At the end of a recent session at the climbing gym, I found myself looking up at a route that I had climbed before. I had sent it (reached the top) near the beginning of a previous session when I still had quite a bit of energy. It was challenging and was something I wanted to continue working on, as it had a serious crux (most challenging part) that required technical footwork.
I looked up and the route and told Dustin, my climbing partner (who also happens to be my boyfriend) that I would “give it a try.”
“No,” he responded.
Upset at his lack of support, I tied in. Why did he doubt my climbing ability? Maybe he thought I was too tired to send it. Either way, I wasn’t fond of the “no.”
He met my glare. “When you climb, you commit to the route. Don’t try it. Climb it.”
“Try” is a safe-word
Trying equates to exploring. You try a new recipe. Or you try to be interested in your partner’s obsession with sports or porcelain dolls (wait, what?). You try something to see whether or not you like it.
You don’t try something you’ve already done.
When we approach something we’ve already done with a “trying mindset,” we put in half the effort and accept the thought that it might not work out. This keeps us in our comfort zones (except for the porcelain doll thing), accepting the fact that we’re not progressing. We become defeated before we even begin.
Trying becomes our buffer or security net. We can shrug it off if we don’t succeed. It prevents us from falling. It protects us from rejection. It shields us with the comfort of knowing that we could’ve done it if we had really wanted to.
There’s no risk in trying. And, because of that, there’s no real reward. Trying doesn’t show you what you’re able to accomplish. In order to find that, you need to face the fear (of rejection, falling, failing, etc.), buckle down, and commit.
Commitment is a mindset
I tied the rope into my harness, checked my knot, and chalked up.
“Climbing!” I announced, hands gripping the starting holds.
“Climb on,” Dustin encouraged.
I climbed. I didn’t try to climb. I climbed.
Breathe in. Trust your feet. Breathe out. Reach up. Slowly and steadily, I scaled the wall. Inhale. Trust. Exhale. Reach.
My hand slipped off the hold. “Falling!” I swear I yelled loud enough for the whole gym to hear me.
The rope caught me, and I looked down at Dustin. I smiled as he lowered me back to the ground. I had honestly given the route everything I had, and it kicked my butt.
I had failed to send the route. But I knew that my mental switch from half-hearted “trying” to full commitment (with the help of my partner’s loving prodding) was my real success that day.
Commitment is courageous
In climbing and in life, it takes courage to fully commit – especially amidst uncertainty. To commit builds character and paves the way for progress.
When one of my favourite climbers and storytellers gave out a press release about his new book, part of his statement read: “I’m nervous and excited, and it’s the best I could do.”
This simple message stuck with me as a reference for commitment. It painted a picture of the mindset shift I experienced on the wall that day and how I feel almost every time I gear up for a new or challenging route—both on and off the wall.
And if you’re lucky, it’s having an awesome partner or community to see what you’re capable of and push you in that direction. Because what you’re capable of is so far beyond anything you might “try” to do.
Leave a comment!
- What wall or mountain are you currently looking up at?
- What has your approach been to your route?
- Are you trying or committing?
- What’s holding you back?
- What can you do today to stop trying and start committing?