I'm reading a book called The Rock Warrior's Way, which is all about the mental training involved in climbing. There's a lot in it, but it would take a whole separate blog to go into the details, so let's just say the mental game is huge in climbing. Huge.
Here is the biggest lesson I've learned from actually climbing, and which has been put into simple terms and confirmed for me in the book: comfort and safety are paradoxical terms.
There is a moment on the wall when you might feel totally out of control, hanging off an overhang and you can't get one foot on a hold and your hands feel slippery and everything's wrong as you try to unclip the next quickdraw. The instinct is to go for what feels the safest; pulling your body upright and in towards the wall. But that's the worst thing because you're expending energy you don't have and wasting time with awkward movements. The best thing to do would be to lean away from the wall, hang on with that one sweaty hand – with a lighter grip, in fact – and slowly and calmly deal with the clip.
What feels safe, ironically, is not safe. And what feels scary as all hell is actually the safest. This both drives me crazy and delights me. There's definitely a life lesson here, but one I sure haven't learned to apply. I hold on for dear life to try to avoid mistakes and end up making so many more.