Your mind will always look for ways to avoid discomfort or circumvent stress. It will seek to eliminate fear or climb the next grade without doing the required work. Your mind will do anything it can to keep from being fully present for the stress that is inherent in a climbing challenge. Even some common, well-accepted calming tactics are examples of this tendency to escape. For example, many people listen to music when exercising, stretching, warming up, or practicing. Some climbers even listen to music when redpointing a route. Doing this may calm and focus your mind, but it’s a short-term solution. If you want to realize your full potential, you will need to come face-to-face with the stress generated in the climbing experience. The only way to do this is to be present for it. By distracting your mind with calming “tricks,” you allow your mind to evade the growth process. If you use a trick to skirt the growth process, you don’t really grow; you just find a way to ignore the stress. Tricks can produce short-term ends, but they won’t help you learn. Learning is the means that allows you to reach your full potential.
Labeling outcomes is another limiting tendency of the mind. Your mind tends to label completing a route as good and successful. When you fall off a route, however, your mind tends to label it bad or failure. Doing this takes attention off the learning process and allows your mind to wallow in the trappings that come along with the label. You’re either lost in the label of success and therefore lose sight of what you actually did to create that outcome, or you’re lost in the label of failure instead of exploring what actually happened to cause the fall. When you operate from awareness, you are curious about what happened right at the moment you let go. Yes, not when you fell but when you let go. What thought was in your mind when you separated from the rock? Did your body or your mind let go? You don’t know exactly, and labeling it as failure won’t help you find out. If you keep your attention on how much your mind contributed to separating you from the rock, then you’ll stay excited about the climbing process and won’t allow your mind to trick you into hiding behind the comfort of a label.
All-or-nothing thinking is another tendency of the mind. When you push yourself on grades that are outside your comfort zone, your mind will resist by creating thoughts to lure you into escaping, or finishing quickly. Your mind seeks the greater comfort before or after the stress and wants to either rush through to the end when the stress is over (all), or not engage the challenge at all (nothing).
Understand and remember that these ignoring, labeling, and all-or-nothing tendencies are your mind’s natural inclination. Simply identify these thoughts when they happen, and use your awareness to deal with them.