Performance Paradigms

What happens when you don’t live up to your own past performance?

What happens when you get worse instead of getting better or staying the same?

I wrote earlier this year about some of the transition blues I was having after my move to Chicago. I made my goal of 20 days climbing outside this fall, but if you asked me, I would tell you that I had a mediocre season.

I’ve written before about the negative impacts grade-chasing has had on my climbing experience. In July, I was dreaming big and getting disappointed when my expectations didn’t meet reality. This fall, I expected the numbers I was climbing to stay the same, despite drastically reduced training and outdoor time, and the added stress of a move to a new city and a job.

Smith Rock, May 2012, when life was a bit simpler.

Grades are a measure of performance. One measure. The easiest measure, not the only measure, and not the best measure.

I have always had high self-expectations. My analytical self loves grades, precisely because they’re an easy measure of performance. Did I send the grade I wanted to? Am I meeting the expectation I set for myself? These questions become easy to answer when your metric is whether or not you sent a particular grade. A simple metric is attractive, but it causes you to lose sight of the incredible richness of the climbing experience.

To let grades and sending define performance as a climber is to narrow the whole spectrum of climbing experiences to a single binary measure, a black and white vision of success or failure. 

As the season wraps, I’m trying to appreciate how I’m growing as a person and as a climber as the result of my experiences, not worry about what grades I’m climbing. Since it seems (to me) to be related, I’ll close this post with this great quote by Alan Watts:

Also, when we are dancing we are not aiming to arrive at a particular place on the floor as in a journey. When we dance, the journey itself is the point, as when we play music the playing itself is the point.

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