Surmountable: Risks and Rock Climbs

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If someone were to have shown me a picture of this rock (without the people at the top) and said, ”That’s a pretty easy climb, you could get up there”, I would have assumed they were either foolish or crazy thrill seekers.

Up there! That looks like a feat only for experts or skilled mountaineers with impressive equipment. Surely I couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of scaling that?

We were on a marked hiking trail in the hills of Northern Majorca. The sun blazed down, a calm breeze blew and we marvelled at the impressive views once we had reached this high point to the right of the trail. After veering off the path and clambering up some rocks, we could go no higher. But we were intrigued by the imposing rock opposite, that dominated the skyline.

We asked some hikers along the way about the route and discovered that it was indeed possible to ascend the rock, yet we were somewhat hesitant. We weren’t even equipped with our proper hiking boots, clad only in trainers, or in my case, pumps.

Yet lurking within me is a slight adventurous streak, emboldened all the more by the childhood years of being denied such risks and thrills. ”Get down!” ”Be careful!” “You’ll hurt yourself!”

It’s only in adulthood that I’ve climbed a mountain, learned to ice skate and rollerblade, jumped off a diving board, hitchhiked (with a friend), camped in the open, and stayed up all night. Glancing up at this apparently insurmountable obstacle before me, something stirs within me and I find myself saying “Let’s do this!”

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The start of the ascent up the rock, from a relatively easy hill climb, passes through this tunnel cut into the rock. At the other side follows an ultra narrow path, perilously close to the cliff edge. It looks frightening.

But it’s all a matter of perspective. As you walk along the rock face, there’s a sturdy iron chain anchored into the edge, which you can hold onto around the most dangerous curve. When you’re certain of your safety, you don’t mind dangling your foot out for an impressive photograph. Take away the iron chain, and it would be a whole different story.

Looking perilous?

Looking perilous?

Not only that, but when you see a variety of faces on their descent, from children to spritely pensioners, it reassures you that others have gone before you and accomplished the climb to the summit. If ordinary looking people without mountaineering gear can accomplish this feat, it makes you pretty certain that you’ll also be successful. If we’d only seen seasoned mountain climbers with helmets and ropes and hefty boots, I know my feelings would have been completely different. We would have undoubtedly turned back.

With those certainties – an iron chain and ordinary hikers – I felt inwardly confident. “I can do this.” “It’s not beyond my capabilities” – were my recurring thoughts.

It’s all about making judgements based on evidence before you, and considering perspectives at each stage. At one moment, I watched my teenage son turn sharply up and along what seemed like a dangerous short stretch, clambering over lofty rocks.

En route to the summit

En route to the summit

It seemed highly risky from my viewpoint, but he assured me it was fine. I was reticent but then I remembered that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad as it appeared.

It wasn’t. It was tricky, but it was doable for an adventurous and semi fit person like me. I just needed to take my time and scramble up the rocks, making sure I had a good foothold where it was slightly steep.

The next part involved pressing onwards and upwards – twisting from time to time, round rocky paths and minor inclines. There was no set path; you just had to choose which way round to tackle the incline. Most people would manage this part of the climb – you just had to keep going up.

Time for a treat!

Time for a treat!

The satisfaction of reaching the top was immense. It called for a minor celebration by eating some Kendal mint cake (which I discovered had lurked in the front section of my rucksack since last summer.) From the tunnel to the top had only taken about twenty minutes, but when you think about what was conquered, it inspired a sense of achievement. Especially for an average hiker like me who tends to avoid anything too risky.

The Rock

If I showed you this image, you’d probably say no way. If I showed you the safety chain, the winding paths away from the edge, and the flat summit with the breathtaking views at the top, you may have a different perspective.

View from the summit

View from the summit

And that’s how you conquer your fears and achieve the seemingly unachievable:  listening to others, following those who’ve gone before you, and telling yourself that it’s possible.  It’s amazing when you discover that something is actually surmountable or possible, simply by stepping out and having a go.  We’re often capable of far more than what we attempt to achieve.  Scaling this rock showed me that there are greater things ahead that are within our reach, if only we’ll take the risk. At church this morning, I was reminded by Adam Bradley that this principle applies not only to the physical realm, but also the spiritual – where stepping out in faith often involves elements of risk and challenges – challenges that are surmountable. Adam said that he’d learnt that faith is spelt R.I.S.K. Like most risks, there’s often a great sense of achievement and satisfaction in knowing that you gave something your all – and that is was absolutely worth it in the end. How awesome that God wants us to exercise faith and take some risks!




On Matters of Motivation

Creative Commons: Arya Ziai

Creative Commons: Arya Ziai

When it comes to getting stuff done, I’ve observed a fair range of behaviours and responses in regard to completing tasks, classwork or other types of challenges.

I’m a parent of three sons under 15 and also work part-time with young people at college. I used to be in the classroom, teaching, and have regularly been part of various teams – both in paid or voluntary settings. I’ve gained experience through tutoring 1:1, too.

As a result, I’ve seen the world of difference in working with those who are self-motivated, and working with those who are not.

You can nag, cajole, persuade, bribe. But at the end of the day, a nagged person will only achieve momentary success for a particular season or project. They’ll constantly need guidance, oversight and assistance to get anything done. In contrast, a self-motivated person will by default become a successful or independent person – in whatever life’s direction they pursue – since they push themselves to achieve more.

The self motivated tend to exhibit the following traits:

  • A positive or can-do attitude – they get going with planning or writing or contributing ideas. Without sighing or whining, as if they’ve been asked to schlep a tonne of bricks to the North Pole.
  • Determination – to tackle the task set before them, despite any challenges or setbacks. Determined people believe that what they need to complete is within their capabilities and act accordingly. They know they can do it, and just get on with the task at hand swiftly.
  • Initiative – willing to try out solutions and work things out by various methods, without constantly asking for someone else’s permission or help. Those who show initiative are quick thinkers.
  • Acknowledgement of their flaws or shortcomings – They are aware of their limitations and will be quick to ask for help or guidance or advice from a variety of sources, when necessary. They don’t wait until it’s right before a deadline before approaching someone for help.

Conversely, the unmotivated are a disgruntled bunch, showing frequent signs of apathy, negativity, discontent and over-reliance on others. They don’t plan or think ahead, and get annoyed when they find something difficult.

It doesn’t need stating, that it is a joy to work with those in the former group. Those who are motivated tend to be happier and more likely team players. They’re committed to seeing through an activity or assignment.  They’re often known as ‘high flyers’.

So what makes someone self motivated?

I think there are several reasons…

  • They see the bigger picture, and are aiming for something beyond the current task. Frequently, they’re working towards a level or an exam which will allow them access to something aspirational – such as a place at university or an award or a vocation. More simply, it could be that they welcome the praise or minor reward to come after completion of the task.
  • They thrive on a challenge. Instead of thinking how difficult or impossible a task might be, they are eager to show others what they can do and what is possible.
  • They have high self esteem and take pride in their work. They can’t bear to give half hearted attempts at anything. They recognise that their work is a reflection of who they are as a person.
  • They place value on quality and success. Average is not an option.

So how can self motivation be developed in children or young people?

  • Help give them something to aspire to, a vision of what they could be or could gain – whether a career or sporting achievement or recognition from someone acclaimed. Let them see that they have potential to do or be something great by praising their good qualities and encouraging them to think about their future.
  • The small things matter. Don’t let them get away with chucking their clothes on the floor or dropping litter. Encourage them to organise themselves and to take responsibility for their possessions and prioritise their time. Model this in the way you organise yourself.
  • Make them follow through on commitments or promises. Don’t let them quit easily or let others down without good reason.
  • Be cheerful and upbeat around them. Discourage any forms of hyperbolic whining or complaining.  Self motivation cannot be fostered in an environment of whining.
  • Encourage them to tackle tasks – even the most boring ones – quickly and efficiently, rather than deliberating for ages.

Fortunately, it is possible to change from unmotivated and downbeat, to self motivated and confident. Young people have great potential for adaptability. Once they hit adulthood, however, it would seem that that they’re more likely to be stuck in the patterns they’ve adopted since childhood.

Not everyone is brilliant or high achieving or clever. But everyone can become self-motivated to ensure they give their optimum to the things that matter.

 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart – Colossians 3:23