Shiny Object Syndrome

And how it could be killing your climbing progress

Getting better at this whole climbing thing can be, well… really bloody hard at times right? With thousands of tips, tricks and tactics to choose from, getting to the heart of what will provide the biggest ROI can be a nightmare. The internet it seems, with its endless sources of information, is both a blessing and a curse! With all these pitfalls it can be easy to find yourself with Shiny Object Syndrome.

As a result of this vast chasm of information, the cases of “Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)” (the tendency to chase down and pay too much attention to novel, trendy tactics instead of staying focused on the things that bring long term improvement) have never been higher. The real challenge is knowing what to exclude from training and figuring out how to not veer off course from your current program.

How do we end the seemingly endemic Shiny Object Syndrome culture?

One phrase I hear a lot of people say, in an attempt to stop SOS biting them in arse, is “Do the basics and be consistent.” On the face of things, this phrase couldn’t be truer; you do need to nail the basics and be consistent but, as a stand alone virtue, it’s pretty useless. You need context and an understanding of what those basics are and what YOU need to be consistent in. If you’ve been getting frustrated with your climbing progress and find you’re suffering from SOS, drowning in a sea of details, would hearing this on its own solve your problems? Probably not!

Woman climber with short brown hair and an obscured face on an overhang wall.

There’s one of 2 main problems going on if you’re a frequent Shiny Object Syndrome Sufferer

Large blue pocket climbing hold with dense chalk build up in the centre. Next to a V3-5 grading tag

Scenario 1:

A lot of people who constantly grab at new things, don’t even know they’re doing it. I’ve spoken to so many frustrated climbers, who when asked, “what have you tried training wise recently?” reel off a massive long list of tactics. It’s only when vocalising such lists do many only begin to realise they haven’t stuck to any of things in their respective lists. 

If you’re not aware of your SOS tendencies, how does the blanket advice of “do the basics and be consistent help”? This is why as a coach, it’s so important for me to really listen and read between the lines when asking questions like the above. Offering yet another tactic in this context and sending you on your way isn’t going to help, it’s addressing the symptoms and not the problem. It’s merely a papering over the cracks and pretty soon you’ll end up back at square one; frustrated as ever! A better intervention would be to promptly acknowledge of SOS and thus helping change our behaviour instead. We hit the problem at the source and boom, we’re well on our way better climbing already.

Scenario 2:

Some SOS sufferers, though they know they’re jumping from novelty to novelty, can’t seem to break the habit. This second scenario is a more difficult problem to solve. These are the people who know full well they program hop but either scoff at the fact, believing that’s ‘just how they are’ or they pay lip service to their SOS awareness. Is this you? Listen up because this is gonna get deep! 

First, do you trust the strategy you’re about to implement? Like do you really God damn believe in it? If you never sit down and think, “I trust this process. I know roughly how long to try it for and I’ll constantly reassess if I’ve put in the work after each ‘X’ week period”. If this question never runs through your head, there’s probably no real trust in what you’re about to do. A lack of trust breeds the expectation of immediate progress; that just equals frustration. So next week, you move onto the next shiny object. So yeah belief – have some!

Secondly, let your impatience serve you rather than condemn you. I get it, we don’t want to try something for a year and get naff all from it. Nobody wants to waste their time; it’s the most precious and non renewable resource we have. So whilst we want to believe in what we do, we want to believe in the most effective thing and make the best use of our time. 

Wooden gymnast rings attached to a metal bar via linked karabiners. A potential example of shiny object syndrome in climbing.

You need to focus on delayed gratification

Shiny Object Syndrome is simply impatience personified, it’s your impatience voicing its opinion and saying, “Woah woah, woah! Is this really worth the investment? It’ll take a long time to see return on this activity.” The irony is, when we hear this voice; that’s usually the green light to go ahead and get stuck in. Let’s face it…when does anything (especially something as complex as climbing) improve overnight?


So, if you feel impatience twisting your arm into binning off your latest intervention, instead of trying to banish it, speak back to your impatience (yep that’s right, I’m asking you to have a conversation with an emotion – very meta right?!) ask whether what you’re doing is simply a lack of belief or whether it’s genuinely not working. Only you can make that call but, if you just let impatience take control and leave it unchecked, Shiny Object Syndrome will continue to reign supreme. Talk to your impatience. Make it serve you.

Curious about some examples of shiny object syndrome? Check this article next: Pull-ups and Overhead Press – The 2 Most Overrated Movements in the Climbing World 

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