Four Tips for Achieving Life Balance + Big Time Barrel Racing Success

Three Tips for Achieving Life Balance + Big Time Barrel Racing Success

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Do you ever get frustrated because you can’t seem to carve out enough time to FULLY apply yourself to your barrel racing?

Ever feel like you’re short on funds, but you have to WORK to make money – which takes up TIME, AND takes you away from your horses? Not to mention ALL the other life responsibilities you have outside of work and riding?

Here’s the honest truth – it requires a significant amount of TIME, FOCUS and FINANCES to climb high on the ladder of barrel racing success.

But don’t let that discourage you, let it MOTIVATE you.

First though, a reality check is in order.

Barrel racing itself IS a FULL-TIME JOB. Becoming and being a high-achieving professional at anything is a “full-time job.”

So is owning and maintaining a horse property, so is being a student, a wife, and a mother. So is just caring for horses and other critters.

They are ALL full-time jobs in and of themselves.

So it’s NO WONDER we’re overwhelmed and struggle to balance it all. We’re trying to do TOO MUCH – the impossible, really!

To start the journey toward creating more barrel racing/life balance, the first step is to LET YOURSELF OFF THE HOOK.

You’re not alone, and you’re not doing anything “wrong” if you’re struggling to find balance.

The thing we must do though, even when the rest of the world is going through the motions in a fast-moving hamster wheel – is STOP and get off the wheel.

Creating more peace, joy and barrel racing success will require you to LET GO of the little things that may be important in other people’s lives, but will need to take a back burner (temporarily OR permanently) in yours.

Balance isn’t possible when you’re carrying too many plates. There are responsibilities and expectations that you may need to release.

Here’s one little example: For the first time this year, I did not plant any flowers. Instead I picked up some realistic looking artificial ones at Hobby Lobby, filled four pots with sand, and plunked them in.

The flowers are FAKE, my commitment to barrel racing is REAL.
The flowers are FAKE, my commitment to barrel racing is REAL.

Although I’ve already spotted a couple disappointed and confused hummingbirds, neither my husband or I will need to give them another thought the rest of the summer. They’re bright and beautiful, require no water and will never cause guilt like the real ones do when they die from neglect.

Basically, it’s one less thing on our “to-do” lists – one less thing taking up mental bandwidth.

When you’re VERY serious about your goals these “little things” matter – they add up and they take your focus away from what’s most important.

There are things I see and appreciate that other people may do or have in their lives (like the neighbors who have gorgeous flowers), but I love and appreciate barrel racing more, so I’m willing to trade. Although I might enjoy planting flowers sometime in the future, I can’t always have it ALL and I’m cool with that.

Before I headed north for the summer, the beautiful wood floor in our Texas home was swarming with Boone & Crocket dust bunnies (in large part thanks to the resident Australian Shepherd). The grass tends to get very long between mowings, and as much as I appreciate the beauty of a clean home and nice yard, my goal is NOT to “keep up with the Jones'” – it’s just NOT on my radar.

But the gorgeous, athletic, highly trained equine athletes in the pasture? The Jones’ ain’t got nothin’ on them!

Horses, horsemanship and barrel racing is MY LIFE, and by focusing intensely on these areas, I’m honoring the talents and passion God put in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong, I have A TON of other interests, but it’s very clear to me that I was put on this Earth for a specific purpose.

So were YOU.

Although I appreciate beautiful, serene surroundings, it’s not my goal in life to be a great house keeper or gardener – there’s just not room for it on the top of the priority list right now.

Although I admit to loving bling, fashionable clothes and getting “fluffed up,” most days I look more like a ranch hand, and I’m cool with that too. Sacrifice doesn’t seem like sacrifice when it ALLOWS me to do what I LOVE most – which is developing horses (and helping YOU develop yours).

Starting several years ago, when I FIRST realized I was just cramming way too much into my already FULL life, first I got really honest with myself about WHY. Then I started intentionally scaling back and finding the joy in simplicity. I realized that for everything I said “yes” to, it meant saying “no” to something I was already committed to, like my horses or my husband, or my goals.

My husband and I have adopted a “quality over quantity” theme that flows through every aspect of our lives.

As a naïve youngster, I used to dream of owning multiple western mansions and horse facilities – not anymore! Our acreage is not huge, we keep our horse and pet numbers low so that we are free to travel and can give them the very best time, care and attention.

Quality over quantity time, attention, care and relationships.
Quality over quantity time, attention, care and relationships.

Less is more on so many levels.

When it comes to simplifying, there are many ways we can do this. Anything that requires time or funds to maintain is something we might need to truly consider whether it belongs in our life and brings us joy, OR if it’s actually holding us back from focusing on what we love most. A great way to free up your mental (and physical) space and create the opportunity for more focus and peace is through “losing the baggage.”

This might mean downsizing your horse herd, selling a vehicle or trailer your don’t use often, it might mean fewer sports for the kids, moving to a smaller acreage, selling half of the tack collection you never use, saying “no” more often, especially to commitments that aren’t in alignment with the ways in which YOU can best serve the world.

Malcom Gladwell’s book the Outliers states that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. If you spend 10 hours per week with your horses (which is a GOOD week for many) ALL year ’round, it will take you 20 years to achieve mastery as a barrel racer!

You may need to get ruthless about simplifying to create space, time and focus to invest in your dreams.

Be realistic about what your goals are, and what it will take to achieve them. This isn’t selfish, because through pursuing our passions we can inspire others and give them permission to do the same. Get honest with yourself and let it motivate you to make adjustments by making sure you’re not setting yourself up to fail and feel frustrated by spreading yourself too thin.

Tip number THREE is that you get comfortable with GAMBLING.

Yes, that’s right – but I don’t mean the kind you do in Vegas.

The thing is, perfect “life balance” is really kind of a myth. Certain aspects of life will tend to lead at different times. When they do, others WILL be put on the back burner. I haven’t found any way around it.

Along with this comes risk, however. There are certain things we can temporarily or permanently let go of and never miss. But our health and relationships for example, can suffer if they aren’t nurtured. Letting flowers die of neglect is one thing, but you don’t want to let your marriage go down the tubes while you chase your barrel racing dreams.

While I don’t intend to contradict what I’ve shared above, the truth is – balance is sometimes a very delicate thing to maintain.

You’ll find yourself riding “the edge” at times no doubt, but only YOU can know where that edge is. Often times, you’ll go over before you find it and realize what it takes to keep your barrel racing dreams alive while still nurturing and caring for the other non-negotiable aspects of life.

I’ve learned over the years what my personal minimum requirements are to stay healthy – how I need to eat, how much rest I need before my immune system starts getting depleted. I know after some trial and error just what is necessary to keep my marriage alive and well.

“Date night” is ALWAYS a priority!

Know what’s important to you, and what it takes to keep yourself and your relationships healthy. High level barrel racing comes with a cost indeed, but as important as it is to honor our dreams, there are some things even more important than barrel racing.

It’s easy for me to get sucked into my goals with such extreme tunnel vision that I’ve had to create “systems” or what I refer to as my sustainability plan which is basically a list of things I do on a weekly basis so I don’t forget to take care of my relationships – to my “source” (God), to myself, and my husband.

The relationships to my horses are also part of this – when we get in a rush and get too “direct-line,” when our goals matter more than anything else, we may overlook potential health concerns or our connection with them can be damaged, and that’s not a place want to go either.

Tip number FOUR is to get really real about how you’re spending your time over the long haul – I whole heartedly recommend applying “The Slight Edge.” There are so many areas in which we need to advance our education to really master the art and science of barrel racing – there’s horsemanship, horse health, etc. – the list is never ending.

While we’ll sometimes employ professionals to assist in certain areas, our horse’s mental, emotional and physical development and well-being is our responsibility and there’s A LOT to learn about keeping a barrel horse healthy and winning.

Rather than pour your heart and soul into your barrel racing for a few months a year, even if you give your horses a break, what if you continued honing your own knowledge and skills in some way, shape or form consistently? Once you start making barrel racing a priority continuously, the momentum you gain makes it easier to keep going.

This quote from “The Slight Edge” by Jeff Olson (one of my new FAVE books) sums it up beautifully…

“This is not about making tough choices. It’s about making easy choices consistently.

The problem is, making the wrong choices – the ones that will tilt the Slight Edge against you instead of in your favor – are also easy choices.

The right choices and wrong choices you make at the moment will have little or no noticeable impact on how your day goes for you. Nor tomorrow, nor the next day. No applause, no cheers, no screams, no life-or-death results… But it is precisely those very same, undrammatic, seemingly insignificant actions that, when compounded over time, will dramatically affect how your life turns out.

The Slight Edge

The end of the story, when the credits roll – comes not in two hours but in two years. Depending on what particular story we’re talking about, perhaps twelve years, or twenty-two.

Making the right choices, taking the right actions. It’s truly easy to do. Ridiculously easy. But it’s just as easy not to do. And if you don’t do them, there won’t be any big drama about it. It won’t kill you; it won’t hurt you; in fact it won’t make any difference at all…

Not today, anyway. Not tomorrow. But over time?

The right choices you make today, compounded over time, will take you higher and higher up the success curve of this real-time movie called “your life.”

The wrong choices you make today, compounded over time, will absolutely, positively and inevitably take you down and out.

Either way, there will be dramatic results, just like in a movie. Unlike a movie, it will just take time before you see them.”

If you’re serious about barrel racing, you WILL need to get super realistic about the time commitment and accept that it may require letting go of certain things in order to gain the high level success you desire.

If you’re overwhelmed by the dedication barrel racing requires, instead of having an on again off again commitment to your barrel racing, consider making it a priority in your everyday life and watch as over time your efforts are gradually compounded.

You WILL gamble… you WILL ride the edge… the key is learning when to tweak and tune so you don’t go over it or lose more than you could ever possibly gain in the arena. Structure your life in a way that is sustainable, especially for the physical health of yourself and the relationships with your loved ones.

Creating a life of fast times, fun and freedom requires a lot of purposeful planning and is something I’ve been working toward for many years. It’s likely that like me, you’ll sweat and toil at times, doing things that don’t seem to resemble barrel racing at all in order to inch your way closer to the life you dream about, much like I shared in Learn, Earn, Turn & Burn – Create a Lifestyle That Supports Your Barrel Racing Goals.

What it comes down to is a willingness to trade “good for great.” Take the passions and talents God put in your heart and RUN WITH THEM!

While it’s wise to intentionally create an environment that supports the intense focus we need to dedicate to barrel racing, we also need to continuously hone our ability to find peace, joy and contentment, even in the midst of life’s inevitable, yet beautiful messes. The time to be happy and content is NOW, and this IS possible no matter how driven we are and how crazy things get around us.

It’s OK to desire change or improvement, or something different, just don’t let that turn into a never-ending finish line. You may not be where you want to be yet in life, but know that where you are, in its own way, is perfect right now. Miraculously, slow and steady really can WIN the race.

So keep tweaking, tuning and getting REAL about what it takes to achieve BIG TIME barrel racing success, knowing that success can also be found in every single little step along the way.

In the comments below, I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts, challenges AND successes for balancing life responsibilities with barrel racing!

Also enjoy these additional resources for supporting your balanced barrel racing journey:

14 replies
  1. Loree
    Loree says:

    Wow, thought you were writing my story. I have followed all your posts for I believe a year and half, maybe two now, and you have helped me look realistically at my time and life. My balance of barrel racing and marriage is a fine line and I am always trying to stay committed to both. I have realized as well a while back that my house is my home and doesn’t need to be spotless. I loved my husband’s line to me one day ” You know one day you will be too old to enjoy your horses and go riding, so who cares today what the house looks like; get outside and enjoy while the getting is good!” I also love beautiful yard and flowers, but let mine go, as my horses are my first priority in the day. Garden is planted, but not nutured; my horses get the nurturing and I am ok with it all! Thank-you for sharing and letting me know I am not alone in my way of life and way of thinking.
    Have a great day!

    • Heather Smith
      Heather Smith says:

      Ah, thanks Loree! I’m glad to share, I think a lot of us can relate. In “the age of distraction” FOCUS is the new currency. When we dedicate ourselves to things that make our heart sing, we’ll truly have a life well-lived. 🙂

  2. Nikki N.
    Nikki N. says:

    Like someone told me, “No one ever won a buckle for the cleanest house.” LOL! Thank you for this…as I currently feel as if I am spinning my wheels and doing LESS with my horses as I try to work, be a wife, parent, AND entrepreneur. So I think it’s time to dust off the crock-pot or teach the 10 year old how to warm up my horses so we can save time in the evenings. I also need to cut down on “chit-chat” time with the boarders at our place. They are nice, and I enjoy their company…but I do have goals that take priority. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Sandy Hickey
    Sandy Hickey says:

    I know I say this every time I read one of your articles, but the timing in which they come into my life is amazing, simply amazing. I felt like we had just had a conversation and I told you everything I had been thinking about and feeling the most in the pat few days. I had seen this article in my emails a few days ago. As much as I wanted to open it and read it (because I knew it would be good) I have been just to tired. Yesterday, all the little things I have been feeling about my life lately came full force into the forefront of my mind and I started once again wondering if it was all worth it, how I was going to find that balance to achieve the dreams God has in place for me, what was going to have to “give” for me to make it all work. The two words that keep rolling around in my head are SIMPLICITY and BALANCE. Finding that daily is a challenge for sure. I could go on forever about how much I can relate to this article. Just know that you have touched me and encouraged me, and given me hope to keep on keeping on. I was right on the edge of desperately needing a positive nudge to hang in there. And it also made me realize that there are many things I AM doing right. So THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for who you are, the gifts God has given you and sharing with all of us. Thank you for taking the time away from YOUR horses for all of us! God bless you Heather Smith.

  4. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    Thanks so much for this tip! Lol I do believe this is more like a relief to read this after the last few months of struggling with what and why the heck am I doing certain things for? Is it for me or for other people. I forgot what my aunt told me years ago. Do what make you happy not what makes others happy! Balance and let’s make it simple. Thanks so much for what you do girl!!!

  5. Darlene Keller
    Darlene Keller says:

    Balancing MY life is easy. But getting my husband behind me is difficult. He knew what I do before we married. He sort of semi supports me. He has been very ill for the last 3 1/2 years. It is hard to balance work, him and horses. I am working on it. I have now begun to choose my races carefully. I am working on training a paint we have had for 6 years which my husband was suppose to ride ( he said he would but doesn’t ride at all), and watching the training of my 2 year old. I also work full time and take care of him. Thanks for your encouraging words.

  6. sandra
    sandra says:

    I’d love to know your sustainability plan or system. It would help me to have a model. I don’t even know where to start.

  7. Casey
    Casey says:

    This is my second time reading this. Just love this article. Great timing too, as this is such a busy time of year.


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