“No pain, no gain.”

I’ve always thrived with a coach. I’ve welcomed someone pushing me since I started obsessively swimming laps in the neighborhood pool at age five. My former competitive swimming coach at The Bolles School in Florida, Gregg Troy — the head coach for the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s swim team and currently the head swim coach for the Florida Gators — had a pivotal impact on my childhood. During afternoon practices, while I had weights tied to my ankles, treading water in the deep end, or while running the football bleachers in 90-plus degree heat, he’d purposely push us to the limit, both mentally and physically. “This stamina will stay with you the rest of your life,” he’d yell. “Now MOVE!” We’d sweat, moan, laugh, and cry together. As high schoolers, we’d roll our eyes thinking about being in our 30s or 40s, questioning how 200 sits ups could ever have a long-lasting impact. Yet his prescient vision was spot on. The discipline and tenacity fostered at an early age via sports can permeate through all areas of our lives — career, relationships, and parenting. Thanks to Coach Troy, I can muscle through just about anything. I may not be able to swim like lightning anymore, but the discipline learned at such an impressionable age has carried me through various testing grounds — both physically and mentally.

Yet not too long ago, the term “life coach” was often balked at. If someone was working with a life or wellness coach, they’d hush-hush it, like something was broken that needing fixing. Yet we absolutely revere coaches in sports. NFL coaches are placed on such a high pedestal that they are paid millions to stretch a player’s comfort zone, and let us partake in the glory and the gore, witnessed at its best during this weekend’s Super Bowl Sunday. So why not rally the troops as we step into our own, personal arenas? Fortunately, today our societal perception of life or wellness coaching is being redefined.

Coaching in life’s messy arena only makes sense. We lawyer up. We buck up. We screw up. So why not coach up? When I first started working with a life coach, it took a few turns to get comfortable letting it roll off my tongue. Yet now, I claim it. It takes courage to mine vulnerability. It takes strength to step into your power. And any good coach — no matter the field of play — will get you out of your comfort zone, call you on your B.S., and perhaps most notably, hold you accountable in your chosen field of play. I recently interviewed Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation and wife to former AOL.com co-founder Steve Case, and she celebrated the term “failing forward.” “The fail forward term really calls on innovators and change makers to recognize that most breakthroughs come from taking risks, and if you are going to take risks, you likely will fail along the way,” said Case.

Several months into the work with my life coach — with several fail forwards, yet many wins, too — he asked me to answer the question, “What does it mean to live a fulfilled life?” My answer to him is below. We should be so lucky to have leaders in life’s arena posing the hard questions. And yes, my swim coach’s motto was spot on. Through struggle we grow. Yet a life coach will also remind clients that our internal GPS can also manifest flow. Just like in sports, we celebrate the “zone.” So as Super Bowl Sunday approaches, and we watch players at their peak, here’s to being in our own zones, too. And, here’s to failing forward.

What does it mean to live a fulfilled life?

Living a fulfilled life means taking risks, with grounded grace. Putting yourself in the “arena” — getting back up when you fall, and allowing the applause when you succeed.

Living a fulfilled life means being present, noticing the little things along the way while climbing that mountain of opportunity and potential, because we all have our own mountain to climb. The beauty lies with how you handle both the peaks and valleys.

Living a fulfilled life means cherishing, nurturing, and supporting those that love you most, and letting go, with grace, those that don’t feed your soul.

Living a fulfilled life means learning to be grateful, and practicing self-compassion, self-forgiveness, and self-awareness. It means knowing that the cha-cha you will inevitably practice — that one-step forward, two-steps back — is simply part of being human.

Living a fulfilled life is tapping into that sacred space within you, and allowing the magnificence of it to surface, surprise, delight, empower, and transform.

Living a fulfilled life is dancing with the unknown, even when you don’t really want to tango.

Living a fulfilled life is mustering the knowledge, strength, and courage to step into that part of you that is, all at once, terrified, hopeful, real, and most important, perfectly poised to give and receive love.

Erin Lentz is a writer and editor based in Aspen, Colorado.

Originally published at medium.com