Back in the 90’s I was actively progressing through the grades in rock climbing. I wanted to consume everything. I wanted to get better. Slowly and steadily I did by choosing partners and ventures carefully that would stretch me.
We climbed everything within our reach and we slowly expanded our horizon. The start of summer was always a period of dreaming and planning. The days were getting longer but the weather was not quite cooperating enough to do serious routes.
I remember dreaming out loud to Gareth that we could climb Ocean’s of Fear by Easter if we put our minds to it and progressed steadily through the grades for the whole summer. Each weekend building on the previous one. We would have to stick to our schedule in order to reach the goal. The learning curve would be steep but hopefully within our gradient. (or so I lead myself to believe at the time.) His response surprised me and stuck. With time I have come to understand.
I don’t remember the exact words but it went something along the lines of “I don’t want to consider each weekend working towards an end goal and not enjoy the weekend in itself” I am paraphrasing as his command of the English language is far better than mine.
Two things strike me as lessons for myself when I think back. My motivation was completely goal focussed. Whereas my partner was content in enjoying the moment for the moment. I am not saying he was lazy. Far from it. We were highly self motivated. It took me almost 20 years of exploring the vertical walls to learn that. The closest I came to truly being present was on a few meters of unclimbed rock in the Yellowwood Amphitheatre in Du Toit’s Kloof. The 200m of wall below me was known so was the short section to the top, bar the next 4m. This was the link. I was stretched physically and knew where I needed to be. The wall was overhanging and I needed all the strength in my arms to execute. I set up and knew the hold on the horizon would lead to salvation. This was it. I committed. But in doing that move I knew that for that moment I was where I needed to be. I knew that this was here on that wall at that exact moment.
To fill the present moment is something that I work on daily.
The second lesson is to consistently think about where I am on gradient. In the case of Ocean’s it was unrealistic to follow my projected learning curve. I recently read up about David Brailsford’s Marginal Gains philosophy with Team Sky and British Cycling. The underlying thing here is to constantly know where you are so that you can make that 1% change from there. You concentrate on the now. Then the goal will present it self.