For several years, Tom and I spent a lot of time biking. I learned a lot of lessons during those years. One, in particular, stands out to me that I’d like to share with you this week.
In preparing for a 72-mile ride around Lake Tahoe, I knew I’d need three things: extended time on my bike seat, a fresh tube of “butt butter,” and a way to make friends with the hills. All the rides I’d been able to squeeze in lately had purposefully included at least one tough climb. It occurred to me on the last one that as I began to anticipate, or more accurately “dread,” those steep hills, I’d get myself all worked up at the beginning. As I started up the climb, shifting into my higher gears, my thigh and calf muscles firing and my breathing instantly becoming more rapid and deep, I would glance up ahead, knowing it would be a long time before I saw the top and even longer until I would actually feel the relief of cresting it. I focused on how hard it was, how much I hated that part of the ride, and how long and far I had to go.
But, once I’d gotten the first few minutes behind me, something would change. It’s as if I “locked in” to the climb… as if, like my bike, I shifted into a higher, more powerful gear. I was in a zone of singular thought and focus. It still felt challenging, but I was no longer resisting and fighting with it. I felt myself accepting the work. The discomfort was no longer at the forefront of my mind but rather the feeling of embracing a slow, steady, and sustained power. And I liked it. I actually liked it—the feeling!
This is the work of making friends with the hill. This is the work of making friends with any daunting effort ahead of us, especially those that repetitively show up for us. Making friends with the work week ahead, traveling for clients, practicing the necessary skills, getting back to homework with the kids, painting the house, consistently speaking like a leader. It all starts out hard and long, and we are keenly aware of how much we dislike it—unless we have created a conscious intention of making friends with it. When we do, it doesn’t take long for our focus to shift into a higher, more powerful gear where we can actually feel ourselves “lock in” to the completion of the endeavor. And we can, now, find ourselves actually liking and enjoying it.
If it’s something you must do, you’ll either spend your time hating it or liking it. Decide this week to make friends with that which you must do and which requires a big effort from you. It will make the ride to the top so much sweeter.
Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.
~ Bernice Johnson Reagon