A foundational decision determines why you live your life as you do. It’s about why you do activities, not about what you want to accomplish. “I choose to climb” is a foundational decision. It isn’t dependent on the difficulty you want to climb or which routes you will be able to climb. You decide that you want climbing to be an integral part of your life. You commit to living your life through climbing.
This decision is essentially the vehicle you choose for an even greater purpose in your life: to learn and grow. This is really the purpose of life regardless of the sport, job, or circumstances of your life. If you enjoy climbing then why not make climbing that vehicle for learning?
This foundational decision is not subject to circumstances. You may achieve your climbing goals quickly or slowly, but either way, your foundational decision to climb remains the same. You aren’t climbing to get something out of it, but rather climbing for its own sake. In other words, you don’t climb because it is good for you; you climb because it gives you a feeling of being alive.
This foundational decision can’t be explained away. You climb because you have to, because if you couldn’t climb, in a sense, you would die. Climbing gives something to your life to such a degree that to live without climbing would essentially kill your purpose for living. “Why do you climb?” You can’t answer why; you just know you have to climb.

1-WarriorsWaylogo®A foundational decision determines why you live your life as you do. It’s about why you do activities, not about what you want to accomplish. “I choose to climb” is a foundational decision. It isn’t dependent on the difficulty you want to climb or which routes you will be able to climb. You decide that you want climbing to be an integral part of your life. You commit to living your life through climbing.

This decision is essentially the vehicle you choose for an even greater purpose in your life: to learn and grow. This is really the purpose of life regardless of the sport, job, or circumstances of your life. If you enjoy climbing then why not make climbing that vehicle for learning?

This foundational decision is not subject to circumstances. You may achieve your climbing goals quickly or slowly, but either way, your foundational decision to climb remains the same. You aren’t climbing to get something out of it, but rather climbing for its own sake. In other words, you don’t climb because it is good for you; you climb because it gives you a feeling of being alive.

This foundational decision can’t be explained away. You climb because you have to, because if you couldn’t climb, in a sense, you would die. Climbing gives something to your life to such a degree that to live without climbing would essentially kill your purpose for living. “Why do you climb?” You can’t answer why; you just know you have to climb.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Lenore Sobota

    Very well put and it applies to so many other things. I don’t climb with anywhere near the frequency or difficulty level I once did. Other priorities and the “ravages of time” have contributed to those changes. But I still consider myself a “climber” and still “have to climb” — even if I can’t explain “why.”

  2. Barry Rusnock

    Wow…..Arno, that’s profound! I never considered “why we climb”. It’s an interesting perspective.

  3. isabel

    I love this article. I have found that things I do in my life that come from my heart and I feel passionate about, have a purpose of their own. Why did I start AscenDance Project? Because I felt this deep longing to dance on a wall and portrait the beauty of climbing. AscenDance has a purpose and a life of its own. I may have started it and contributed to it, but in the end, I am not pursuing it for any other reason than ‘to do it’. So often we to through life explaining and justifying why we live where we live, why we love the people we love and why we do the work we do. We really shouldn’t. ‘Because’, ‘just because’, that’s the answer when you follow your heart. You just know in your heart where it pulls you.

  4. Saglinda

    Wow, I thought I was the only one who felt like this….nice to know I’m not alone. Climbing is about exhuming the soul, revealing it to even its owner!

  5. Roxana

    Hello Arno!
    At first, I didn’t really understand this. It seemed to be a higher purpose in life. Now I see the need to be fully aware of myself, to know I’m alive, can be fulfilled only when the danger is very high and I am in the great risk zone (at least my mind telling me this).
    It is possible to take bigger risk, more than I can handle only because of that need (feeling of being alive)? It is possible not to have motivation in climbing if the risk seem very small and I don’t have the same feeling of being alive?
    If it is like that, maybe my level of knowledge and expertise with climbing is much lower than I thought and my ego is inflated? Maybe I must start from a very low level and grow gradually and slowly to higher levels. What do you think? I have misleading ideas?

    Thank you so much. Roxana

    1. Arno

      Hello Roxana, How have you been? I haven’t heard from you or Lau in quite a while. It is important to take appropriate risk, which mean climbing routes that push you a little outside your past experience level, or comfort zone, but not too much. If you take too much risk you can get hurt. The purpose of this lesson was to get you to think about why you climb. Doing this will bring up ego reasons or more genuine reasons. Don’t over think this process though. Just remind yourself that why you climb is because it is fun and gives you a feeling of being alive.
      Best, Arno

  6. Roxana

    Hi Arno,

    We are raising our beautiful little child and we are very happy, thank you for asking. This event was great for me; it’s a joy and an opportunity to change, even I was forced to stay away from climbing for a while. My child is my teacher. It is like stone, I cannot change him, I had to change myself instead and I had to learn from him. Next spring I will start climbing again and I will have a big opportunity –to start from very beginning without thoughts of what should or shouldn’t feel or do, or be. Just enjoy the journey, be present and grateful, as I explore from raising my child and I learned from RWW, my foundational teaching. Even I start climbing for more personal reasons (the childish curiosity, the need to explore my limits and powers and the majesty of mountains) over time these start to switch more into ego reasons. Because is not very easy to know when I climb for myself and for fun, I guess the only thing available is the opportunity to learn about.
    I’m always worried about my capacity to make me understandable in English but I have to take that risk.
    Thank you so much! Roxana

  7. Ivan

    Hello Arno,
    I have just read your book called “The Rock Warrior’s Way: Mental Training for Climbers”. I agree with most of the training shown here as well as with the “Foundational Decisions” article. I’m 28 years old and have been climbing for 1 year. I took several courses about rock climbing. I think my current level is 5.9 and the hardest route I have done is a 5.10b. The issue I am dealing with since 6 months ago is that: Does it really worth risking your life for fun? Even if you are a well-experimented climber you are subjected to an accident such as in the case of Kurt Albert. This is a big conflict that I have not solved yet and really mess up my climbing. I think is part of a foundational decision. What do you think?

    1. Arno

      Hello Ivan,
      Your question: “Does it really worth risking your life for fun?” Is it better to risk your life for something that isn’t fun, rather than something that is fun? There is risk in everything we do. I guess we each need to determine what we are willing to risk our lives for. I choose to risk my life for climbing. I love climbing. I do my best to make sure the risks I take in climbing are appropriate, but once I’ve done that…I commit and enjoy.
      Thanks for your question. Arno

  8. Yani

    Hello Ivan,
    I’d like to pitch in what Arno says. I’ve been climbing for 5 years and I started kind of old…28 :). I have been thru 3 major injuries that kept me away from climbing. I’m going thru 1 right now! and is funny because it seems that every time I’m excelling, I get injured. The question of why I climb? is so clear when we are injured in our homes, pacing from one side of the kitchen to the other and dreaming about climbing. Thinking about our friends having fun at the crag and feeling a tad jealous for that. Showing up at the gym with a cast on just to share some time with other climbers and learn something by simply watching!!! Maybe daring to climb with only one hand and feeling like you just touched the sky because you did a 5.4 single handed!!! You can’t help it!!! You can’t stay away from it. Is bigger than you. At the same time I think we can learn to take risks when is appropriate to take risks and we can learn to be safe. Taking Arno’s workshops, reading books, taking classes with other teachers, will help you understand what is safe and what is not. Then you can make decisions based on a more objective awareness and not so much a perceived danger. Is it worth taking the risk? I have tools to make those decisions right now. Thank you Arno for providing essential tools to make climbing safer and more enjoyable.

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