Some time back I was talking to an acquaintance about rock climbing. Even though it’s been ages since I’ve talked about rock climbing, I found myself getting worked up with the kind of passion I used to exude whenever I talked about the sport. My friend, W and I were trying to express to this person how our experiences rock climbing have altered our perspectives on life in general.
The biggest take home message I walked away with from all my past experiences in climbing is simply this:
If you want to succeed at anything in life, you have to take a positive steps forward. Hesitations and uncertainties in your actions can be the difference between success and failure. I can think of two examples where this statement runs true.
The first is in rock climbing. When I’m working on a difficult route and my next move is the crux (the hardest part of the route), the slightest hesitation or uncertainty in my movements can lead to my failure in seizing the next hold.
When your mind is too focussed on the possibility of failure, your body reacts by bringing about the very thing the mind is most preoccupied with. When your mind hesitates, your body hesitates. Instead of pushing off with enough force to reach the next hold, you move almost half-heartedly and it’s no wonder you don’t make it.
I remember a route I was projecting called “Jah Lap Climbing”. The crux was at a mini roof and the difficulty was in getting passed the roof. I remember asking some other climbers for beta (advice on how to climb the route) and they told me about a specific foot hold that I needed to use.
When I looked at the foothold, it looked shiny and smooth from the rubbing of too many feet before mine. My mind was convinced I would slip off if I were to step on that foothold. I “tested” the foothold by rubbing the toe of my shoe over it and “confirmed” it was as smooth as it looked. There was no way I would be able to use that, I thought.
Until I managed to overcome the thought that the move was not possible for someone like me, I was never able to complete the route. My hesitation on the foothold confirmed it was too smooth for my foot to stick to it. My foot would often slip off because I never stepped on the hold with conviction. I realised after my first success that if I just applied my foot to the hold and expected it to stick, it really did.
The second example is in downhill ski-ing. Whenever I’m on a blue run or even a black run – if I’m ever feeling brave (read: stupid) enough to attempt one – the first instinct is to pull back because of the fear of falling. Yet it is the action of pulling back that makes me more likely to fall, or rather lose balance and end up sliding down the rest of the way on my behind. If I just tucked in and went with the flow of the run, everything flows just the way it should.
That’s basically all it’s about – commitment. You make a decision and you don’t look back. Looking back only makes you doubt yourself, with the severe consequences of increasing your probability of failure. Since you’ve made the decision to go ahead, why waste your energies thinking about the fork in the road behind you? Once you’ve succeeded in negotiating this section, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll won’t be looking back any more.
This is by no means the only lesson I’ve taken away with me from the sports I’ve participated in, though I feel it is the one that is most deeply rooted in my mind.