What we can learn from a free solo climber

So, the hubs and I just finished up watching “Free Solo” last night, the Oscar winning story of Alex Honnold, the first climber to conquer El Capitán, without ropes, safety equipment, or any aid of any kind.

 There are plenty of holy $%&# moments throughout the film as one might expect watching a man climb a 3,000 foot sheet of granite. However, there actually was one particular juncture where I had to marvel for just an extra second. When interviewed, Alex paralleled his goal to a warrior’s focus. One has to give 100% “because your life depends on it”.  

 Ooh, that’s good.

 Yes, I understand the imminent danger of being hurled to one’s death from a Samurai sword or from the face of the world’s largest granite monolith. However, doesn’t the essence of this phrase have meaning for all of us?

 Our lives are determined by focus. Whether intentional or not, that focus defines the values, priorities, and meaning of our beings. Our life, whatever it ends up looking like, depends on where, what, and to whom our focus has been attuned.

 And so too it is with our health. A well-being depends on a warrior’s focus. But different from Alex, we don’t have to hold on for dear life. In fact, gripping too tightly to notions of “clean living” is one of the surest ways to fall.  The very notion of well-being is embodied by a level of moderate-ness that allows us to achieve balance across all the arms of spiritual, emotional, mental, financial, and physical health.

 But here’s where I also think we can learn from Alex. Too many times when it comes to our health journey, we feel like it should be such a natural process, and are left feeling frustrated and defeated when we don’t quite get it right. According to one source, Alex climbed El Cap at least 15 times (with safety equipment) before making his free solo summit. He also spent hours perfecting, rehearsing, and memorizing exact sequences of hand and foot placements. At times, the catch of his rope reminded him which experimental grip he chose incorrectly. And of course, all of this meticulous practice and note-taking was in addition to the years of physical training and regular climbing he devoted to hone his craft.

 What I’m getting at is, yes, choose focus for your health and your life, else the focus will choose you (not always resulting in a pretty picture.) Your “grip” should be moderation if you’re going to summit towards well-being. And expect to fall while you’re learning the footing that supports your particular journey. You ARE a warrior, you just need to put the focus on YOU a little more often.

Fight the good fight.

Erin Henry