in emotions performing what appears to be a unified emotional state.  But that usually does not happen in the learning zone.  Messiness happens.  Beauty of mirrored peace and oneness in emotions usually happen in the comfort zone once perfect practice has made perfect.

Be Encouraged, Learning Will Be Messy.

So, be encouraged.  Learning will be messy.  But be courageous to move out of your comfort zone into the learning zone, live through the learning messiness and reap the rewards of harmony in the areas of physical, mental and emotional unity with your equine partner.

Let’s talk (using the reply section below, or on Facebook…) What area of learning messiness are you currently experiencing right now?  Does it help to know that learning is messy and harmony will happen in due time?  (If you are demotivated or seriously depressed about your learning, please don’t struggle alone.  Contact Keri-Lynn via this blog or Facebook.  She does care and desires to help!)

Rose Standish, Life Coach, Biblical Educator, Author

*Please note, words in blue bold, when clicked on, lead to articles and content that may be exterior sources to this blog. The opinions and ideas expressed in the linked to website, as a whole, may or may not necessarily reflect the views of the authors of this web site. The external sources are provided for further study and educational purposes of those reading this blog.

 picture of ropes, Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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