Quick fixes…..and missing the lifeline: a question answered

Quick fixes.....and missing the lifeline:  a question answered

“I have tried everything to get my confidence back:  I have changed my horse, changed my tack – and changed what I do (I used to hack out a lot, now I just ride in the arena) – and yet I am still anxious every time I think of riding, am tense when I am up there so I know I am missing things – what can I do?”

I have received several questions along these lines – where the writer honestly feels they have tried everything and yet nothing has changed….and they brought to mind a general thought about what most of us do when we lose our confidence, so here’s a response….there are several references to previous blog posts (in an attempt to keep this article short!) so feel free to flick through the block and read those too!

One thing that I see again and again – and it is definitely part of our human nature – is when something goes wrong, most of us want a quick fix.

Nothing wrong with that – and in most cases, a quick fix is just what we need.  In most areas of my life, if something doesn’t work I can look, come up with a quick fix – and move on right away – it’s good enough and helps me make progress.

If I get stuck on a maths problem, I can do a google search, find a way to deal with that problem – and off I go.  I don’t need to think that much or put that much time and effort into my search.

If I get stuck on an essay, again, I can google for resources – and find good enough answers.

With any single-loop learning process, where “if I do A then B happens”  — this quick fix approach is effective and efficient – which is why as humans we are so good at it.

However, when we are in a “multi-loop learning process” – where “if I do A then B might happen, or Z or y – depending on many other factors that all interact” – quick fixes don’t tend to work, as not many quick fixes can cope with the complexity in these systems.

For more depth on single loop and multi loop learning, take a look at this article – it has a lot to do with this question too, as it explains why we can get so demotivated when we try quick fixes and they don’t work

It is human nature to look for the simplest, quickest answer to a problem.    It makes sense.

And occasionally it will seem to work:  you get a new saddle, and your horse, in relief at his back not hurting so much will relax and go along ok for a while, so your confidence grows.    Then the quick fix stops working – the new saddle doesn’t solve the underlying issue – and things start going wrong again.

More interestingly, our own psychology works on this:  we get an idea, find something we think will fix our confidence, this is the answer!  Thank goodness, if I do this my confidence problems will be over!  This might be a course, a gadget, a way of doing things – but if I do this, I can be confident again!  WE are SO thrilled and delighted to think we will have our confidence back that, when we start the quick fix, all we notice are the good things.

Our mind is focused on how well it works – so we notice every positive change – and anything that doesn’t fit that positive image goes right past us, un-noticed.

So for the first few times, we are carried along on this excitement that we are fixed, we are confident again….

However, that wears off.  Sometimes it is just time, we can’t stay that positive forever.  Sometimes it is our unconscious poking a hand up and saying – “erm, actually, excuse me – but nothing has really changed! You really shouldn’t be confident!”

The thing is, our conscious mind can be easily fooled:  we can rationalise anything we do and make it make sense – and if we want to be confident badly enough we can talk ourselves into it when we find a quick fix to grab hold of….

Luckily, our unconscious mind is not so easily tricked.  Even when our conscious mind is laughing and convincing us all is well – our unconscious will be noticing that nothing has really changed, that in fact all we have done is hung our hopes and confidence onto this quick fix, and because nothing has really changed, neither really, have our reasons for being confident.  And so our unconscious will start reminding us of this – and we find our new found confidence ebbing away…

That is one of the indications that more than a quick fix is needed – if you try a quick fix, and feel confident – but that confidence ebbs away – it means that more than a quick fix was needed.

So it really doesn’t seem that bad, does it?  After all, we can try the quick fix and if it works – great, we are sorted out – and if it doesn’t, well all that happens is we lose the confidence and end up back at square one again –

Not that bad.


You knew there was a “but”, didn’t you?

There IS a huge problem with quick fixes.

And it’s the effect of looking for them.

As long as we are looking for quick fixes,  we MISS things that are NOT quick fixes; either dismissing them as taking too long, being too hard, or not working NOW or perfectly – or not even noticing them on our problem solving radar –

And that means we miss the lifelines that ARE out there.

Sometimes things aren’t a quick fix.

Sometimes, we need to understand WHY and HOW something is happening with our horse and ourselves.  Sometimes we need to understand that whatever  is happening is something that needs more work on ourselves than just a quick fix.

I met two people recently.  Both had horses they were scared of.  Both had tried several things.

In both cases, I met them, met their horses – and then we sat down and I shared what I saw as their options for rediscovering their confidence with their horses.

In both cases this was a journey of learning about themselves, learning about their horse and learning how to manage their own emotions and confidence when with their horses.

One person saw this as the lifeline she needed, and has started her journey.  In just a few months, she now has a horse who can stay in overnight without stressing, be taken into the arena without panicking – and who is soft and gentle and politely communicative with his human.  She can already SEE the possibility of riding him some day

The other person listened, and then said “that’s all very well, but I don’t have the time for that, thank you very much, there are other ways that will work much faster” – and headed off.  Since then, she has been in touch again.  She went and tried many quick fixes over the past six months, but is still in the same place she was all those weeks ago.

Her belief that there were quicker fixes out there – has meant she wasn’t open to a different approach, one that took time, energy – thoughtfulness…

Quick fixes can get in the way of seeing a real lifeline when it is offered to you.

So how do you know if what you are doing is a quick fix?  Or a real lifeline?

I would be interested in your ideas on this  — please add them in the comments – here are some of my ideas to start with:

–          If it involves gadgets, tricks or techniques – then it might be a quick fix

–          If it sorts out a symptom without looking at the cause – then it might be a quick fix

If it involves you taking a look at yourself, how you are behaving, the choices you are making – and asks you to make changes to what and how you are – well, then it might just be the lifeline you need…

What do YOU think the differences between a quick fix and a lifeline are?

Yours, in confidence


6 thoughts on “Quick fixes…..and missing the lifeline: a question answered

  1. Interesting! Confidence is about ourself so it will always require us to make a change. For me I know my lack of confidence affects Tia so when I get on she doesn’t want to move, which makes me more tense. I know leadership is my big problem, when I eventually crack that Tia will respond better and be more willing to be a partner. I think this will always be a big thing for me as I’m not a natural leader, more a follower. Hopefully this year…

    • it might be that having a more partnership approach will work for Tia — although you are right, being enough of a leader to show her ways to communicate and interact does make a big difference


  2. Hi Cathy
    This is spooky as was thinking this the other day. As in ‘if only I could fix my horse’s problem with his back’ or fill in blank if applies to other things. I have come to realise what it really means when they say ‘its Not about the … ‘ And its everything to do with your relationship with your horse! Something somewhere is broken and I need to find the answer. Its easy to make excuses to mask what is really going on! I am still searching for my answers but I know the problem lies with ME so I need to change in order for us to progress and getting help in the form of tuition by others who are further along will help me reach that goal. Ange

  3. Acquiring knowledge through research (books, videos, clinics), by itself, is a quick fix.
    But diligently applying that knowledge (preferably including regular “check-ins” with a mentor or teacher) was a lifeline for me.

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