I’ve been climbing (primarily in the gym) for about four years now. I love it, and it is definitely one of my favorite hobbies. However, it’s always challenging and I often find myself fighting mental blocks. Sometimes I’m high up on the bouldering wall and I get scared, or I don’t want to push too hard when I’m lead climbing because I’m afraid of falling. Sometimes I’m just tired and I don’t feel like trying very hard. Someone at my gym saw me fail to commit to a climb and recommended that I read The Rock Warrior’s Way: Mental Training for Climbers (2003) by Arno Ilgner.
This is a book written by and for climbers. Although the tenets are universal and can be applied to any aspect of your life, I would imagine the climbing stories and analogies would eventually get old for non-climbers. On the other hand, I love climbing, but I wouldn’t consider myself very hard core. I don’t go on epic climbing trips, and the routes I do are not particularly hard. I avoided this book for too long because I was afraid it would be directed towards “real” climbers. Fortunately, I was wrong. I found a lot of great information about attitude and the way to approach challenges that are helpful for many different of aspects of my life.
One of the lessons that most stuck with me is that success or failure doesn’t matter. Your goal when approaching a climb should be to try hard and learn something about yourself. That way you will be better when you try again. Worrying about making it to the top simply wastes energy that should be focused on the climbing at hand.
Another fascinating topic was how much your ego gets in the way of living in the moment. Your ego is constantly producing a narrative about your life that makes you feel good about yourself. Once you have that narrative, it’s hard to let go. Your mind might spend considerable energy trying to protect its idea of itself. This could be if you feel you are too good of a climber to be struggling on a particular climb, or if you feel like you should be climbing better than your climbing partner. Your ego also likes to make excuses for you when you fail. Ilgner says this is all a waste of energy. The more you can silence your ego and live in the moment, the better off you will be.
I’ve been trying to apply these principles to both my life and my climbing with mixed/positive results. I still definitely get scared on climbs and I certainly haven’t silenced my ego, but being aware of some of these principles has subtly changed my approach.
Below are a number of quotes or lessons that I highlighted while I was reading. However, these lessons are still best with the context of the entire book.
*First, accept that life is hard.
*The qualities you bring to game day will be the exact same qualities you cultivate during practice.
*The way you live your life is exactly the way you will climb.
*Our reactions are steeped in our old fear-driven patterns.
*How one uses attention–does one waste it or focus it on the task at hand?
*The ultimate quest is to gain self-knowledge and personal power–our ability to act effectively and to venture into unknown facets of the world.
*Authentic self-worth comes from an internal value system, not from simple achievement.
*What matters is learning. You want to test yourself.
*Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
*Everything in the risk zone is potential you haven’t yet realized.
*Focus attention on the love force (doing the thing you love) rather than the phantom fears force.
*Your goal is to participate openly in the challenge.
*Success and failure do not exist in the present, only effort and action exist.
*We want to be at peace with ourselves and be able to maintain that peace in the face of adversity.
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