Work, Fear, and Rock Climbing

I recently started lead climbing. Well to be honest I have been trying to start lead climbing a lot of times and have always found every excuse under the sun not to lead climb. For those that don’t climb, lead climbing is when you are the first one to go up a route and clip in the rope to the bolt. The reason it’s intimidating is because between bolts there’s a certain distance that if you fell, you would fall that distance. 99.9% of the time the bolts are set up where if you fell you would be just fine. However, there is that .01% of the time where you could fall and hit the rock wall (or even the ground!) in not the most desirable way. It’s intimidating for everyone when starting out; whether they’ll admit it or not. I have personally been climbing for 11 years and have stayed away from lead climbing for one reason only – climbing

Recently while climbing I realized that the fear you get from lead climbing is really similar to fear that you feel when taking on an intimidating task at work. Everyone experiences some form of fear or intimidation at work and I’m going to share the tips I’ve learned from climbing to conquer that fear and move forward.

  • Know that the thought of doing the task is worse than actually doing it: When climbing I came to the epiphany that my anxiety and anticipation for the task was worse than actually doing the task. Our minds can drive us crazy with thoughts of failure and the “what ifs”. That anxiety actually causes physical sensations of butterflies in your stomach and much more. If we let that anxiety overwhelm us then the task actually IS as scary as our minds have let us believe. However, if you push the thoughts out of your mind and try to think about literally anything else you will be calmer when the situation arrives.
  • Take it one step at a time: My anxiety always happens from thinking of the large overwhelming task as a whole. For example, looking all the way up or all the way down the route it’s easy to get anxious. Each climb often has one section that I’m a bit nervous about. If I thought of that section the entire climb then I would be an absolute mess. If you only think about one piece at a time and only the next step then you’ll be a lot more focused. You’ll sail through the intimidating part without even realizing it. For work it’s important to plan out the entire project, but focusing on one task at a time, the most immediate task is the way to stay calm.
  • Believe in your abilities: Women seem to have a harder time believing in their abilities than men. Women often feel that they don’t have the skills or experience to take on an intimidating task. Know that you were put in a situation because somebody thought you could do it. That somebody could even be you. If you need to say in your head or out loud that you are strong, smart, and capable then do it. You’ve got the skills, just move forward!
  • Fool your mind with your body: This one is more for work situations than climbing but it is possible to fool our mind with our body postures. I watched a great TED talk by Amy Cuddy about using body postures to fool your mind into feeling more confident. I’ve tried the tactics and they actually work! I would highly recommend watching the presentation and trying it out.

Leave a comment and let me know of any tactics you’ve used in dealing with intimidating situations in life and work.


One thought on “Work, Fear, and Rock Climbing

  1. This is true almost all of the time……just keep plugging away at it and eventually it will be easier. The two times I quit at great opportunities I watched others succeed right after me. They went through the same uncertainty and misery I did, they just did it longer. However, sometimes it is either truly not a great fit or it is not worth it.


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