Climbing Out

Building upon what we talked about yesterday, about feeling stuck in a rut, what if the “rut” we are in is pushing us to the very limits of our strength and courage?

With economic challenges that seem like they will never end (and be careful of using the word “never,” as it is rarely ever the real truth), a great many people have been consistently under- or un-employed. Bills keep coming in, benefits run out, and the end of the mental and emotional “rope” is in the same sight line as the car they are about to be living in.

The challenge is that our mental and emotional states – our attitudes and beliefs – are played out in our behaviors and our interactions with others. The human mind is probably the most powerful entity on the planet, so we need to be careful about what we feed it. If all we can think about is how bad everything is – the sure sign of a pessimist – then that is all our minds will let us perceive. If the heart is beating and the lungs are breathing, it can’t be all bad; so, perhaps, it is time to take a look at what we are telling ourselves.

According to Dr. Martin Seligman’s research, the pessimist globalizes the negative. Only one small thing might have gone wrong, but the pessimist’s attitude is that “everything” is wrong. At the same time, the optimist understands that yes, this one thing went sideways, but everything else is OK. It appears to be contained in the basic attitude that drives the belief, which then plays itself out in our behaviors: conversations, interviews, the way we dress, stand and deliver on our promises to ourselves and to others.

So, how do we make this attitude change, in the face of what seems to be insurmountable problems? First things first, delete the word “insurmountable” from today’s vocabulary. Second, replace “problem” with “challenge.” A challenge is more like a puzzle that needs solving. Then, take a hint from this story: In 1961, in the first successful solo ascent of El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park, after seven days, rock-climbing legend Royal Robbins was still 1000 feet from the top. Mentally, he had reached the end of his rope; a thousand feet was just too much. Then he asked himself what could he do? He could do five feet, five feet at a time. So, he “five-footed” his way to the top.

If you are facing the end of your rope, how can you “five-foot” your way back up?