How many times have I heard it? Honestly, it’s been far too many to count.
I guess I'll give it a try but I'm feeling pretty weak today.
That move is impossible - this route is stupid!
I've never sent a 5.11 before.
Here’s what happens. People receive a jolt of nervous energy just before attempting a climb. This dampens inhibition and causes climbers to blurt out whatever is really on their minds. And what is on climbers’ minds is often negative and self-defeating. Maybe the source of this negativity is self-deprecating humor/humility or maybe it’s genuine self-doubt. But the end result is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.
Maybe you really are feeling weak today, maybe that move really does seem impossible this time around, and maybe you never have sent a 5.11 before. But you aren’t going to feel stronger or send 5.11 or anything else if you approach the climb with a bad attitude. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourself for the better, but usually you’ll end up doing the negative thing you said you were going to do.
But don’t worry, people - there’s a better way! And you don’t even need to act like a conceited jerk! But you do need to think about what you’re thinking about and what you’re talking about before and while you climb. Are you psyching yourself out because of a grade or a climbing style that isn’t your strong suit? Are you focusing on being sore or tired or having fallen on the climb before? Find some helpful ways to get these thoughts in check and start practicing the method(s) that work for you.
Here’s some of what often works for me. I like to tap into a memory of a time when I climbed well - how I felt, what I smelled, the cool breeze or the warm sun. I also like to visualize the movement of the climb as much as possible, what it should feel like to have perfect execution, and how I might fix or push through any possible mistakes. I also like to get as excited as possible about the opportunity to climb the route or problem rather than thinking of it as a burden or obstacle. If it’s a climb I’ve tried a number of times before, I tell myself that I’m going to send it eventually - so it might as well be this time. These are just a few of the many ways you can improve your attitude and self-talk … and, along with that, improve your likelihood of success.
So, just like you check your knot before you climb, also check your attitude. You’ll be glad you did.