(Dreaming within Reality) 

5-10 min read

                                                       Redpointing a three year goal  Delicatessen 8b+ (photo: Jeff Rueppel)

                                                       Redpointing a three year goal Delicatessen 8b+ (photo: Jeff Rueppel)

Goal setting –– whose idea was this anyway?

In light of the New Year I felt like this was the concept that I wanted to write about. The idea of goal setting is always a tricky practice, and one that is very seldom followed through long term.  

Every one gets all fired up with New Year’s Resolutions:

“I’m going to lose weight.”

“I’m going to send my projects.”

“I’m going to be less of a snarl-beast to my cat.” 

During the turn of the New Year we carve our resolutions into tablets like Moses on the Mountain.  But somewhere around February or March we experience a crack in our commitments. We get influenced by friends, family, random strangers, or life ––  and all of our goals crumble and turn to dust in the wind.

Dust… in… the…wind –– sound familiar? 

When this happens we wonder why we failed ourselves. Guilt and shame drive us to eat pie every day for a month gaining 20 pounds and crap! –– now another resolution goes down like a domino. The added weight complies and we are out of shape and unable to send our projects like we planned.  

DAMN! There goes another one! 

In a fit of rage all of a sudden the cat gets kicked out of the house into a bitter winter cold to fend off hungry coyotes –– and the last domino falls leaving us shriveled and bitter, promising next year, “I’ll do better.” 

And get another cat. 

                                Delaney Miller questing through unknown granite on  Delicatessen (8b+) (photo: Jeff Rueppel)

                                Delaney Miller questing through unknown granite on Delicatessen (8b+) (photo: Jeff Rueppel)

What is going on? We ask ourselves, "Why can’t I keep my discipline?"  

The answer is simple:  

You don’t care. 

“But wait!” you say, “I totally care, it’s my dream to climb my route and get all of the six pack abs!” 

But is it really your dream?  Why? What’s the motivation here? Where did this dream come from –– was it an internal or external source? 

Is the thought process –– people will think I’m a badass? Or, maybe she will notice me?  

I’ve been there before, wanting negative approval, someone to notice me. 

I see you. 

You know what’s funny? No one cares.  

Here's a hard truth. If you’re only externally motivated and not internally doing it for the love of yourself and the process, when life hits hard and knocks you down, you won’t get back up.  

Sounds like selfish existence right? A whole life dedicated to the pursuit of one’s self.  

It doesn't have to be.  It is a matter of internal perspective.  

What is your “Why?”

This is one of the single most complex questions anyone can ask in their lives, yet, the most important.   

 When I hit a wall, my personal inner dialogue (which took years to refine) goes something like this: 

I am pursuing my goals for these important elements in my life.  I work hard so I can take care of myself and therefore am in a position to help others.  I help others because it adds to my life. I do it for the ones that gave me a chance, invested their time and support, in my pursuit of my goals.             

                                                         Fall down Seven time stand up Eight  (Photo: Jeff Rueppel)

                                                         Fall down Seven time stand up Eight  (Photo: Jeff Rueppel)

The trick to goals and internal motivation comes down to understanding the complex web of your psyche.  Which your ultimate responsibility in life is to find out, “What matters to you and what are you willing to sacrifice to get it?” –– but that will be another blog at some point.    

Let’s get back to goals.  Think back to the goals that you have set for yourself.  I’m not talking about the superficial ones that are generic to a New Year’s Resolution.  I’m talking about the ones that have been with you since the beginning of your climbing.

Brush the cobwebs from the box you placed on your shelf of disregarded dreams and reevaluate them.  What drove you, what inspired you?  How can you redesign your dreams and goals to suit you now?   

How do I avoid the slippery-slope?  How can I learn to say no to things that don’t serve me or my goals? 

 It’s not as tricky as you’d think, but it does involve having self-awareness and will power.   

Let’s start with the first anchor point –– how the hell do I set a goal?  Like for reals?   

For over a year and a half I was enmeshed with developing the curriculum for the Art of the Project.  When the project was first proposed to me by my sponsor CAMP, I jumped at the opportunity not really understanding the huge undertaking.  

I was tasked with developing a whole new class for the American Craggin’ Classic Series, that could motivate anyone from age 8 to 80.  Seemed simple, but the more I created, the more I realized I knew nothing about how to communicate what had taken me 14 years of climbing to intrinsically understand.  

                              Mayan Smith-Gobat searching for the line up a new tower in the Queng Feng Valley of China.

                              Mayan Smith-Gobat searching for the line up a new tower in the Queng Feng Valley of China.

The first test runs were rocky at best.  I focused on subjective material as opposed to what I wanted –– objective concepts.  Let’s just say I fell flat on my face –– the Art of the Project was quickly turning into Rock Therapy, and to be blunt –– screw that. I spent more time trying to fix problems that people felt with inadequacy, instead of giving them the tools to fix it themselves. 

I don’t respond well to that type of interaction, in fact, I felt awkward teaching that way –– like Mr. Roger’s touchy-town awkward.

I don’t have a psych degree –– I’m just a guy that got more wrong than right.  But that became the key, I was already failing (theoretically) why not create a space where others would feel comfortable to do the same? 

So I did.  

An interesting phenomenon kept occurring, at least 1 out of 4 participants red-pointed their hardest grade in less than 8 hours.  I thought it was a fluke at first, but it kept happening.  I watched like a hawk to see what the hell was triggering this latent ability.  

A complex psychological web unfolded in front of me, each thread affecting one another.  Anchor points such as, motivations, old habits, traditionalist thinking, emotional unintelligence, and an overall lack of understanding of themselves kept holding these climbers back.  

With something as simple as changing a person’s perspective of the process and asking the hard question of, “What are you doing this for,” created a space for them to try and succeed.  

The key anchor point that held everything together was simple –– dreams and the goals that followed.  

                                                                                               Corsica, France

                                                                                               Corsica, France

Dreams are powerful.  

Goals start with a dream.  If you can see it –– if you can see yourself standing on the podium, clipping the chains, an ideal relationship, or whatever floats your boat, then you can achieve it.  You can be it.  It just requires an understanding of what your values and wants are, as well as patience.  

Dreams require work.  Awkward conversations, hard decisions, and seeking the answers to tough questions?

What are you willing to sacrifice and what are you willing to suffer for?  

These are your truths.  The things that bring you energy.  

The next step is to set realistic goals with realistic time frames.  When I look at a project that is well beyond my ability I understand that it may take years to accomplish.  But I work towards that goal one agonizing step at a time.  

Even if I fail, I learn –– I become better than I was before and know what it is going to take to reach my goal.   

I develop plan, and stay with it, no matter what life throws at me.  I surround myself with people that have similar ideals, or support what I do –– if it doesn’t serve me and what I envision, then I cut it out of my life.

Sounds cruel right?  It’s really not.  I have happy healthy relationships with positive influences in my life from people to routines –– why would I want to have relationships with toxic ones? Why waste my time?    

Take the scenario of drinking.  Friends got upset if I didn’t go out with them,

“Ben is just lame and boring, all he does is climb and train –– he doesn’t even relax or go out.”

That’s not true, I do enjoy a beer or whiskey, but you know what?  Getting hammered on a Friday night doesn’t serve me or my goals, so I don’t do it. I choose to pursue something bigger than myself.  I surrounded myself with supportive people and some even joined me on that different path. 

Partying less and focusing more led to achieving goals that they had set years prior.


But there is a hard truth when it come to support, people can only help lift you up, they can’t achieve your goals for you.  It’s your fight.  Difficulties and tests will be placed in your path to keep things interesting –– not to discourage or block you, but to grow you.  You will constantly have to ask yourself:

“How bad do I want it?”   

And your answer should be simple. 

You chose to either chip away at the block or let it crush you.       

I see each challenge not as a road block –– but an opportunity to grow and learn –– to become smart and stead fast in my path, which ultimately will prepare me for what is to come.  

It would be nice if things came naturally or easily, if I was just talented enough to send quickly and walk away. If I wanted easy, I’d choose easy, but without a challenge a victory is hollow.

So I choose the hard road every time.  If it isn’t hard, then it isn’t worth doing –– the bonds that we form with all aspects of our lives are only as strong as the energy we put into them. 

Something as simple as making your bed, how much coffee you drink, how you set your intention for the day are actions that reflect our choices, and most of us have a hard time with action because we assume our routines are no longer our choice.  

Wake up! 

Everything we do is our choice and our choices are actions.  So why not make them work for you, instead of against?    

All the anxiety, broken-hearts, lost faith, and searing emotional and physical pain made it so that I could even write such a blog.  Which I think is positive –– delusional perhaps, but isn’t that what all dreams are?        

A dream is a powerful force, it can create empires –– or destroy worlds.  They are limitless and boundless. But there is only one truth about your dream. 

It can only be realized by one person –– you.