Motivation and how it influences the way we climb

I’ve been reading an inspiring book called ‘The rock warrior’s way: Mental training for climbers’. First published in 2006, it combines eastern philosophy, American ‘self-help’ literature and rigorous consideration of the mental processes we go through as we take climbing risks. It’s somewhat cheesy for my British sentimentality, but I’ve been surprised by how many people I’ve met have already read it, or having read a couple of pages have asked to borrow it.

This morning I’ve been reading about the intuitive element of climbing. Once committed to a route, how willing and able are we to adapt to the challenges it puts in front of us? The book suggests that if we approach the challenge with an outcome orientated approach ‘I will finish this route by doing x, y, z’ we are likely to exclude the options which become available to us as we climb. If however, we are able to approach the route with open questions but a strong sense of commitment we are more likely to ‘listen’ to the options which present themselves. I’ve already found this has helped my climbing – just describing holds as I climb makes me consider them more carefully and how I could best use them, this has a calming effect and has also dramatically improved my footwork.

It also makes me think about others I have climbed with; individuals who ‘live in the moment’ rather than planning seem better able to manage stressful situations once they occur. Perhaps this is because when planning, we choose to close certain doors to achieve what seems to be the best outcome. In reality, we never have the full picture, and in being determined and outcome orientated (things which are usually perceived as highly positive), we actually close ourselves off to new information or the reality of the situation around us. Those who chose not to plan are better able to re-model a future series of events.

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