The stories we tell ourselves determine what we create from our objective reality. For example: the fact that I have diabetes is objective–not a matter of perception or interpretation. On the other hand, bringing diabetes into wild places and choosing to manage that risk on offense rather than defense–that’s very much about interpretation. That’s the result of a story. The narrative we feed ourselves daily sets our expectations. Adventure is embracing scenarios that force us to have our expectations challenged. Adventure isn’t climbing as such. That’s why I maintain that the AdventureRx isn’t just for people who climb or people with diabetes. It’s for people. I happen to have diabetes and that’s been a massive driver of my expectations and climbing has been an arena that has forced me to let go of those preconceptions.
Still, it’s all an exercise. It’s all transferrable. It’s not unique.
I’ve seen the same concepts play out in my pursuit of photography. In parenting. In traveling. In business.
Don’t let the wrapping fool you. It’s really pretty basic and woven into the most mundane facets of life. I’m not suggesting that adventure is boring or pedestrian–rather I believe that much of the entire world which we are told is mundane–contains vast amounts of fresh territory to explore for those who recognize that we all have expectations and that we all need to embrace discomfort on a regular basis to avoid stagnation.
Physically, artistically, emotionally–comfort is where progress goes to die.
Practically speaking, this train of thought has grown from my recent approach to climbing being disrupted by my two year old daughter. It’s discomfort–in a very different package. I know some people can’t imagine what could be hard about only climbing a couple of 5.6 pitches and calling it a day. Ambition chafes a lot less when you indulge it. When that’s not an option it becomes a thorn in the flesh. I’m not used to being out climbing and having to be dad first.
I finally decided to give in and adjust my expectations. I chose a different narrative for this time on our journey–one in which these days are not about being a climber–they are about being a dad. No more torturing myself about what I should be climbing. I’ll have days to be a climber and push myself again. It’s worth it to pause and see my two year old daughter summit a climb that for her is basically El Capitan. Changing my story altered my expectations and opened my eyes to see Lilo make massive leaps in her climbing–negotiating tricky and unfamiliar terrain with growing confidence. It’s been a valuable reminder of the fact that climbing isn’t always about the climbing. It’s about the ways in which discomfort is the lever that forces much needed change into our story.
Climbing is an exercise in eschewing the comfort our expectations–not strictly a quest for the glory of achievement. That’s the story I’ve chosen to tell myself.