We have all heard the phrase “whatever you do don’t look down” this is often used when we are traveling upwards, be it on a climb, or even a long ladder. The reason behind this phrase is simple, by looking down you become acutely aware of how high you are and thus inducing an element of fear.
Now how about “whatever you do don’t look up”? Ok it’s not a straight reversal of the previous phrase, let me explain.
This may not resonate with others, but it is something that is very real for me. When I look up at the mountains (even ones I have spent a good amount of time) I feel a wave of panic. Yes, I live in the alps so if this was a day-to-day thing it could be a big problem but it’s only relevant when I have a plan to go and climb a route. But it’s an anxiety that can upset sleep days before, cause unsettled stomach so is a very real case of fear taking over.
It has become clear that from a distance the mountain looks too much for me, it’s big, scary and dominating. Some of you may have read my article –
I guess this article is a kind of follow up or second phase. I will continue with my personal experience then try and connect it to day-to-day life.
When I am on the valley floor, the feeling of fear is very real. But when I go up into the mountains, well the problem shrinks, it becomes easier to just focus on the section directly in front of me. I am no longer cowering in the shadow of this mountain I am making my way up it.
It’s so simple, one step at a time, slide my ski forward, use safety as needed, engage the skills required to make the progress. With every movement forward, the fear slips away, and control becomes the key (at moments we can have a slight relapse, a mountain can throw curve balls and we have to then adapt).
For me there is a real element of self-talk going on (some of my GoPro videos you can hear me muttering, this is me going through what I need to be doing, normally when steep skiing). This process continues until summit or goal is achieved, then it continues until I am back on ground that I am 100% happy on.
The above is all about my process of coping with some dangerous environments I go to, I am fully aware that the more I practise the easier it will get (trust me I practise lots, I do rope work at home, drives my partner nuts when rope is everywhere)
Now some people may say, “why go there if you feel this way”? The answer is easy- self-growth! I love achieving what is difficult for me and so I will keep pushing. Where I live, my exploits in the mountains are very tame, but it does not stop me feeling super proud of what I do. Don’t let what others do stop you trying to achieve your goals.
Now, let’s link this back to life.
When we look at our future, even our present situation, we are gazing upon the whole bloody great mountain, we can see all those dangerous sections we need to get over before we can reach our summit and before we know it our mind is running a mock and all these little barriers start popping up.
Now these barriers are there to protect you, to keep you safe and secure. If we allow all these barriers to keep popping up, we will become locked in fear of progression. It could be you are looking at a new profession. The dangers are all those new skills you need to learn, add to this there are so many others that will be better than you, so safety is easily achieved, stay put, don’t try.
Sporting context, Ironman triathlon, you look at that total distance of each discipline and that brain starts to say, “you can’t even swim 100m!!”
You can see where this is going, right? We can turn all this around, stop looking up! Understand what the goal is then turn your gaze to right in front of you. What can I do right now to help me reach the goal?
In the profession, we look for a course that can start to teach us the new skills needed, for the Ironman we go get swim lessons and nail 150m and so on. For me I practise what scares me in the comfort- practising rope skills at home, getting lessons for Steep skiing (not in our apartment, on the piste).
We have the answers, we have the ability to achieve if we stop scaring ourselves by looking up.
When things scare us, or when we put limiters on ourselves, we need to break things down. Accept there will be times when we will struggle, but after struggle comes the best rewards, always bring it back to what is directly in front of you, deal with that, then move on.
Please don’t be afraid to look up, by looking up we can get that passion, that drive and fuel, but look back down before those positives turn to negative barriers and start your process so you can eventually look down from your summit and see how far you can travelled.
I am a great believer that we have the tools we just need to learn how to use them.
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