A State of Reaching

Kristen UlmerIf you really want to improve at your sport, it’s important to always be in a state of reaching, or leaning in. You may be surprised by what that means.

The simple part is: You play tennis on your front foot, not your back. Great skiing happens when you’re reaching for speed, not resisting speed. If you’re running and sense the wind pushing you back, you’re not leaning in. Lean in and you’ll sense the wind pushing you forward.

Leaning in is all about yes – to everything. And here’s where it gets hard. Everything means…everything. Lean in to all of life, not just the good stuff.

I know you love your sport, what about leaning in to those times when you hate your sport? How about reaching for frustration when it comes up? Reach for disgust. Boredom. Arrogance. Reach into the lessons of your injuries and pain. Reach for what ever is true for you at any moment. Each moment then passes and there’s a new experience revealed.

In this, passion remains. Not always the passion for your sport, but the passion for your life as it evolves and unfolds, faster than the speed of light. In this you will remain open and available to learning and improving.

Resist any of it though, and learning and improving stops immediately. You become stuck.

The most common way athletes become stuck is by repressing or leaning away from their emotions: such as fear, anger and sadness. If you try to block these emotions out, that effort may free you for a day but it will lock you into a war with that emotion.

Imagine a base jumper trying to resist gravity. Crazy! Humans trying to resist emotion is the same. Embrace that emotion, and land a few minutes later having had a great and quick adventure. Avoid and the emotion will torture you, sometimes for decades.

Another example: Consider a deer. If a deer is feeling fear, she startles and runs. She doesn’t argue with herself about whether the fear is justified, or tries to get rid of the fear, or wishes she didn’t feel the fear, she simply expresses it and uses it for strength and motivation to run magnificently through the forest. Then the fear is gone and she’s back eating in a meadow 2 minutes later. She doesn’t get emotionally stuck. She doesn’t need therapy. And she doesn’t get sick or have knots in her shoulders because of the effort to repress her fear.

So lean into it all: Passion and boredom, glory and pain, love and hate, and you will always grow, effortlessly express yourself, improve and evolve.

Each experience and emotion is like a drop of water. Let them flow and you’re on your way to becoming a mighty river…


October 21, 2011 at 10:50 am

Yes! This week I’ve really had to reach for, embrace and just “be with” my creative block. It has felt awful and frustrating but surrendering to it and being with it has make it all the more lovely now that I’m moving past it. Love this. Thank you Kristen.

Jody - Fit at 53

October 21, 2011 at 12:45 pm

This is a great post! One thing I have learned with age – ALWAYS LEARNING – and that often comes from times that may not be the best of times!


October 22, 2011 at 6:14 am

Kristen, thanks for the words of inspiration. Lately, I’ve been struggling with fear – a hard thing for me to embrace and move through. I’m encouraged by your advice to “lean into it.” That’s a great way to look at life – thanks.


October 22, 2011 at 7:40 am

Loved reading this. I so get it! I find the times in life when I have “leaned in” and challenged myself are my moments in life that I’m most proud of. This year I completed my first half-marathon! Life should be an adventure…so much to do…so little time!

Joanna Kahn

October 24, 2011 at 9:38 am

Thanks, Kristen. I completely agree!! I am ceaselessly amazed how I work out my personal life fears through exercise and how strength in my personal life can help work out my athletic fears. Undoubtedly connected! Thanks for continuing to inspire and for the beautiful, peaceful, positive mindset integration.


October 25, 2011 at 4:37 am

Thank you, Kristen – this is the exact lesson I needed right now to help me break through this little plateau I’m on, both in my sport and in other creative endeavors.

Amanda - RunToTheFinish

November 08, 2011 at 5:24 pm

this was expressed so beautifully!!

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