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The Mental Game::.. Part II

Kala Mtn Blog

There are no limits.

The Mental Game::.. Part II

Eddie Schoen

My last post was motivated in no small part by an impending guide's training and examination.  For those following my journey, it's another step along the path towards IFMGA certification.  In the rock guiding discipline this involves meeting a certain standard of movement on technical rock terrain.   Specifically, the expectation is to smoothly and safely climb 5.10+, anywhere, any style, onsight.  It may not sound all that demanding or impressive.  I used to think it was a piece of cake.  Throw me on any bolted, steep, face climb at that grade, regardless of the type of stone, and it will be a casual warm up.  Ask me to climb a finger crack or off-width of the same grade and that's a different story all together.   There's some pressure and anxiety there for me.  

Since wrapping up my season of alpine guiding in the Tetons, I have had about a month to shift my state of mind back to harder rock climbing.  Both so I can get out and have fun climbing on my own, but also to feel confident going into this course.  With more than $3k and a couple weeks of my time on the line, I really don't want to blow it.  Furthermore, the more confident and comfortable I am on the climbing, the more I free up mental energy for learning.  So the stakes were higher than typical when it comes to working out the kinks at the start of a season.  Accordingly, I dreamt up a grand scheme of a disciplined approach to regaining my mental edge for climbing, by strategically addressing my weaknesses.

In reality, I just went climbing.  As much as I could.  Often, I found myself opting for a gym session rather than a few pitches outside, especially if the weather was less than ideal.  That was partially an easy way out, but it also allowed me to gain maximum fitness in minimal time.  The days I did spend outside were mostly on bolted sport climbs.  Which means I got comfortable climbing hard and taking falls.  I didn't target my weakest links, but I played to my strengths and had lots of fun doing it.  It was enough.  I got through the exams and passed the movement standard pretty easily.

However, I know that I still have lots of potential to unlock when it comes to hard climbing on gear, on styles that do not play to my strengths.  The journey here is far from over.  In fact, it's a journey that has no end.  As with anything in life, there are a variety of approached and truths to be accepted.  In striving for a goal or objective, there is no one right way to do things.  There is usually an ideal mix of strategies and tactics to get you to the goal, but often, a less-than-ideal approach will still get the job done.  We all have limited time and energy.  As much as I'd love to constantly be training and preparing with 100% focus on a goal, it's just not realistic.  There's just too much to do.  So I do the best I can and, usually, I'm going to pick the fun option if faced with a choice between laser-focused efficiency and good enough to get it done.  Because life is short.  Most things are simply not that big of a deal.  I try not to take anything too seriously that it stops being fun.  Maybe that's the lesson here?

A great nugget of wisdom that I once heard is to play to your strengths and work on your weaknesses.  That idea embodies a spectrum of approaches to a goal.  The bottom line though is that you should take advantage of what you are good at.  You likely worked really hard to develop that skill and strength in whatever it is.  Use it!  Make life a little easier whenever you can.  However, don't let yourself fall into complacency.  Always keep your weaknesses in mind.  Work on strengthening them whenever you can.  And keep it fun!