The lesson sport climbing thought me about dealing with life.

Nika Nikolic
Sep 12 · 3 min read

There I was. Hanging on the end of the rope. Literally. I was learning to climb in a climbing gym. There was an instructor competently teaching our group about knots and safety and whatnots.

My brain was following. I was eager to understand and remember everything he said.

Rationally, I knew it is completely safe. Everything from the ropes to quickdraws to walls is designed to enable me and thousands of others to fall without sustaining even one scratch.

I saw people going up the wall and coming safely down, but when it was my turn I made it barely above the ground. The fear of falling overwhelmed me completely.

In my mind, I was rolling a horror movie about a million possibilities for awkward and potentially very hurtful falls. Yes, you guessed it. And I bet you know it: I was heavily overthinking things.

It was unpleasant and I was feeling anxious all the time. Nothing I rationally knew about safety, helped. But I wanted to do it and by then I knew I had to persevere.

So I did. And over the months I was climbing higher and higher, starting to reach the top of the wall regularly.

I thought I’d done little more than enrol in a sports activity, but I’d actually enabled myself to learn an invaluable lesson about life.


Managing and Overcoming Fear

This idea helped me with many of my other activities, wishes, and plans. I wanted to do so much but never had the guts, because sooner or later I learned about the sheer amount of things I had to know or do before I could achieve what I wanted.

The lesson I learned is easily applicable to managing feelings of overwhelming.

For me, thinking about all the knowledge and skills and information I have yet to obtain, things that needed to be done are overwhelming as hell. Learning something new or just making a choice about a new computer or hiking pants might become too big of a task.

The overwhelming feeling has a lot to do with the idea that everything is possible. And while that can be interpreted as a very positive way of thinking, it can also be deceiving and a trigger for a great deal of anxiety. A bunch of information is perceived as all existing at once.

So it can get translated to one’s mind that everything is possible in some moment or it even should be. Which is of course, if you think about it, absolutely crazy.

One Thing at the Time

When we are doing something, we can only really do one thing at the time. Even if we are multitasking, in reality, we’re doing one thing at one moment, another in the next.

Sure, maybe there is a cake in the oven and we are waiting for it to be baked, there is a program being downloaded and in the meantime, we can write an email or something like that. But one at the time and the other at another.

Real-time has nothing to do with the time in your mind when everything is happening now. The richness of thoughts that are buzzing around our brains get reduced when we try to present them by speaking or writing.

We have to make a choice about which thoughts to put express and which words to use to describe them. That’s the elimination process.

With every choice, you choose not to choose something else. It is not possible to do it otherwise. If not you get stuck in the limbo of your thoughts not doing anything at all.

So, unless you’re an expert in letting things go, it’s probably a good idea to make something out of the information you pick up. There is a fine line between learning and doing which needs to be crossed at some point and is rarely perfectly timed.

Sometimes it can be too soon, resulting in horrible mistakes, but a lot of times can be too late, resulting in beating yourself up for being incompetent.

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Thanks to Adrian Drew

Nika Nikolic

Written by

Psychoanalyst and political scientist. Balancing richness of complicated concepts and their everyday use.

Mind Cafe

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

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