Rob D’Anastasio: “No Expectations”

Photo by Michael
Photo by Michael Rosato

With over 20 years of experience, Pro Rob D’Anastasio thinks “no expectations” is helping his climbing.

I spent the last week of March bouldering in Joe’s Valley, Utah. Physically, I felt that there was little I had to work with. Whatever strength I had would be the leftovers of the training I logged in for ABS nationals over a month ago. I headed west thinking something between, “This will be a good time,” and “I’ve got nothing else to do anyway.” There was no expectation, no preconceived game plan, such that the excitement of my arrival consisted mostly of not having been pulled over in Utah. I knew the trip would be a blast in and of itself and the week passed as quickly as expected, but what surprised me was the tick list I would return to Colorado with.

In roughly twenty years of training I’ve learned well what to expect of my climbing at any given time. At the moment, I haven’t been investing much in the major contributors of success, such as climbing workouts, cross training, or dieting. That leaves but one principal asset to rely on, mental fortitude. I climbed well in Joe’s, but maybe too well to give all the credit to my brain, and I wondered if a lack of expectation could really have fostered a head space that allowed me to take advantage of opportunities to send.

One theory is that lowering expectations could lead to a sort of relaxation that stifles unnecessary stress that might inhibit focus. I believe there is a certain stress level that helps maintain the proper effort output without negatively affecting performance. Too little stress and you may not focus well enough, too much stress and you lose your head and make mistakes. My lack of expectation may have put me in the sweet spot right where I needed to be to execute.

Furthermore, perhaps the less one is consumed by accomplishing goals the more inclined they are to appreciate the more substantial qualities of rock climbing. I undoubtedly find extraordinary pleasure in the success of goals, but the pleasure comes after the fact and, although I wish it weren’t true, is short lived. I rarely fold up the crash pad or untie the figure-eight before the next unaccomplished goal in queue wears away at my satisfaction. So being less goal-oriented could make room in yourself to be more sensitive to the superior values rock climbing has to offer; the magnificence of a wild terrain, the camaraderie of fellow climbers or, conversely, the coveted romance of being alone in a vast space with the special rock in your life (you are my rock). In these and the many other journeys offered from this sport we can experience a fulfillment whose livelihood is determined simply by the extent of our participation.

This may be relevant if enjoying the experiences of climbing, which are ever-present, somehow translate to a greater ease in accomplishing the ultimate goals we seek. If you believe a happy worker is a better worker, it may be valid to say that lowering expectations could yield greater success, if it were to allow one to let go and have fun along the way.

Ultimately these are just ideas to think about, and to be honest I would have to be more open minded to wholly accept such notions. I’ve always been goal oriented and tend to measure success in that way as opposed to quantifying how much fun I had. However, this trip made me wonder about the interconnection of the journey and the destination, how they affect each other, and why or when it may be appropriate to focus on one or the other.