When I joined an indoor rock climbing gym a few years ago, I expected to get a different sort of workout while supporting my son in his new sport. Life lessons were not on the agenda. However, a number of things that I learned on the rock climbing walls helped in my work and personal life. Many of these lessons may encourage you, too.
Feet up higher
When I am stumped about how I can move up higher on the rock climbing wall, I’m amazed at how moving one foot up just a few inches to another foothold often reveals a manageable path upward. That’s usually the case with projects at work or home, too. If I get stuck, I try to make minute progress, such as summarizing what I know already or talking about the problem with a friend. That frequently unveils other ideas to get the job done.
Just get on the wall
If I am overwhelmed at how difficult a particular climbing route looks from the floor, I know the best thing to do is just to get on the wall. It’s amazing what balancing on a small foothold or clinging to a tiny rock chip can do to inspire my motivation and problem-solving skills. This approach is also effective at home or work. When I make myself “get on the wall,” it’s harder for my perfectionist tendencies to take over. I can focus on simply completing the task.
I typically hurry through many things in my life, including recreation. I even rock climb as quickly as possible. However, one day “Rest” was the theme of a rock climbing class. As you can imagine, I was pretty skeptical about this concept. Nonetheless, I soon learned that resting for just a few seconds reduces my exhaustion, refocuses my mind, and makes the final part of a once-daunting climb much easier. Now I use brief “rests” for a few seconds throughout my workday. I even took a few “rests” when I was writing this blog!
“Down climbing” is OK
When I take the wrong approach, often the best fix is to climb down a few sections and rethink my route. “Down climbs” are frustrating, but they are necessary to get me to where I want to go. In other parts of my life, sometimes I want cling to old positions or approaches that don’t make sense because I’m reluctant to give up on the efforts that got me there. For example, I was hesitant to try a new job at work, yet backing up and learning a new role ultimately led me to a better place in my career.
Transition discomfort is temporary
My teenage son offers coaching when I’m climbing. Typically, I find it helpful, but once I complained that the route he suggested would temporarily put me in an uncomfortable position. He responded, “Yes, it is uncomfortable. Just don’t stay there.” Isn’t that the case with many life transitions? We avoid a new relationship, the interesting volunteer work, or another challenge because we want to avoid the discomfort of that transition. That awkward time won’t last long, though, and it’s usually worth the trouble.
I am grateful for all that I’ve learned while rock climbing. Overall, even when I fall off the climbing walls, the exhilaration of occasionally getting to the top makes it worthwhile. I hope that you, too, find your own rock walls — in work and in life — and keep climbing.
Tammy S. joined Empathia (then NEAS) in 1994. As Client Success Specialist, she works to deliver ongoing support and guidance around business strategy, from prospect through customer. In her previous role as Product Specialist, she oversaw all of our work/life and wellness vendor partners, coordinated the client website, and assisted in connecting customers with the best services for their needs. Other prior positions at Empathia include Account Executive, Consultation Specialist, and EAP Counselor. Tammy has a Bachelors in Psychology and is a Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP), as well as a certified wellness coach.