I’m over sixty years old. Forty years ago, I fell in love with climbing. Twenty years ago, I fell in love with creating a career in climbing. My life, however, hasn’t always been about loving what I do. Before I chose to create a career in climbing, I worked in my father’s company. We sold industrial tools, mostly cutting tools, like drills, taps and end mills, to cut metal. I didn’t like cutting tools. I didn’t like my life either. I was frustrated, depressed, and anxious.
I had what’s known as a mid-life crisis. Selling cutting tools wasn’t meaningful to me. A mid-life crisis indicates that we’ve been living a shallow existence. There’s something about life that requires depth and meaning. We’re either growing or dying. Having a meaningful life validates that we’re growing as human beings.
The critical question is: how do we create lives that are meaningful? I didn’t like selling cutting tools. That’s important to acknowledge. But I needed to go deeper and frame the problem in a direction that I could take action. I knew I loved climbing. I investigated what grabbed my interest and attention about climbing. It seemed to be fear and the mental aspect of it. Now, I needed to make a choice to create a new career.
This new choice needed to be made differently. I needed to determine what caused me to have a mid-life crisis in the first place. I needed to look at my motivation because motivation is the driver of our decisions. Our motivation causes us to make decisions that lead us to a life of frustration or a life of meaning.
There are two basic motivations: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation drives us toward end results we want to achieve. It tends to be comfort-based; we’re motivated toward what will make us comfortable. In other words, we desire the comfort we’ll feel having achieved an end result.
Intrinsic motivation drives us toward processes we want to experience. It tends to be stress-based; we’re motivated toward what is stressful, ideally stress we choose to experience. We desire the stress we’ll feel during the process of engaging the experience.
My new choice to create a career in climbing required a shift in my motivation. I had unconsciously chosen end-result, comfort-based motivation when I chose to work for my father’s company. Doing that provided job and financial security, both comfort-based. I needed to value stress in order to have meaning in my new career. And, there was plenty of stress in developing The Warrior’s Way. Mental training for climbers was unknown. There wasn’t much information on the subject.
The Warrior’s Way requires us to live our lives as warriors. Warriors differentiate themselves from ordinary people by what motivates them. Ordinary people fall victim to unconscious comfort-based motivation. Warriors are not victims; they consciously choose to identify stress they want to engage. Warriors seek such experiences because they are impeccable hunters of personal power. Stepping into the unknown—the stress—gives them opportunities to hunt for power.
My life now is meaningful. I enjoy engaging the slow, stressful process of teaching the material and finding new ways of applying it. I want to be in that kind of stress. I see myself still having a meaningful life twenty years from now, when I’m over eighty.
Joseph Campbell said he didn’t think people wanted to be happy. Rather, people wanted an experience of being alive. That experience is a process; it gives us meaning and through that experience we feel alive. Don’t desire to achieve happiness; desire to engage an experience.
Practice Tip: Choices
You make choices about what you want to study in university when you’re about 20 years old. That choice is usually motivated by what grabs your interest and attention. Then, unconsciously, you tend to shift your motivation, making a career choice that will provide you comfort and security.
It usually takes 20 years of living with that choice to feel its full impact. At 40 you experience a mid-life crisis because you feel you aren’t growing or living the life you want to live. You face another choice. That choice needs to be made with different motivation.
If you’re facing such a choice, then choose to make it as a warrior, motivated to have a career that will provide stress you want to engage in. Being motivated in that way will create a deeper, meaningful life.