Overcoming “Impossible” Obstacles

Overcoming “Impossible” Obstacles

You may have seen a report recently about two climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson, who became the first to successfully free climb the “Dawn Wall” route of Yosemite’s El Capitan face. January 14, 2015 marked the end of a 19 day trek up the sheer rock face that placed them in the record books.

Seven years of planning and a lifetime of practice in completing other complex free climbs prepared this duo for achieving what many, including themselves, considered an impossible feat.

The climb took them up a path that traveled back and forth and even downward at times as they headed toward the summit. In preparation, they spent countless hours rappelling down the face of the rock to map even the smallest cracks or ledges that they could utilize to make their way to the summit. Each successful foothold or handhold represented movement toward their ultimate goal.

Aided only by safety ropes should they slip and fall, which they did multiple times (Jorgeson fell 11 times on just one section of the climb), they successfully completed each of the 32 sections or pitches before moving to the next.

At the end of each days climbing, they rested on a “portaledge,” a temporary horizontal surface with a rainfly, and suspended themselves from the face of the wall in order to get some much needed rest from the physical demands of free climbing. Every few days, supplies were delivered to the climbers by their friends on the ground who were acting as their support team.

How can you apply their achievement to your life?  Are you wanting to reach a goal, quit a bad habit, or overcome an addiction?

Look at the lessons below and apply them to your situation:

Easy challenges require little planning while extreme challenges may take years of preparation.

Size up your challenge and plan appropriately. Lack of planning in a free climb may spell death. Fortunately, lack of planning to reach your goal or make a life change is rarely life threatening, however it can certainly result in setbacks in your attempt at change. Minimize your potential for setbacks with planning that is appropriate in complexity to the challenge at hand.

Imagine your own rock wall you need to traverse. The bottom represents where you are today, the summit – where you want to be, and the wall between the bottom and the summit are the challenges, behaviors, temptations, and old habits you’ll have to overcome to reach your goal.

• Between you and success are potential opportunities to fail or succeed.

You’ve studied your behavior patterns and have identified the potential areas that you might sabotage yourself or just make a mistake and experience temporary failure.

• Every forward step matters, even if it is a small one.

Just like the climbers, a minute ledge or foothold may be all you need to keep moving toward your goal. You may feel like some of the steps you take don’t matter, but you’d be wrong. Every step in the right direction takes you toward your new goals, so celebrate each and every one of them!

What is one small step you can take toward overcoming your old ways?

• The path usually isn’t straight and it’s not going to be easy. 

Remember the saying, “the shortest path between two point is a straight line?” That may be mathematically accurate, but it is rarely the case when making life changes or achieving a goal. Just like Jorgeson and Caldwell, the path for your success will undoubtedly take you sideways and possibly backwards at times. Mapping your path ahead of time helps you keep your focus and not lose heart when you don’t “feel” like you are making progress or it appears to others that you are losing ground.

Keep in mind, even when Jorgeson or Caldwell fell, they didn’t fall all the way back to the starting point. Slipping when you reach for a crack to hold onto or when you place your foot on a small ledge doesn’t mean you’ve failed with a capital “F”, it merely means you’ve experienced a momentary setback and have an opportunity to learn how to better identify your next small step and try again for success. Successful people know that they learn as much or more from their “failures” as they do from their successes.  As Arthur Greeno, a Journey Training facilitator states, “Failure is always an option.  But so is Success.”

What “failures” have you experienced in the past? Did you learn from them or treat them with a capital “F” and give up? What lessons can you learn from your past setbacks that can empower and energize you toward future successes?

• Have an accountability partner and support team. 

Any task that we can reach by ourselves probably isn’t stretching us much and causes us to live in comfortable mediocrity. Reach for a larger goal or develop better lifestyle choices that require you to enlist the help of others. The help may come in the form of a mentor, coach, or accountability partner. The key to remember here is that you can’t achieve great things in life alone. Everyone needs support in some form or fashion.

Even Jorgeson and Caldwell had each other and a National Geographic Camera crew for accountability and encouragement. Add to that, their family and friends were there to provide assistance and supplies when needed.

Who are your accountability partners to help keep you keep on track? Who do you have around you to provide encouragement? Who do you have to help sustain you during long treks in your journey?

It is worth it.

So why endure all of the planning, frustration, setbacks, vulnerability, and reliance on others? Because it’s worth it! You are worth it! It’s worth all of this for you to become a better you and to help you in your pursuit in overcoming “impossible” obstacles. When you become a better you, then you can help others better themselves.

For more information on Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell’s climb of the “Dawn Wall” of Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan rock, see the links below.


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