What can we control; what can’t we control? If we focus our attention on what we can’t control then we won’t be powerful. Power comes from having attention focused on what we can control.
A control freak focuses on controlling externals. We can’t control the external situation like the route or our belayer. We also can’t control errors or mistakes from occurring. They are always part of the learning process. If we focus attention on preventing errors or mistakes and externals, then we weaken power.
Being in control means we focus on controlling internals. We can control ourselves and how we engage stress. We can control our critical thinking, our decisions, and how we use our bodies. Internal processes of critical thinking, how we make decisions, and how we engage our bodies are always the same. We have a specific method for doing our critical thinking (Warrior Lookings process), making decisions (weighing no-fall and yes-fall consequences), and engaging our bodies (breathing, relaxing, and moving). We don’t have to wonder about what to control; the process is repeated each time we engage stress.
On Gilgamesh I couldn’t control the fact that I would be upside-down for 40 feet. I could control my critical thinking by identifying protection placements to keep the risk appropriate. I identified the falls as yes-fall and thereby took control of how I made my decisions. I could control how I engaged my body by focusing on breathing, staying as relaxed as possible, and moving continuously.
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We can totally control how and when we expend power by making decisions ahead of time, as stated in paragraph 3. For example, if I decide before I begin climbing that a climb is safe to fall on, I don’t worry about it as I’m climbing. I just climb, and often I impress myself. I find that I have so much more power to grind through the tough spots because I’ve made up my mind to just go for it, fall or not.
Recently I was climbing with my brother, Rusty, who is stronger and climbs more than me. While he hung several times on a new route, I was able to find and utilize resting points along the way and complete the same route with no hanging or falls. What made the difference? Prior decision to put full power into climbing when I was moving and use rest stances when available. That way I wasn’t caught in a difficult situation trying to decide what to do. I’d already made up my mind and this approach resulted in success.
“We can’t control the external situation, such as… our belayer.”
The behavior of our belayer is certainly external to us, but the intensity of our trust in the belay is not. To do our best climbing that trust needs to be practically absolute.
And here lies a problem. I believe that far too little time is devoted to the teaching and perfecting the art of belaying, particularly by those climbers who no longer consider themselves beginners and are still far from expert. Just as taking a fall is something we do well to practice, catching a fall should be a part of the schooling of a climber. I envision a course where participants have an opportunity to practice catching serious falls using a dead weight. I know I would be interested in such training – and would certainly recommend it to my belayers.