Failing in the outdoors is an important and necessary process in order to develop yourself.
The modern ‘mountain athlete’ must be able to take the perceived failure and turn it into a positive. Sitting around spiralling due to backing off a climbing route, cramping during a run, getting blisters during a ski tour or any number of other factors that could be deemed as failings is all too easy and common place. The downward spiral is exaggerated when returning home with tail between your legs, only to log onto your social media of choice to see friends, colleagues and heroes blasting in the mountains under blue skies and spraying about the good times.
The brain seems to be hardwired to compare our perceived failures with others’ successes, and this is a hard cycle to break. Asking your-self in a honest way why you ‘failed’ will allow you to improve and gain something. Were you not strong enough for that route? That means you picked something too hard or need to train harder. Cramped during a run? Means you didn’t fuel properly. Blisters during a ski tour? means you didn’t monitor yourself properly.
After seeing how ski patrollers and mountain guides will de-brief in a clinical and non-judgemental way after incidents made me realise the benefits of this and it is beneficial to apply it to days out in the mountains. It is not as formal as those sit downs, but just a quick discussion of what went well and what could be improved as your skiing out, packing up at the car or sorting out gear can be a huge boost in performance. This loop of positive feedback can then be applied to future outings and soon you are in an upwards spiral.
During a hard training cycle, the temptation to back off and take it easy is all too tempting. Feeling tired, sore and unmotivated is normal. Do not let this be the reason to fail. Get up, get out and see how it is once you have completed a workout. Failing due to not trying is unacceptable
This should not be used as an excuse to not try hard, but the ability to turn around for a clear safety issue with no regret is an amazing load lightener on the brain. You have enough shit to worry about in the mountains, make sure that the stigma of failing is not part of it!