I spent my entire childhood reading. Ok, I also liked to sing, dance and bake chocolate cakes but mostly I read books.  I cried when I had to play sport. I’m no daredevil.

Last night I went to my first indoor climbing class. It was terrifying. In a class of four, I was by far the most timid.

My first attempt, I got three metres off the ground and froze. What am I doing here? This is a mistake. What the hell was I thinking?! Help.

Everyone else climbed to the top.

My best is enough

Right then, I decided that whatever I could manage was enough. I wasn’t copping out. I decided that each time I would keep going until I froze. Each climb I would aim a little bit further.

I am only competing with myself

The others swung from the ceiling. I was shaking at three steps up. I realised that I’m only competing with myself.

Of course, it only ever makes sense to compete with yourself but that’s easy to forget. When you’re not in the running, it frees you to just focus on the task at hand.

Focus on the task

After our first climb we did an exercise moving sideways along the wall. Easy. No fear. It was the height scaring me, not the activity. My climbing partner reminded me that I am really very safe with that harness.

Then we balanced on a thin sign on the edge of the wall (it was as wide as a 20 cent piece). With the right technique, that was enough. Technique gave me a focus other than the fear.

Change the setting

After a few climbs, our teacher took us to a new climbing wall. This wall had fake boulders sticking out in places. It looked harder but it felt different.

Moving away from the site of my initial fear was good. The fake boulders gave me a reference point, and maybe even a false sense of security. It wasn’t a sheer wall. They distracted me from the drop.

Keep moving

While I kept moving I was focussed on finding a way. As soon as I stopped, the fear of being up there hit me and I froze. If I didn’t stop, I didn’t freeze.

Breathe through the fear

On my last climb I got higher than ever before and then I froze again. I breathed and breathed and waited and then, without planning to, I was moving again, focussing on the task, focussing on the feel of it. Then I was there. I was at the top.

Lessons from a first climbing class:

  • My best is enough
  • I am only competing with myself
  • Focus on the task
  • Change the setting
  • Keep going
  • Breathe through the fear

How might these lessons apply to you? Could you use them in your own life?

It was a cold winter’s night. The climbing gym was hard to get to. I got lost in the dark. I left home wishing I was staying in to watch a singing competition on TV. If I had done that, I would have vicariously lived the highs and lows of courage. But watching courage isn’t the same as testing your own.

Trying something new is uncomfortable but it’s also great. My climbing class reminds me that I might as well try other difficult things. Everything in the real world takes effort. It is immensely satisfying to do something difficult. The results don’t really matter.

Tonight I’m making chicken soup and reading. Call it catching your breath. I’ll be back at that climbing gym next week, probably cursing the idiocy that led me to this terrifying ordeal.

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