shield-417826_1920How many times have we failed on routes we expected to succeed on and then made excuses to justify why we failed? Perhaps it was a grade we’ve succeeded on many times. We felt entitled to succeed; so failing felt unfair.

The ego wants to succeed to support its sense of self-importance. It feels important when it achieves. Conversely, its importance is threatened when it doesn’t achieve. The ego will do whatever it can to protect its self-importance.

If we’re able to climb 5.11, then the ego feels entitled to continue to achieve 5.11s. If we fall on a 5.11, the ego will justify its failure by making excuses. Excuses such as: “I would have climbed it, but my foot slipped.” “I would have succeeded, but the belayer short-roped me.” “I could have climbed it, but I was too pumped to continue.”

These statements could all be true: our foot slipped, the belayer short-roped us, we were too pumped. However, excuses protect the ego and shift our attention to what the ego prefers the situation to be, instead of what it actually is. Instead of protecting the ego with excuses, we must dethrone it.

The ego’s excuses interfere with the learning process and how we use our attention. They cover the relevant information needed for learning, like a veil hiding a jewel. Thus, the ego protects itself by focusing our attention on the veil instead of the jewel. It feels entitled to the jewel—the learning—while resisting the work necessary to earn it.

To move beyond the ego’s sense of entitlement, we change our expectations. Don’t expect to succeed; expect to exert effort. Exerting effort helps us remove the veil so we can do work to earn the jewel. We remove excuses to reveal the learning opportunity. We do this in three steps:

  1. Observe the mind distracting our attention
  2. Identify why we fell
  3. Do things differently next time we climb

First, we observe the mind. We realize the ego focuses on achievement, distracting our attention toward what it prefers the situation to be, instead of seeing the situation as it is. Therefore, we observe ourselves making excuses about why we fell and stop that behavior.

Second, there were reasons why we fell. What were they? What thoughts were in the mind when we fell? We need to be objective so we can see the situation as it is. We describe what occurred to identify specific information that caused the fall. Perhaps a foot slipped, the belayer short-roped us, or we had a thought that we were too pumped to continue climbing, as we outlined earlier.

Third, we incorporate the new information into our strategy for the next effort. We focus our attention on modifying our plan to test the new information we discovered. If our foot slipped, then we place our foot more precisely. If the belayer short-roped us, then we instruct the belayer how to feed slack appropriately. If the mind has thoughts about being too pumped, then we ignore them and continue climbing (in yes-fall zones). These three steps help us become aware of the ego’s desire to protect itself with excuses, collect accurate information about improving our performance, and test that information.

There’s no need to dwell on routes being unfair, which feed the ego’s sense of entitlement. If we feel the need to discuss “fairness” of a route’s grade, then we do it simply to learn how to develop our strategy for climbing.

We take control of the situation by dethroning the ego’s sense of entitlement. We reveal the jewel—the learning opportunity—by removing the ego’s veil of excuses. We do this by changing our expectations. Instead of expecting to do a climb; we expect to exert effort.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Greg Leach

    Thank you for sharing another pearl. Happy Fourth of July to you and your family. Travel well, Greg.

  2. Robert Maffei

    Nice post on a day when many think about their entitlements, and forget about those people and ideas that got us this far….I continue to learn! Thanks Arno…

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