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Ego! Does it help or hinder your effort?
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arnoilgner


Jul 27, 2005, 6:40 PM
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Ego! Does it help or hinder your effort?
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Hello, this is Arno, author of The Rock Warrior's Way book.

First, I think it is helpful for me to say that I am still learning this mental training stuff and don't have the final word on any of it. So, I'm open to anyone's comments and suggestions so I can refine my understanding of it. Feel free to critize what I post with your understanding of the topic.

Second, our ego can become offended or defensive by what someone says. So, if you read something that is offending and you become defensive then take it as an opportunity to diminish the reactive nature of your ego. Simply reply to the comment is a constructive, curious way, without sarcasm.

Ok. We need to identify "ego" before we go further. What I mean by ego and how I define it in the RWW book is an identity we create that is based on what we have accomplished--I'm a 5.11 climber who has climbed such-and-such routes. We tend to associate how worthy we feel with how well we're climbing. "I feel like a good climber because I climbed up to my ego identity of being a 5.11 climber." That sort of comparison.

I've heard folks say that you need a strong ego to climb well. My contention is that ego can help initially by getting us engaged in challenges but beyond that it is a hinderance. "I'll show you I can do it" type self talk. This kind of self talk at least gets you on the route. But, what happens when you are on the route and it's looking like you are not going to "do it?" You become distracted by that expectation. Your attention, instead of being focused on climbing your best, is leaking into not meeting the expectation you began the climb with.

So, what do you think? Comments please.


wonderwoman


Jul 27, 2005, 7:30 PM
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First I want to say thank you to phillbox and others for allowing this forum to be open to everyone now. I feel that having unfiltered conversation, sarcastic posts and all that may come with it, will really benefit this forum. I hope that people will feel challenged in a good way, rather than attacked, if someone does challenge their ideas.

Just 5 minutes before logging on here, I finished writing an email to a group of 3 women that I am going on a climbing trip with this weekend. This is my first all woman trip and 2 of them have not lead trad before.

I was (am?) terrified at the thought of being the most experienced and in my email I started making recommendations for routes for us. I went on to describe myself at a 'timid leader'. Having read what Arno just wrote I know this is because I don't want them to have high expectations in my leading abilities. My ego doesn't want them to see me back off easy things just like I have done so many times recently. My ego forced me to describe myself as 'timid' so that I'll have an excuse to back off. It's like a 'get out of jail free card'.

On the flip side, because these women (who I met in a two day trad class) have never seen me lead, they don't have any expectations for my climbing ability. So when I get there I may feel less intimidated. Or my ego may say "I'll show you I can do it" which could potentially be a break through for me.

So, I think it can go either way. So far it's been working against me as I've been very conscious of how I am perceived. I have been allowing it to drain my focus from climbing the best that I can. I have been enjoying the journey less and less and focusing on the 'results' of finishing the climb. It has been so overwhelming lately that I have entertained thoughts quitting climbing altogether.

But I also have the will to change this right now and stop letting my ego determine how I climb.

Thanks for starting this post, Arno. Your timing was amazing. Thist turned into a rant for me, but I feel better.


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Jul 27, 2005, 10:11 PM
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I associate ego with pride and we all know what cometh before a fall. How often have we heard to leave ego at the bottom of a climb, it has no business being up there on the wall with me. Nevertheless I have suffered from an ego induced fall.

A couple of years ago I was to take a very well respected oldie baddy traddy up a new climb that a mate of mine and I had only in the recent past put up.

Thus the stage was set for me to show off this wonderful 6 pitch mixed trad and sport route. I felt compelled to perform in front of my betters, oh dear, not a good reason to be up there on the pointy end. Not having ever led the first two pitches but having an intimate knowledge of all the subsequent pitches I got myself bushed and wandered off route into scary friable rock territory. Of course the need to perform in front of ones betters got the better of me and I forged on regardless. Result was that I took a dive of around 30 metres and ended up 3 or 4 metres below my erstwhile better.

Yep, ego got the better of me and I am definitely wiser for the experience. Ego prevents one from backing off when that would be the wisest course of action. In fact knowing when to back off and take another option is a very handy skill that is quite often overlooked in our drive to achieve outcomes and the goal at the top. Ego can blind us to seeing when that would be the best course of action.

Yes, I most emphatically know that Ego can hinder.

Phil...

P.S. Thanks Arno for posting these questions.


arnoilgner


Jul 28, 2005, 9:12 AM
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Hello Wonderwoman. Your comment below.

"Or my ego may say 'I'll show you I can do it' which could potentially be a break through for me. So, I think it can go either way. So far it's been working against me as I've been very conscious of how I am perceived. I have been allowing it to drain my focus from climbing the best that I can."

What breakthrough are you looking for--learning how to climb better or getting up a climb that others perceive you should be able to do? The foundation of any experience should be learning and you need to learn in small increments. If you are motivated by "I'll show you I can do it" then perhaps you'll get yourself into a dangerous situation. Then you may be learning how to overcome a broken ankle--not the kind of learning you want.

We are all distracted by how others perceive us. It is a distraction. Let's bring this back to attention. If your attention is focused on how others perceive you then that amount of attention won't be focused on climbing. To climb as well as possible you must have all available attention focused on climbing. Paradoxically, if you do this you will rise to others' perceptions better than if you don't. You said it yourself "I have been allowing it to drain my focus from climbing the best that I can."
Do this help? arno


arnoilgner


Jul 28, 2005, 9:13 AM
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Hello Wonderwoman. Your comment below.

"Or my ego may say 'I'll show you I can do it' which could potentially be a break through for me. So, I think it can go either way. So far it's been working against me as I've been very conscious of how I am perceived. I have been allowing it to drain my focus from climbing the best that I can."

What breakthrough are you looking for--learning how to climb better or getting up a climb that others perceive you should be able to do? The foundation of any experience should be learning and you need to learn in small increments. If you are motivated by "I'll show you I can do it" then perhaps you'll get yourself into a dangerous situation. Then you may be learning how to overcome a broken ankle--not the kind of learning you want.

We are all distracted by how others perceive us. It is a distraction. Let's bring this back to attention. If your attention is focused on how others perceive you then that amount of attention won't be focused on climbing. To climb as well as possible you must have all available attention focused on climbing. Paradoxically, if you do this you will rise to others' perceptions better than if you don't. You said it yourself "I have been allowing it to drain my focus from climbing the best that I can."
Do this help? arno


maculated


Jul 28, 2005, 10:20 AM
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It's one thing to be aware of the effects of the ego and past history, and quite another to be able to release both.

Recently I was climbing pretty much daily and not having much expectation of myself - and by George, I was climbing better than I ever have. There was a particular climb that I'd always struggled on to the point of just not being interested in trying it above others. A friend led it and then I said I might want to try it, after watching him struggle.

Well, I get on it, and lo and behold, I didn't just climb it clean - it was EASY. EASY. I was so pleased with myself that it made my day - I let go of ego, and had no expectation and was greatly rewarded.

So I go back to lead it this week, expecting it to be easy again and it's gone. Ego is back.

So how you harness the power of no or low expectation is the one thing that eludes me. It's one thing to know you should have the above, and it's another to truly believe it.


dirtineye


Jul 28, 2005, 10:31 AM
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To climb as well as possible you must have all available attention focused on climbing.

This sentence cuts out all the fat for me.


wonderwoman


Jul 28, 2005, 4:59 PM
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Arno, thanks for your comments.
In reply to:
What breakthrough are you looking for--learning how to climb better or getting up a climb that others perceive you should be able to do? The foundation of any experience should be learning and you need to learn in small increments.

What I really want is to say to myself 'I'll show you I can do it' and then really follow through with the climb. That would be a break through for me.

I do have a few years of trad under my belt and have been making every effort to take classes, read more and practice my anchors every chance I get. I am still a new leader. Lately I feel that I have taken a huge step backward and have irrational fear even though I have working knowledge of anchor set up and even self rescue. But sometimes I place a good piece of gear and I can't get myself to climb above it. And this is a new thing for me.

The beauty of this weekend is that I get to pick a lot of the climbs so they will be well within my comfort level. Here is how I find myself distracted by how others perceive me. My primary climbing partner is my husband which is wonderful but sometimes hard for both of us. My husband might have the expectation that I'll back out and I have the security of knowing that if I get scared, I can always let him lead instead. So that's what happens. But these women don't have the expectation that I will back out, then maybe I will allow myself to be more committed to the climb.

In reply to:
We are all distracted by how others perceive us. It is a distraction. Let's bring this back to attention. If your attention is focused on how others perceive you then that amount of attention won't be focused on climbing. To climb as well as possible you must have all available attention focused on climbing. Paradoxically, if you do this you will rise to others' perceptions better than if you don't. You said it yourself "I have been allowing it to drain my focus from climbing the best that I can."
Do this help? arno

Yes, this does help and you are absolutely right. I will do my best to stay focused on the climbing and not on disappointing my new partners. No matter what happens, I'm sure they won't be disappointed in me. In general I feel very optomistic about this weekend and I'm happy to at least have these new women climbing friends.


naw


Jul 29, 2005, 9:42 AM
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On an interesting side note, I think that most of us are not climbing nearly close enough to our physical potential to make an accurate judgement to what are limits are to begin with. If I was to say "I'm a 5.11 sport climber," that would indicate that my ego identifies my current physical limit on sport routes as 5.11. However, due to the fact that I'm probably wasting attention and energy while I climb to begin with, I'm probably not conserving my strength or climbing efficiently enough to really be pushing my physical limits at all. I think the best policy is to stay away from putting a limit on your skill or strength to begin with, and I think that's exactly what the ego does when it makes statements like this. If you identify yourself as a 5.11 climber, you're probably going to be nervous climbing 5.11 because it's at your "limit." However, if you look at the experience as maybe "working a 5.11" (I dunno, something like that) than you're really just looking at it as a stepping stone and a learning experience and you'll probably be more relaxed and climb better. I prefer to think of myself as a 5.14 climber who's just spending a few years warming up :)

On a side note, I can see that it's also very important to identify your limits if you're planning on climbing a dangerous or runout trad route, etc. But you get the idea.


degaine


Jul 29, 2005, 2:31 PM
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If not wanting to let my partner down on a multi-pitch climb equals ego, then my ego has helped me to get through initial jitters when swinging leads in order to step up to the plate and do my share of the work.

At the crag, the rock itself usually forces humility if I am unwilling to be humble at first, so ego in the sense of puffing up my own ability for others is pretty much non-existent on a day out climbing.

At the coffee house or other social scene, my ego certainly go the best of me in my first year or two climbing. Getting royally spanked on a few climbs forcing my partners to lead everything has since prompted me to mostly understate my abilities and to honestly describe the manner and rating of past climbs completed.

In reply to:
On an interesting side note, I think that most of us are not climbing nearly close enough to our physical potential to make an accurate judgement to what are limits are to begin with. If I was to say "I'm a 5.11 sport climber," that would indicate that my ego identifies my current physical limit on sport routes as 5.11.

For me personally, on the rare occasion when I put a rating to my climbing ability, if I say "I'm a 5.X climber," 5.X is the level at which I can onsite 99% of the time (excluding off-widths of course), so I don't consider it limiting or a ceiling, but consider it the minimum of my capabilities.

Of course there are limits to my desires - you won't see me on any 5.13 off-width a la "belly full of bad berries" (correct name?) anytime soon.


jt512


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So how you harness the power of no or low expectation is the one thing that eludes me. It's one thing to know you should have the above, and it's another to truly believe it.

I don't think it's a question of belief, but of recognizing that your focus is not where it needs to be, and redirecting it. You can't think about the climbing and the outcome simultaneously, so if you find your attention wandering to the outcome, redirect it to the climbing: pay attention to your balance, the next handhold, the efficiency of your movement, etc. That's what maximized the probablility of the outcome your ego wants, anyway!

-Jay


arnoilgner


Jul 29, 2005, 5:28 PM
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Hello Maculated.
Your question, I think, is how to go into climbing challenges with a diminished ego and low expectation, right?
Yes, I agree, knowing is the first step but doing is more difficult. However, many climbers haven't got that first step, so you are at least on the path to learn how to overcome this. Funny, expectation is the topic of my next newsletter.

Essentially, expectation and ego are tied to valuing the end-result---the top or performing well. If you work on valuing the process of learning you will begin to loosen your tendency to have ego intrude. By valuing learning your expectation is on possibility not on getting to the top. When you go climbing, use this to help: Expect that it is possible to do a climb, not that you will.
arno


arnoilgner


Jul 29, 2005, 5:36 PM
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Hello Wonderwoman

The husband/wife climbing team thing is a common one. At the last New River Gorge Rendezvous Jeff Achey and Tracy Martin did a clinic on just this. I'd suggest that on some routes that you will be leading (while husband belaying) that if you cannot complete the climb that you both go to another route rather than have him bail you out. Perhaps this would help motivate you to not give up for fear but for real concerns.

When climbing with your girl friends you may still fall into the distraction of meeting their expectations. If you at least have awareness that you are doing this then it is the first step in working through that problem. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be aware each time you fall into that behavior and see if you can refocus attention onto problem solving.
best, arno


jt512


Jul 29, 2005, 5:43 PM
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Ok. We need to identify "ego" before we go further. What I mean by ego and how I define it in the RWW book is an identity we create that is based on what we have accomplished--I'm a 5.11 climber who has climbed such-and-such routes. We tend to associate how worthy we feel with how well we're climbing. "I feel like a good climber because I climbed up to my ego identity of being a 5.11 climber." That sort of comparison.

Perhaps I just don't get it, but I am not aware that ego is a major contributer to my not climbing up to my potential. I do allow how well I am climbing to affect how good I feel about myself...(Interestingly, a moment's reflection reveals how silly this is. I frequently have days that I climb worse than others that seem to have no apparent cause, so I am essentially letting a random event affect my self-esteem.)...and I do occasionally feel performance anxiety in front of a new partner, a visiting pro, women, etc., but I don't see that this is a major limiting factor for me. I might feel bad about having a "bad day," but I don't think it affects my climbing much.

In reply to:
But, what happens when you are on the route and it's looking like you are not going to "do it?" You become distracted by that expectation. Your attention, instead of being focused on climbing your best, is leaking into not meeting the expectation you began the climb with.

Let me give you an example. On a recent redpoint project that I had been working for several weekends, I felt like I was close to redpointing the route before I was. I felt like I could get it within a few more tries, a day or two at the most. Well, after those two days came and went without a redpoint, I became frustrated: my ability wasn't up to my expectations. But I still feel like I was giving a full effort on each attempt. I might have felt like a loser, but I was still climbing my best, I think.

-Jay


arnoilgner


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Hi Naw,

Yes, I agree. One thing to keep in mind is that we cannot get rid of ego. However, we can diminish it. Even if we don't verbally and consciously say "I'm a 5.11 climber" we know it unconsciously based on past experience. However, you are right, we need to distance ourself from that identity as much as possible and look at route as what is possible for us. That is why I like to get on routes without knowing the rating. I look at routes that appeal to me.

I remember recently getting on a route at the Red River Gorge that I heard someone say was 5.12b. It was a beautiful steep crack. Looking at it, it somehow didn't look that hard but I've learn that it is very difficult to determine that from the bottom. Anyway, I onsighted the route and found out it was 5.11b. But, I was nervous the whole way wondering, "where is the 12b?" Interesting how expectations affect performance.
arno


arnoilgner


Jul 29, 2005, 5:49 PM
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Hi Degaine,

I see what you are saying. Being motivated by the ego to step up and do our share can help cut through what may be irrational fear and real fear. I remember doing this years ago in an alpine setting where I was whining and complaining about the cold and snow and wanted to go home (poor me). But my partner told me we'd invested time and money to get to that mountain and we were going to do our best to climb it. So ego or finally accepting responsibility for being there got me motivated to continue.
arno


arnoilgner


Jul 29, 2005, 5:58 PM
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Jay, I don't think it is a matter of climbing your best but rather being distracted by your expectation to redpoint within two days. Remember, frustration is wanting something for nothing. You didn't redpoint because you had something else to learn, otherwise you would have redpointed. Don't be distracted by frustration or some expectation, but rather stay curious to what else needs to be learned. I think you already know this. arno


jt512


Jul 29, 2005, 6:34 PM
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Remember, frustration is wanting something for nothing. You didn't redpoint because you had something else to learn, otherwise you would have redpointed. Don't be distracted by frustration or some expectation, but rather stay curious to what else needs to be learned. I think you already know this. arno

One thing that has helped me reduce my frustration -- and I don't remember whether you said this or someone else -- is to realize that frustration indicates that your expectations are out of line with reality. I expected to be able to redpoint, but the reality was I wasn't yet up to it -- I either had more to learn about climbing the route or I had to increase my fitness. I find that when I start feeling frustrated, simply being honest with myself about this leads to thinking about what I need to do or learn to improve on the route.

-Jay


vbhide


Jul 31, 2005, 10:49 PM
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Our ego begins when we start making images of ourselves.. saying... im a 5.x climber.. wow!!
We start climbing for the grade.
Thats never ever good, beleive me. Its never about grades, only about fun. I climb much better with freinds who dont give a damn about how well (or badly) they are climbing than with people who keep analysing their, and others' climbing.
Our goal needs to change. The more desperatly you want those grades, the worse your chances of getting them.


dirtineye


Aug 1, 2005, 1:20 AM
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Hey Arno, I think frustration is more often a case of expectation exceeding outcome, for whatever reason.

One good way I have found for dealing with frustration is the method Bob Cormany told me about-- and that is, with bouldering, give a problem 4 or 5 tries, and then move on. The way Bob put it, this way you get in more problems, you don't get worn out on one or two, frustration levels stay lower, and often when you come back later you have learned something that your subconcious needed time to process.

I think that if one is ego-involved with a climb, it is hard to take this detached approach.


degaine


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In reply to:
In reply to:
So how you harness the power of no or low expectation is the one thing that eludes me. It's one thing to know you should have the above, and it's another to truly believe it.

I don't think it's a question of belief, but of recognizing that your focus is not where it needs to be, and redirecting it. You can't think about the climbing and the outcome simultaneously, so if you find your attention wandering to the outcome, redirect it to the climbing: pay attention to your balance, the next handhold, the efficiency of your movement, etc. That's what maximized the probablility of the outcome your ego wants, anyway!

-Jay

Nice post, Jay. I completely agree with you, focus on the task at hand. I have taken more than one fall below a crux due to over-focus on the upcoming crux moves and not paying attention to the immediate moves staring me in the face.


degaine


Aug 1, 2005, 2:05 PM
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In reply to:
Hi Degaine,

I see what you are saying. Being motivated by the ego to step up and do our share can help cut through what may be irrational fear and real fear. I remember doing this years ago in an alpine setting where I was whining and complaining about the cold and snow and wanted to go home (poor me). But my partner told me we'd invested time and money to get to that mountain and we were going to do our best to climb it. So ego or finally accepting responsibility for being there got me motivated to continue.
arno

Arno, thanks for the response.


arnoilgner


Aug 1, 2005, 2:30 PM
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Hi Vbhide,
Yes, our expectations can get in the way because we tend to climb to that expectation and not to what needs to be done to climb the route. Again, it is a distraction of attention.

Now, learning is the goal and we cannot learn if we just take a "I'm just climbing for fun and don't care if I get to the top or not" approach. With that approach we won't get out of our comfort zone and learning occurs outside our comfort zone.

Always remind yourself of the true goal: learning.
arno


arnoilgner


Aug 1, 2005, 2:34 PM
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Registered: Aug 7, 2003
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Re: Ego! Does it help or hinder your effort? [In reply to]
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Hi Curt (dirtineye),

Yes, Bob's approach can help. But, remember that frustration is caused by the ego wanting something for nothing. Someone can get frustrated after one effort on a climb while someone else (with diminished ego) can throw him- herself at a climb for months and not get frustrated. It is a matter of our internal makeup.
arno


dirtineye


Aug 1, 2005, 3:07 PM
Post #25 of 57 (11488 views)
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Re: Ego! Does it help or hinder your effort? [In reply to]
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In reply to:
Hi Curt (dirtineye),

Yes, Bob's approach can help. But, remember that frustration is caused by the ego wanting something for nothing. Someone can get frustrated after one effort on a climb while someone else (with diminished ego) can throw him- herself at a climb for months and not get frustrated. It is a matter of our internal makeup.
arno

Well, let's call it two different ways to cause frustration, and I am guilty of both sometimes.

I never really thought about the something for nothing approach, but I think it applies directly to the situation where, after a long layoff, I have come to a climb I think I should be able to do (even though I am badly out of shape), and can't do it. That really is wanting something for nothing, namely, wanting to be back in shape right then without making the effort to get back in shape.

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Forums : Clubs : Mental Training: The Rock Warrior's Way

 


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