JHH60 wrote:So my question is, when you achieve a big personal goal, do you think about how it compared to other big personal goals you've achieved in your life? How do you explain to others (or even to yourself) why certain goals are really important and why it is such a big deal to you when you achieve them?
In the introduction to his book, "El Capitan: Historic Feats and Radical Routes," Daniel Duane wrote of his quest to climb El Capitan. He said that a climb of El Capitan stood between him and the rest of his life. He described this feeling that, if he failed to climb El Capitan, he would spend the rest of his life in doubt and self-loathing. The book is really good reading, and any climber with aspirations will relate to the El Cap story told in the introduction.
Back in the days when I combed a full head of hair, it seemed that a lot of my climbing adventures were a necessary part of my path to manhood. I had to explore my capabilites, test my boundaries and prove my worth. How and why I ended up using climbing as my vehicle of self-enlightenment is not clear. I am sure that many people never go through such a period of self-introspection and self-testing, which I am sure is the reason that they later have a "mid-life crisis."
It would be difficult to explain to these people why it was important for you to risk life and limb to climb this or that. As Daniel Duane said in his book, statistically-speaking, 100% of humanity has gone through their lives without ever having to prove themselves on El Capitan.
Now that my haircuts take only 2 minutes (and cost only $5), I look back on these adventures with great fondness. Even my greatest failures bring a satisfying smile to my face. And so, to answer part of your question, I ask: Does your accompllishment make you happy? Does your accomplishment satisfy your soul? That's all that matters. I never climbed Mount Everest, and never had any desire. But I did climb El Capitan, and I will die with a smile on my face because of that accomplishment. It's a satisfaction in my gut, in my soul, that I don't have to explain to anyone. A climber will understand, but Uncle Ralph -- oh, forget it, I'm not even going to bother.
Maybe if Uncle Ralph can come to Yosemite with me and put his hands on El Capitan -- Daniel Duane says it's like putting your hands on the side of a planet -- then maybe Uncle Ralph can forge a dim understanding of the significance of climbing the Big Stone.
Later in life, at least for me, my priorities changed and so did my motivations. Is that because I've matured or is that because I've already proven myself? I don't know.
I also know that I can't be a climber forever. Multiple injuries and dislocations ended my big wall and serious alpine aspirations years ago. So I've moved on, and I'm okay with that. I still look back, with much regret, on the climbs that I never finished or never even started. But that's okay, life is ephemeral and I know that I can't do everythng. So I've set new goals that are realistic. For example, I completed my training in cave diving a few years ago. It's not Cerro Torre, but it's good enough for me.