Do You Have An Instigator In Your Life?

The email subject line read: “Summer Scrambling Sessions—Invitation to Edit.” The message was empty except for the attached Google Doc. Usually in my line of work, a Google Doc attachment means more work, more time moving words around on my computer.

But this was different, and I was already psyched. My friend Elizabeth and I had been conniving about the peaks and ridges near Denver we were dreaming of scrambling around on over the summer. But you know how those conversations usually go? “We should get out and do something some time.” “Yeah.” “That would be really cool.” “Maybe this summer.” And then nothing ever comes of it—unless your friend is an Instigator.

The Instigator

Sometimes I feel like all we ever do is talk about the things we dream of doing, like ticking off a 14er, learning avalanche safety or building trad climbing skills. We scroll through other people’s inspirational Instagram feeds and think, I wish I could do that. But some people simply aren’t content to sit around and talk about what they wish they could do, or would do if they had more time. There’s a certain breed of people who immediately progress from the “we should” phase of planning to pulling the trigger. To setting the date, buying the plane ticket, registering for the course. If you want to actually have an adventure and quit sitting around just talking about it, having an Instigator friend is absolutely necessary.

Elizabeth is one of those Instigators. Within a week of chatting about our objectives for the year, the email went out to a group of friends—a shared document with a growing list of peaks and ridgelines we wanted to tick off over the summer. And the peaks actually got ticked off, little by little.

There’s a dangerous side to being friends with an Instigator, though. They won’t let you get away with casually chatting about something you’d like to do in the outdoors without actually taking steps toward doing it. They’re the ones who will ask you the next time they see you, “Did you check out that trail you were talking about?” Or, “Did you call about the guide for Rainier?” And when you float an idea out to them, like “Want to go for a sunrise hike this weekend?” They won’t just answer yes or no. They’ll answer, “What time should we meet and where?” And they’ll be there—probably with donuts or chocolate, if you’re lucky.


I’m grateful for the Instigators in my life, but I didn’t always have them. A few years ago, I spent a lot of time thinking, “I wish I could,” and not very much time making plans and putting them into action. I didn’t have anybody else interested in setting a goal and making it happen, whether it was a bike tour or just a day hike. But all those days of dreaming and wishing taught me this: If you don’t have an Instigator friend already, maybe it’s time you learned how to be one yourself. Go get yourself a map, put a plan in your calendar and become your own Instigator.

Have any tips on how to make ideas a reality? Please share in the comments below.

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