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Practice makes progress, not perfection

Courtesy of Sarah McNaughton Sarah McNaughton on her first head horse Marvin
NEW HEAD HORSE: After buying my first head horse, Marvin, it’s a process to continuously better my roping and my horsemanship in the practice pen.
Learning in the practice pen, I find progress is more important than being perfect.

We all are probably familiar with the old adage, “Practice makes perfect.” When I was growing up learning cello and performing in quartets, symphonies and as a soloist, my cello teacher changed that adage to “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Even still, as I’m moving through my late 20s, I’d further change that to “Practice makes progress.”

You might not be able to see the copious rewrites, editing and work that goes into trying to make Dakota Farmer and its content “perfect,” but I’ve always wanted everything I do in life to be as perfect as it could be. As I get older, I realize more and more how unattainable that really is.

Journey to rodeo

Enter the beginning of my team roping venture. You might remember a few of my past columns that discussed my journey learning how to be an adult beginner, realizing I can’t be perfect at something right away, and working to find my first rope horse.

Earlier this summer, I finally had the chance to buy the “perfect” rope horse for myself. Marvin is a finished head horse that is safe in the box, quick to the steer and takes care of his rider while doing it. While Marvin knows his job as soon as the chute opens, I’m still working on riding this new horse correctly and to throw my rope like I’ve actually practiced.

When surrounded by people who have been roping their entire lives, it can be frustrating to feel like I’m too far behind to learn, making silly mistakes or just not roping “perfectly,” in general. Depending on the mindset I let myself have, it’s easy to fall into feeling like I’m not doing anything correctly, rather than taking each run as a chance to improve myself.

Usually by the time I’ve unsaddled, I’ve worked to flip any negative mindset from the practice session and realize that progress isn’t linear. It takes time to learn an entirely new and fast-paced sport.

Learning a good foundation while roping on slower steers will benefit me more in the future, than thinking everything must be done perfectly now and risking losing a finger later. I have friends reminding me that I’ve owned this horse fewer than two weeks, so how can I expect to suddenly rope perfectly with him?

Many of us might feel similar in other aspects of life, wanting to be in a different place than we are. We may be wanting to be perfect at whatever we’re doing, whether that be in our personal or professional lives.

When you’re working to do something new, do you expect perfection the first time you do it, or do you give yourself a grace period to progress in your learning? Having the mental grit and resiliency to make mistakes and try again is something that helps get us further in life.

If I’m wanting to rope for the rest of my life, why would I worry about having those less-than-perfect runs, instead of just taking every chance to improve? Try to work on progress over perfection, and give yourself time to grow and learn.


TAGS: Farm Life
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