Enjoying the Climb

By: Tori Wood

One of my personal values has always been to constantly chase growth. So, when I started at PAIRIN, I really identified with the company value to “Choose Growth Over Comfort.” At first, I didn’t realize these values are not the same thing. While I constantly chase growth, I do it in areas where I’m already pretty comfortable. As a stereotypical “Ace Achiever,” I’m great at setting lofty goals for myself. I’m also inclined to become laser-focused on doing anything necessary to achieve them. However, the goals I set for myself tend to be focused around becoming even better at things for which I already have a natural or learned ability. I get really anxious about trying things that are completely foreign to me.

So, when our company announced that we were going to have a values experience and “Choose Growth Over Comfort” together at the climbing gym down the street, I got pretty nervous. Some of my coworkers had been (very gently and kindly) pressuring me to join them for a climb after work for months, and I almost went more than once. I even brought a change of clothes to work with me more than once! But, I would always back out at the last minute. The fear of failing, falling, hurting myself, or embarrassing myself kept me in my comfort zone, but I was about to be forced out of it.  

As we walked into the gym, I noticed the mural outside in bold, scripty letters demanding that I “Find Joy In The Journey.” Admittedly, this made me roll my eyes. Where is the joy in doing something you’re terrible at? As we arrived at the climbing gym and we all jammed our feet into shoes that were too tight, I felt my heartbeat become more and more rapid. I looked around at the boulders and my palms started to sweat. This was not going to be fun. 

Cut to 10 minutes later. I’m reaching the top of the wall on my first climb. My heart is racing, but there is a huge grin on my face. This is…fun?! I start meandering through the gym looking for things that look doable for me to climb. I climb route after route. My form is terrible, I’m sure. I have no knowledge of technique, and I don’t even know if I’m doing this right, but I feel exhilarated. I spend a long time taking turns with some coworkers trying (and failing) to climb a route a bit above our skill level. I don’t care. I want to keep trying. 

That day was a huge turning point for me. Choosing to do things that make you uncomfortable can be incredibly rewarding. I feel like I’ve unlocked a new level in my life. Instead of being afraid to try new things, I’ve accepted that I won’t be amazing at anything when I first start. Becoming great at anything takes time and hard work. But I’ve learned that it’s still possible to really enjoy the part at the beginning: the part where you aren’t good and you get frustrated when you watch other people progress faster than you. Can I actually find things that bring me joy when I’m not the best? That is a new concept for me, and I’m learning to embrace the discomfort.

I climb regularly now – on average, three times a week, and I only roll my eyes at the scripty mural every now and then.