The obsession (part IV), conclusion

IMG_5751My 30 day blog challenge is over but I want to write more. 1 per day was quite the commitment and definitely challenging, but after I got through some of that initial dust, I was able to go deeper and I think there is more for me to uncover if I continue. Therefore, it’s my goal to write 1 post a week for the next month and see how that goes. Meanwhile thank you, reader, for hanging in there. It’s the New Year and time for resolutions and reflections. I’ve been exploring this obsession and with the New Year in mind, I will try to close the loop by flipping obsession into passion.

In the first post, we explored the gap in content and performance for women post 40. Even as I type this I have this strange impression that after 40, you are supposed to just die or something. It’s like life is supposed to be over, but in reality, it’s not the case. People rarely feel their age inside and those that keep their youth alive, thrive well into their later years of life…like the legendary Fred Beckey. I pay no mind to how old I am and just keep getting after it, pushing my limits, discovering my full potential in life, in love, and in climbing.

In the second post, we talked about these pillars and how tending each one makes for a more balanced and robust life. Knowing that ignoring a pillar can cascade into the other 2 and bring them all down, is worth being conscious of how balanced they are.  It’s not possible to create balance all at once, therefore, life can become a juggling act.

Kalymnos night shot

Fun de Chichunne (5.13b/8a) by headlamp in Kalymnos, Greece. Photo by Luke Allen Humphrey

The third post explored how we can tie our identities to what we do in life, whether as a climber, parent, partner, teacher, engineer, etc. If the pillar we identify most suffers or crumbles, then our identity can be challenged. For example, losing a job, getting a divorce or separating from a partner, injury, etc. We looked at some scenarios to help identify this obsessive pattern.


Climbing in Chamonix

Now, consider obsession as one side of a two-sided coin–the other side being passion. I wrote these posts with the title of obsession because I believe most people become obsessed with climbing rather than passionate about it. Obsession is more like an addiction where the thing you are obsessed with controls you more than you control it.

Put another way, being obsessed with climbing “takes disproportionate space in [a] person’s identity and causes conflict with other activities” (Vallerand, Robert J. “The Psychology of Passion: A Dualistic Model”). Whereas being passionate about climbing “occupies a significant but not overpowering space in [a] person’s identity and is in harmony with other aspects of [a] person’s life” (Vallerand, Robert J. “The Psychology of Passion: A Dualistic Model”). The difference between the two, IMO, comes down to choice and awareness. Choosing to make one’s life revolve around one’s passion is powerful.

“Passion is one of our most important vehicles for performance, creativity, imagination, and ingenuity. By no means do I want to discourage passion. But we rarely realize how other important areas of life feed into our main passion. When one’s life isn’t in balance, passion can become obsessive and counterproductive. When a person feels good about their self and the work they are doing, and is capable of disengaging, passion becomes a wellspring of long-term success.” — (Kaufman,  Scott Barry. HBR Blog Network, Sept 21, 2011.)


 “… whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, . . . one must never let the fire go out in one’s soul, but keep it burning.” –Vincent Van Gogh

To be great requires one focus, one priority, one vision and a life built around that one thing. It may come at a cost to some relationships, earning a traditional wage, etc. but if you are choosing that life, you are choosing that path. You will be happiest because you have consciously committed to that one thing. And as William Hutchison Murray says, that one thing will reveal to you many things you could not have imagined without that taking that step.

“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too….

…A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. ” — William Hutchison Murray

Trying to keep the pillars in balance all of the time will never help you succeed with your passion because you can only ever be good at one of those three pillars at any given time. Which one you choose to focus on depends on how much you value or how much pain is coming at you from the other two pillars.

For instance, your family may not understand your passion, but you can choose how much attention you give them versus your passion. And, you can choose to build friendships or relationships around your passion. In other words, you can control how much external circumstances influence your ability to focus on your passion.

When life throws you lemons and you attempt to make lemonade, how strong is your vision relative to your passion? If you fall apart because you’ve made the physical act of climbing your end result then I argue, is climbing really your passion or is it simply an expression of an obsession you have with the “high” of doing it?


Lead World Cup 2017, Briancon, France

Being passionate about climbing and not being able to climb doesn’t mean there is nothing else you can give to the sport. When I am injured, I don’t sit back and wallow in the injury (ok, there is a period of frustration as I recollect myself but I don’t linger long in this mindset). I re-purpose myself and get out there doing more coaching, clinics, presentations, blogs, etc. I’m active in climbing even when I’m not physically out there doing it. Sure, it sucks not to be physically capable but engaging in these other ways broadens my view of climbing, deepens my appreciation for my ability to climb and elevates the psyche when I am capable once more. Besides, being temporarily benched provides more time to focus on these other areas.

While my world largely revolves around climbing , I can disengage at any time and take on other challenges. Every time I’ve disengaged in the past, when I return to climbing, I am reminded of my joy and appreciation for my ability to climb and for my community in climbing. My happiness comes from so much more than the physical aspect of climbing, like my ability to give back to the community  through clinics, coaching, mentorship, building this not-for-profit climbing space, presentations, and more.


Lead World Cup 2017, Briancon, France

Climbing, therefore, is really just one expression of myself (although a large expression of myself). It’s being

  • a steward of the outdoors
  • physically active and fit
  • challenged to perform
  • expressive through movement
  • mentally stimulated
  • emotionally charged
  • creative
  • recognized for achievements

Climbing helps me

  • explore my potential
  • motivate others
  • build confidence
  • find ways to give back to the community through
    • volunteering
    • teaching clinics
    • coaching others
    • sharing my story
    • using climbing to promote active alternatives for youth

and more…

While I could express myself through other means (and I do), there’s nothing more satisfying then the thrill of challenging myself on real rock and sharing that expression with others.IMG_5752

I hold a vision for some amazing things ahead in climbing, both physically and for the community. I am actively surrounding myself with others who can support me in that vision. My world is currently mostly set up to support that vision, and I’m actively working on aligning this part better.

2018 is going to be awesome!

Hold a vision that you can build your world around your passion, then get to it–start consciously living it!

“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it,
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it,
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated—
Begin it, and the work will be completed!”  — John Anster (inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s tragic masterwork “Faust”)

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About Audrey Sniezek

Audrey Sniezek is a rock climbing athlete and computer software/technology enthusiast.
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