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I Want That Hill!
by Sharon Teitelbaum

"You see a huge hill ahead of you and you are excited. You want that hill! You can't wait to ride it!" These are the words of my teacher as she leads the 8:45 a.m. class in the stationery bike cardio workout known as "spinning." I understand exactly what she means. I increase the resistance on my bike to simulate the hill, and I commit to it, knowing NOT ONLY that the hard part of the workout will be good for me BUT ALSO that I will actually love doing it.

This is a whole new universe for me. My native response as I approach a big hill, virtual or otherwise, essentially goes like this: "Whooooaaaaaa! Oh no! Look at that HUGE hill coming up! Oh my god, can I do it?" My teacher's "You want that hill!" is about as alien to me as "For a reward, each of you will get to take home one of these large queen termites!" I don't think so!

My twenty-something daughters are athletes, and I have seen how much their athletic development has enriched their lives and contributed profoundly to their personal evolution. For example, Sarah learned to "play at 100%" as a soccer goalie, and I know this has carried over into other parts of her life. From early experiences with great coaches, Emily learned to "play from her strength," a lifelong winning strategy for her.


My old pattern with athletic work has been to interpret a certain level of physical challenge as "enough." As in "enough is enough." And then I would stop, thinking I was taking care of myself. As in "I don't need this." But now, at age 53, I find myself eagerly embracing an entirely different pattern, not because it's good for me (though it is), but because I am thrilled with the payoffs.

I am finding that HANGING IN – past where I used to throw in the towel – is opening up new and wonderful parts of my life. It's not just that my fitness level is increasing, but also that I have new options. I am training to ride the Pan Mass Challenge with my older daughter in August, a two-day 170-mile bicycle ride and fundraiser. I have long dreamed of finishing an endurance event, but this is the first one that I am actually taking on.

And get this: I love the training. Don't get me wrong -- when I round a curve and see a steep rise, my first impulse is still "Oh no! A hill!" But I'm learning how to not get stuck there. Learning to focus on gears, on breathing, on strong legs, on full strokes. I DO want that hill. Very smart people have been doing this sport for a long time, and there is a large body of knowledge to draw on. Cyclists are generous in sharing what they know; it's easy to be a learner in this context.

It turns out the hill is do-able. Amazing! And then there is the down-hill side. Even more amazing. And often there are flat, rolling roads, and I am once again a girl on her bike, flying through the wind, smelling the spring, loving the moment, feeling strong.

And of course, there's spillover. I am learning to say, "I want that hill!" in other parts of my life and work as well. Getting better at spinning is helping me play harder elsewhere. Am I playing at a hundred percent yet? Probably not, but I'm getting closer.


So what are the learnings here that I want to share with you? Here are my Coaching Tips. These ideas apply to endeavors that you are clearly and unambivalently committed to. They do not apply across the board.

A. When you endure the discomfort of being out of your comfort zone, there can be juicy rewards. Go a little beyond where you usually stop. Take the risk. You'll know from your results (the feeling of the whole experience itself) whether this is a good risk for you or not.

B. One way to take yourself to new levels of effectiveness is to reframe the way you look at challenge. As you flip your "Oh NO!" into "Lemme at it!" the hard work actually gets easier.

C. Moving beyond your resistance to challenge (wanting to stop) can result in huge gains, which in turn fuel all your intentional endeavors.

D. Do not underestimate the interrelatedness of everything going on in your life! Know that any time you take a step forward in any arena in your life, you are also moving yourself forward in other arenas of your life.

Regarding the queen termite, you'll have to decide for yourself.

Sharon Teitelbaum,, a Master Certified Work-Life and Career Coach, works with high achievers, people at mid-career, and professionals seeking greater career satisfaction and work-life balance. She coaches by phone and in person in Boston. Her newsletter, Strategies For Change, offers practical tips for work-life success. Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Restoring Work-Life Balance is Sharon's most recent book. Sharon also also delivers keynotes & workshops on work-life issues. Clients include Children's Hospital Boston, Merrill Lynch, Arnold Worldwide, professional organizations and alumni groups. She's been featured in national publications including The New York Times,, and Working Mother Magazine. Married for 30 years, she is the mother of two amazing young women.

COPYRIGHT 2002, Sharon Teitelbaum. All rights reserved.



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