Motivation derives from the sense that you will “get something” from an experience. Motivation is the fuel that drives your effort and increases or diminishes depending on whether or not you feel you’ll attain your goal. There are two main types of goals: end goals and process goals. Your motivation will behave very differently under the stress of a climbing challenge depending on which type of goal you are working toward. Understanding this difference and using it is key in maintaining motivation to stay committed during challenging climbing.
End goals are such external things as climbing harder grades or redpointing routes. Process goals are the skills you learn in the process of your external achievements, internal things such as the ability to commit more completely or fall more safely. If you’re motivated solely by end goals, then as stress and difficulty increase during a crux, you see less chance of attaining your goal. The stress stands between you and your goal. Since motivation derives from the anticipation of attaining a goal, when you begin to pump out, end-goal motivation will tend to diminish. You say, “Why bother? I know I’m too pumped to get to the top.”
If, however, you are motivated by process goals, then as stress increases you see a greater chance of attaining your goal-—improved skills. Your motivation increases. As your strength fades, you say, “One more move is valuable, so do it.”
Most climbers are motivated by both ends and processes. End goals pick the stage where you will perform. They involve routes you want to climb or places you want to arrive where you’ll be satisfied (comfortable). End goals are realized after stress. Process goals concern the quality of the performance. They involve skills you want to learn, or stressful situations that provide learning opportunities. Process goals are realized during stress.
It’s important to have both type of goals and to set them up in the correct hierarchy. If you want to maximize your performance, make process goals primary and end goals secondary. This way, you will be primarily motivated to engage in climbing situations that are stressful, creating an opportunity to learn and improve. You are secondarily motivated to find the most comfortable way through the stressful situation and attain the end goal of a redpoint or on-sight. Think of end goals as tests of how well you have learned your process goals.
As living beings, we feel truly alive when we grow. Grounding our motivation in growth, in the challenge and stress that will actually cause us to grow, fuels the whole process. The source of our power and the application of it are connected, allowing our power to flow from our ground, through our being, and into our effort, as we apply it on a route. Valuing growth keeps our motivation consistent and connected to its source.

Dave MacLeod on Echo WallMotivation derives from the sense that you will “get something” from an experience. Motivation is the fuel that drives your effort and increases or diminishes depending on whether or not you feel you’ll attain your goal. There are two main types of goals: end goals and process goals. Your motivation will behave very differently under the stress of a climbing challenge depending on which type of goal you are working toward. Understanding this difference and using it is key in maintaining motivation to stay committed during challenging climbing.

End goals are such external things as climbing harder grades or redpointing routes. Process goals are the skills you learn in the process of your external achievements, internal things such as the ability to commit more completely or fall more safely. If you’re motivated solely by end goals, then as stress and difficulty increase during a crux, you see less chance of attaining your goal. The stress stands between you and your goal. Since motivation derives from the anticipation of attaining a goal, when you begin to pump out, end-goal motivation will tend to diminish. You say, “Why bother? I know I’m too pumped to get to the top.”

If, however, you are motivated by process goals, then as stress increases you see a greater chance of attaining your goal-—improved skills. Your motivation increases. As your strength fades, you say, “One more move is valuable, so do it.”

Most climbers are motivated by both ends and processes. End goals pick the stage where you will perform. They involve routes you want to climb or places you want to arrive where you’ll be satisfied (comfortable). End goals are realized after stress. Process goals concern the quality of the performance. They involve skills you want to learn, or stressful situations that provide learning opportunities. Process goals are realized during stress.

It’s important to have both type of goals and to set them up in the correct hierarchy. If you want to maximize your performance, make process goals primary and end goals secondary. This way, you will be primarily motivated to engage in climbing situations that are stressful, creating an opportunity to learn and improve. You are secondarily motivated to find the most comfortable way through the stressful situation and attain the end goal of a redpoint or on-sight. Think of end goals as tests of how well you have learned your process goals.

As living beings, we feel truly alive when we grow. Grounding our motivation in growth, in the challenge and stress that will actually cause us to grow, fuels the whole process. The source of our power and the application of it are connected, allowing our power to flow from our ground, through our being, and into our effort, as we apply it on a route. Valuing growth keeps our motivation consistent and connected to its source.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Arno,
    For me, perfect timing on this lesson! It is something that I have gotten away from without even realizing it was happening.
    I have been thinking only of onsighting/redpointing higher graded routes lately and more often than not, have come away frustrated and even upset and questioning my reasons for climbing in the first place! Not an enjoyable feeling.
    I look forward to putting this lesson into play my next time out, and I am sure that when I apply myself to the procces as opposed to the end goal, I will end my day on a high note.
    Looking forward to seeing you in the fall. I think a refresher clinic would do me good!

  2. Arno,

    Thank you for putting into words what I have been practicing for the last few months. I have been trying to articulate it to my climbing partners but have not been totally successful. I love this practice of being in totally in the moment and committing to the “process goals” of climbing. I even got to put them to good use on the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral this past weekend. The climbing was extremely enjoyable because I was focused on every move and gear placement individually rather that being focused on getting to the top.

    Thanks for a great Monday morning meditation topic. I look forward to applying what I have learned.

  3. Arno,
    you always seem to have perfect timing not only for my climbing but for life itself.
    This topic is not the exception, this is something I kind of knew but seeing it explained like that is an aha moment. I’m working toward onsighting/clean higher grades, but I forget that it takes a process goal in order to get to the end goal. Thank you for the friendly reminder, looking forward to see you at the Rocktoberfest.

  4. Arno,

    Thank you for putting into words what I have been practicing for the last few months. I have been trying to articulate it to my climbing partners but have not been totally successful. I love this practice of being in totally in the moment and committing to the “process goals” of climbing. I even got to put them to good use on the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral this past weekend. The climbing was extremely enjoyable because I was focused on every move and gear placement individually rather that being focused on getting to the top.

    Thanks for a great Monday morning meditation topic. I look forward to applying what I have learned.

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