Enjoy the ride

I read a great post the other day. It has nothing to do with climbing and everything to do with goal setting. Setting goals for improvement is a huge part of what I love about climbing. Having something new to push for like a new climb, grade or trip is a huge motivator for me and I’m sure the wider climbing community. However, I often see others missing out on enjoying the day-to-day while waiting for the ‘if only…’ I think this is a reflection of our culture in general. You’d recognize these people as your friends, family or co-workers as well. ‘If only I had bigger house, then I’d be happy. If only I had a nicer car, then people would think I was cool.’ It goes on and on and is a huge driver in our culture, and is reflected perfectly in a post called I’d rather be young by finance blogger J. Money.

A quote from the post: “an important reminder to just stop freaking trying to SPEED UP TIME SO MUCH to accomplish our goals!”

Call it fear of missing out (FOMO), ego, or simple impatience – we all want to be a little bit (or a lotta bit) further ahead than we are right now. Maybe we secretly hope that when we break 5.11 our friends will think we’re actually good, or that when we get a sweet Toyota Tacoma to drive to the crag that we have a sweet ride. Goals are an important way to motivate us and provide a measuring stick by which to track our progress. But when goals bleed into becoming the only thing about life that we think about, what are we really doing? And is there ever really and end point with this kind of thinking?

Does any of this sound familiar?

  1. If I could only climb 5.12a / 5.10 trad / V8 then I’ll be satisfied
  2. If I lived closer to the mountains I’d be happier because I could climb sweet routes all the time!
  3. Once I buy that next cam my rack will be complete

How many of you can think of a climber who finally climbed 5.12a and said ‘there! I did it! I accomplished my lifelong goal of crushing 5.12!’ and then proceeded to draw out her days climbing 5.12a without ever looking sidelong at the 5.12b next to it, thinking ‘man, if only I could get up that route, THEN I’d be crushing!’? I’m guessing that none of you are raising your hands right now because this almost never happens [Replace “5.12a” with any climbing goal]. We’re an improvement driven species and there’s nothing we can do about it, and that’s ok.

For me, and please let me know if this is the case for you too, the goal is NOT the summit/next V grade/ the shiny new cam. My goal is something to hone my energy on but not my ultimate purpose in life. The true joy of climbing is the climbing. The space between the start and the finish. The interesting/graceful/powerful moves. The hard work that you put in that you knew was the difference between succeeding and failing. The day outside in great weather. The day outside in terrible weather. The story you tell your significant other when you walk in the house utterly shattered but still so excited that you wait to open your beer because you need to get all the details out.

Be passionate about the process and where you are now or you’ll never reach your goal, because the real experience is in the details. Each move builds on the last, each session builds on the last, each season builds on the last. We shouldn’t feel the need to rush to the finish line because a true finish line is like the horizon – always just out of your grasp, pushing your further and further outside of your comfort zone. Enjoy each season, each session, each move. These are the moments that matter, the moments that build a lifetime of experience that are worth remembering.

Don’t urn for the passage of time. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the journey.

Peggys cove bouldering

3 thoughts on “Enjoy the ride

  1. Great post, James. I often find myself overly obsessed with rushing to the attainment of goals rather than taking my time and enjoying the journey.

    I once read a book in graduate school that I would never inflict on anyone (Dialectic of Enlightenment, by Adorno and Horkheimer), but it did contain one fascinating insight about Western culture: advertising has permeated our culture so deeply and quietly that we do not realize how much it affects the way we think. Advertising extends a promise that, if we buy gadget X, we will suddenly be happy and fulfilled; just think of the commercials for the Toyota Tacoma, all burly adventure in windswept mountains. Yet once you buy the truck, you realize that the promise was empty; the gigantic emotional investment you’ve made in acquiring the truck (not to mention the hard work) is not repaid by some equally mammoth emotional fulfillment. And so we move on to the next purchase…

    In the context of your post, I think this insight reinforces your observation that it is the path toward reaching our goals that is more important, not their actual attainment. We put so much emphasis on how we will feel once we reach that peak or complete that achievement, that we forget to focus on the here and now.

    Interestingly, though, it seems that there is a shadow side inherent to great achievements. Steve House was asked once how he felt after he had climbed the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat. His response: “Honestly, it feels empty… I feel lost.” (Beyond the Mountain, p. 216). I bet, though, if you asked him how he felt while he was climbing, he would have said something about how alive and vital he felt.

    1. Thanks Lee, you are absolutely correct. I find myself in that predicament more often than I’d like. What percentage of our lives are going to consist of achieving goals vs. working towards them? I would postulate that our lives consist largely of working towards goals – best enjoy the work!

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