I love mountains. If you know me even a little, that won’t be news to you! What I’ve only clocked recently is that what I explore, experience and love in the mountains is most delightfully relevant to my day to day life too. Imagine this …
You’re walking up a mountain, picking your own way up and choosing your own path. You’re a fair way up, just done a nice scrambly section and you come out on a little grassy plateau. At the back of the plateau is a near-vertical 5m rock face, smooth with very few holds on it. You think, “That’s hard,” shortly followed by, “I can’t.”
There’s a couple of things missing when you say, “That’s hard”, information deleted in the simplicity of those words: First – Hard under what circumstances? Hard if you don’t have the right gear with you? Hard to free climb without ropes? Hard if you don’t have a partner with you to belay? Hard because you’re wearing a heavy rucksack on your back? Hard if you haven’t developed climbing skills at this level? Hard without practicing the moves? Hard because it’s the first time? Hard if you haven’t yet built the physical strength for this? Hard because you’re not used to this kind of terrain? What exactly is making “it” feel hard?
Whichever of those apply, how you respond is going to depend on the other deletion which is that stonkingly familiar coaching question, “What do you want?” What’s the overall outcome that you want? Is it to be able to do this kind of route? To see the view from the top of the mountain? To prove you can take on anything? To have a fun day out? To do something a bit scary and find you can manage it just fine? To get some exercise?
If getting your outcome includes getting up this specific rock face then you will need to act on some of those initial deletions – train up, get gear, take your rucksack off, find a partner to belay, practice a bit etc. Some of those might take some time or a few backward steps to do. Some might even involve you going back down to the valley and coming back when you’re ready.
But if your outcome is to find your own way up the mountain, have a fun day out, see the view from the top – you’d just shrug and traverse to easier ground, going around the vertical bit.
It’s not the rock face itself that is “hard.” It’s just a rock face being a rock face. “Hard” is your label for the fact that you require some different skills and resources to travel that route, compared to the terrain around it. If you don’t bring those skills and resources, it feels hard. If you do, it’s a playground.
And once you make your choice on how to handle that “hard” label, the whole “I can’t” thing doesn’t even get a look in.