Tuesday 25 May 2010

Recent good stuff that happened

This week I’ve had a good lesson in making goals. On the whole I’m absolutely terrible at achieving goals. I get by with looking to those who don’t know me that I’m actually okay at making goals because of two workarounds: I have lots of goals, I work really hard and I work all the time.
Working really hard and working all the time are good in small doses. But in the long run, it’s really really bad for you. It’s been really really bad for me. I can’t tell you how bad. In fact it’s the thing I hate about myself the most.
The smart thing to to, that I haven’t figured out how to do yet is to alternate work, rest and discerning between important and not important goals.

The root of my problem has been irrational fear, not being realistic about what I can and can’t do and being too simplistic in my approach to goals of different types.
Too simplistic? I read a nice idea about stuff that can’t fail, and it opened my eyes to a paradox. Some goals become much harder to achieve if you can’t afford to fail. Usually, you actually can afford to fail and in fact must allow yourself to fail many times if you’re going to manage it. It just feels like you can’t because of inner or social pressure.
A lot of climbing falls under this category. There’s the simple idea I explained in my book about how being afraid to fail, or fall in climbing cripples it utterly in most situations. I really took this to heart years ago in my climbing. If you watched E11 you’ll see that I really learned on that route that it didn’t matter that I wasn’t up to the job of climbing E11. I failed again and got closer to the level, one step at a time in a relentless push right to the end.
Great. But I learned the hard way that the same approach to other tasks doesn’t work. Sometimes you really can’t afford to fail, you don’t get another try. Different approach needed. Trouble for me is that I got really in the habit of not worrying about failing, having mountains of goals and not worrying if I fail on most but succeed on some in the process. So it’s an uphill struggle to adjust.
Irrational fear? Like most folk, I have stupid fears and waste a large amount of time and energy acting them out. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Hard to ignore all the same.
Not being realistic is a simple one - I just have an appetite bigger than my belly.
Good to have learned more about these things, hard to put into practice. But a few days of starting and I feel a little better.


  1. A really interesting post.
    I had the same big problem but managed to work a little bit on it during the last year.
    Actually i also had tons of goals but not really the ambition to solve them for all costs. If i succeeded, well it was nice - but if not I didn't really bother.
    What really kinda helped me was a change in my climbing buddies to a peer of more success-focused climbers.
    Recently I can't allways bring the motivation for a success at all costs - but I'm getting the focus more often.
    I personally think that the root in my case can be found in the pressure I put on myself or the fear of failure - as long as I don't really want the success at all costs I personally don't really count it as failure and so it seems easier to handle.

  2. Very interesting post. The difference that the fear of failing can make is most starkly illustrated by the difference between lead and top rope climbing - I can cruise up a crimpy slab that will give me weak knees 5m above my last bit of protection.

  3. "Irrational fear? Like most folk, I have stupid fears and waste a large amount of time and energy acting them out. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Hard to ignore all the same."

    I would say ignoring fear is a bad tactic. Fear lies at the bottom of all our wasted time and energy, but in that sense it is our true ally. Your emotions will always give you a window into what it is you fear and what choices you are making. Ignoring will just gloss over and change will never come.

    Interesting topic...

    p.s reading your post, you are being a bit tough on yourself - don't beat yourself up.. it's a long road!

  4. Alan Russell26 May, 2010

    Have you found that skills and lessons learned from climbs where falling is unacceptable have been useful in other situations where you can't afford to fail?