Mental Wings: Principles for Peak Performance

I’ve spent countless days over the last 40 years hanging by my fingertips on the side of cliffs, moving upward with hundreds of feet of air separating me from the safety of the ground. Though very physical, technical rock climbing places even greater demands on your mental muscle. In order to succeed and, in fact, survive this activity, requires extraordinary mental skills. Over the years, I’ve developed a wide-range of powerful mental strategies for performing in the danger zone with laser-like focus, bulletproof confidence, acute risk management, and the ability to continue upward in the face of fear. I call these cognitive skills my “mental wings.”

As I gradually matured into a well-seasoned, elite climber, I came to realize how incredibly transferable my mental wings techniques were to other activities and areas of my life. The mental skills I developed and sharpened in the vertical world were equally powerful in my non-climbing world! With this realization, I set out to develop a mental training program for climbers and non-climbers alike. The “mental wings” techniques and strategies I developed form the foundation of my mental training book titled Maximum Climbing. Though written for climbers, Maximum Climbing reveals dozens of novel techniques for accelerating your rate of personal achievement and elevating the quality of your performance in any important venture or adventure.

Below are 10 guiding principles of my Mental Wings program that I hope you find to be thought-provoking and inspiring. Born from the profound experiences of the vertical world, these principles and life strategies have the potential to completely change your life perspective, quality of experience, and the effectiveness of all the hours, days, and years to come. Consider printing out this list and hanging it in a place you’ll see daily.

Eric Hörst belays during a family ascent of Independence Monument, CO

Mental Wings Guiding Principles

1. Quality of life is directly related to quality of thoughts.
You can literally think yourself to success or failure, happiness or despair. Since whatever you focus on grows, it’s vital to keep mental images and inner dialog constantly positive and productive. Begin a mental diet devoid of any negativity or criticism.

2. Clarity of values and goals, and a clear purpose for living form the foundation for a life full of rich, transcending experiences.
Most people embrace ordinariness when they fail to set and follow-through on value-based goals and instead let low-value tasks dominate their time. Conversely, clarity of purpose empowers you to act in important ways that produce daily progress toward your overall “mega goal.”

3. Risk is a precursor to reward.
Experimenting with your life and risking occasional failure is tantamount to guaranteeing uncommon success and reward throughout your lifetime.

4. Almost anything is possible once you conquer fear.
While fear of failure, criticism, and embarrassment chains most people to their current existence, you can banish fear and achieve extreme success simply by being completely willing to fail, be criticized, or be embarrassed.

5. Singular focus and indomitable persistence knows no limits.
Constant future-oriented action, unbridled creativity, and never-ending pursuit of excellence will yield accomplishment and breakthroughs beyond expectation.

6. Obstacles and adversity make you stronger.
Success and personal growth is found on the far side of the obstacles, adversity and apparent failures in your life. Embrace challenges as sterling opportunities for growth and elevating your life.

7. A fit body potentiates a fit mind.
Regular exercise and healthful living unlock a higher level of personal performance that many people never experience. Engage in a minimum of three hours of exercise per week and you will feel more vibrant, less stressed, and become more productive.

8. Life is subtle: sweat the small stuff!
The big stuff is often beyond your control, whereas the small things you do or don’t do on a daily basis determine your direction and destiny. Exercise vigilance in attending to and accomplishing the small but high-value tasks that are so easily crowded out by “urgent” low-value tasks.

9. Your future is largely determined in the brief moment between stimulus and response (in any activity).
Free yourself of cultural and experiential programming by turning off the autopilot and taking conscious control of these brief, but crucial, moments of decision.

10. Enjoy this moment: this moment is your life.
Engage your mind and body in everything you do. Seek out challenges that will stretch your current abilities. Explore our world of wonder and live each day with a sense of immense gratitude.

Copyright 2017 Eric J. Hörst

Eric Hörst

Eric J. Hörst is an internationally renowned author, researcher, climbing coach, and accomplished climber of more than 30 years. A self-professed “climber for life,” Eric remains active at the cliffs, traveling widely with his wife, Lisa, and sons, Cameron and Jonathan. Driven by his passion for adventure and challenge, he has established over 400 first ascents, primarily on his home cliffs in the Eastern United States. Still pushing his personal climbing limits at age 50, Eric’s focus is now on R & D of new training techniques, traveling and sharing his knowledge with new climbers, and coaching the next generation of elite climbers. The third edition of Eric’s best-selling book, Training For Climbing, was just released in July 2016.