Stop Pedaling as Fast as You Can

“I am not unusually intelligent; it’s just that I work hard.”

Many of my clients seem to believe that in order to make an impactful contribution, they need to work extraordinarily long hours especially now in COVID times when the ground beneath us is shifting on a regular basis.

I began thinking about this the other day when I was with my personal trainer. After watching me closely for a few minutes, she said, “move your shoulders two inches to the left and your hips one inch to the right.” What a difference that made! I realized that I had been exerting a lot of effort without getting the results I wanted. My habitual way of exercising was not only inefficient, it was actually causing me pain! 

I was reminded about how hard my clients work, like the folks I see at the gym spinning on bikes, lifting weights, working so hard to get in shape. These executives work from early morning until late at night and often on weekends to meet the demands of the corporate world and achieve the exceptional results they desire. 

We go to the gym to improve our health and confidence in our appearance, striving and forcing ourselves to keep at it, but often unknowingly doing the wrong exercise or doing it incorrectly. The irony is, that while we may be building muscle, we are also setting ourselves up for the next problem. Without an expert to personally advise us, we are exerting unnecessary effort and potentially causing injury. Like the executives I see who accomplish a lot but at a high price to themselves and often to the organization.

My coach pays attention solely to the particularities of my physical condition – my health, my age, my history of past injuries, my goals. She knows that I have different requirements and aspirations than her other clients who have their individual needs and tailors her recommendations accordingly. Often, she suggests very small changes that make all the difference, transforming my efforts into easy actions that heal and strengthen me.  

This is what I bring to my clients. I notice things they have not seen and suggest small adjustments that have a massive impact. Until you experience this for yourself, you might not think this is possible, but take Sharon, a recent client of mine. When we met, she was working 12 hours a day, six days a week, had little social life, poor health and moreover was not being given the credit at work she deserved. Following our work together, Sharon was given a new C-level title and now contributes exclusively at a strategic level. She has time to enjoy recreational and social activities, is physically healthier, and is developing strong personal relationships. You can read more about her and our work together at

So, the next time you find yourself pedaling as fast as you can, doing the functional equivalent of lifting the heaviest weight possible, fiercely striving for an accomplishment, and improvement, ask yourself, “is it possible for me to make a high value contribution without working 15 hours a day?” Many of my clients tell me that they ask themselves, “what would Joanne say?” So, I’m going to tell you what I would say. I would say, “yes, it is possible to do things more easily and be tremendously effective. In fact, with small adjustments you can potentially make a larger contribution, be more impactful, and have a less stressful life.”

Watch out for “justing” — that demon on your shoulder that says, “I just need to get through this project; I just need to wait until next quarter; I just need to hire my new….” More about that in another article. Get in touch with me before then.

It doesn’t need to be difficult; it could be easy.

Joanne Irving, Ph.D., Executive Advisor, Author of the forthcoming book, The C² Factor for Leadership: How the alchemy of curiosity and courage helps leaders become champions and lead meaningful lives. 

Contact me at or call me at 301-943-3074 to find out how you can cultivate your curiosity and courage – your C²Factor.