Advanced work/life/training is simply the basics done really, really well.

I saw this recently when I was reading about dog and horse training, but doing the basics really, really well seems like a mantra for life too – what do you think?

What are the basics?

I guess it might depend on the area we’re talking about. For example, in horse training, advanced work might be riding a dressage test with lots of movements like passage and half pass which require years of strength training; the basics might be being able to walk, trot and canter in harmony, co-operation and rhythm.

Maybe with a dog, it might be that they progress to doing recall off the lead rather than with a safety net of being attached to their person; the basics might be to walk well on the lead, paying attention to the human.

Building a house always starts with foundations. If they’re not done properly, it doesn’t matter how grand the building becomes, it’s likely it won’t last long or have to be propped up in some way.

You’ll be able to think of examples from your life too – yoga, management, tennis etc etc.

All too often, we rush to get past the basics. I frequently hear in riding ‘how long till I can ride?’, ‘how many lessons will I need?’ Well, after your first sit on a horse you can ride; you can sit in the saddle and get off when you choose. That’s riding. However, there seems to be a desire to get past this bit and move onto ………. what?????

It’s often driven by the fact that we’ve seen someone else who’s really good doing lots of cool stuff, and we want to do the same. What people often miss out is an understanding of what they mean by ‘ride’ and all the fundamentals that underpin it. (or train a dog, do yoga, be a manager, play tennis etc)

Why is doing the basics so important for thriving?

Whatever the context, I hear an innate embarrassment (?) about doing the basics. Is it embarrassment? Is it lack of time? Lack of resilience to persevere? Is it because it might feel like going backwards or back to the beginning? (I’m also aware that ‘basic’ can have a very different meaning of inherently bad and lacking imagination. That’s not what we mean here.)

I’m not sure. What I do know, however, is if you’ve got the basics, no matter what situation you find yourself in, you can usually puzzle the way out. The basics are fundamental to problem solving. There’s no amount of teaching in the world that can help you become your own teacher. The only way is to become so good at the basics that your teacher doesn’t need to be with you all the time. Often a teacher can then become a mentor, guiding, skill building and helping you develop your own way forward.

Also, if you come across a hitch in your learning, doing it harder or more often won’t help. Success lies in going back to basics and working back through. A block doesn’t suddenly appear – it’s always because something further back isn’t quite secure and has started to wobble. Doing the basics is usually the answer. We definitely can’t run before we’re really expert at walking in the best way we can.

Why is it so hard?

It’s often the case that teachers are really very good at what they teach. I find this a lot in the horse world. If a teacher is a ‘natural’ at riding (what does natural mean? – that’s a whole other episode!), then they can give instructions – the what – but sometimes can’t give the how. Often, our teachers have become teachers because they are so good and have a lot of information to share. However, they’ve never learned to be a teacher – how do they impart their expertise.

We often just want to jump to the end – be performing the best piaffe at the competition, be whizzing round in our own car, making the best cake – after all, that’s why we started this journey in the first place. We don’t usually start with the intention of only ever learning clutch control. However, without that clutch control, it’s very unlikely you’ll ever be taking your car to the beach.

Because we often see the finished product (especially on-line) we often don’t appreciate how hard it actually is to play a flawless game of tennis or sing the most beautiful song. Being able to do these things takes lots and lots of practice, ‘failure’ (no such thing, only feedback) and doing the basics really, really well.

How is doing the basics applied to life?

If you’ve ever experienced overwhelm, it’s often because life is moving too fast or it’s too full. Maybe you’ve realised that life has gone off track a bit whilst you weren’t looking. Maybe you feel like you’re doing lots but achieving nothing.

Maybe you’ve been progressing with learning something and then suddenly become stuck and can’t get any further. Why?

Perhaps a relationship you thought was going well falters to an end.

If your link to your spiritual practice seems to fade, and your beliefs are being challenged, you might think it’s because it’s not for you after all.

It’s possible that for all of these, it’s because the fundamentals, the basics weren’t in place or you haven’t attended to them regularly enough. (obviously there might be other reasons too).

When we attend to the basics, the rest of life tends to fall into place.

Tips for doing the basics

We all have our own way of doing the basics. Attending to the body and the mind together works best.

It might be self care – plenty of sleep, eating well, exercising etc

  • Regularly checking in with and revisiting the beginnings of your training. What can you learn about the basics from your current place of knowledge and experience? Does it look different to last time you considered it?
  • Challenging your beliefs – where did they come from? Are they still relevant? Are they still useful or would something different work better?
  • Considering what’s happening in life that you no longer need. Are you spending time and energy building in complications that aren’t necessary?
  • Build in more time to focus on the basics that bring most pleasure and value in life – you’ll feel physically and mentally balanced too.
  • Be disciplined about life so that you return to basics regularly to make sure your foundations are firm and can lead to success and progress.

What are your tips?

Over to you – what are your tips for doing the basics? Whether in your sport, life, training, relationships, playing a musical instrument, it doesn’t matter. Let us know your successes so we can all expand our basics too.

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