This is MY mountain

Summer has been and gone, and the autumn with some rain and thunder storms has set in. School has started again for my boys, and my daughter has started a new adventure living her best life in Norway dancing her days away.

This summer as well as all the fun and time with family, I also had one big goal I wanted to achieve which isn’t hard to guess if you know anything about me -I wanted to climb another mountain. We booked a week in the Lake District for the end of August were we could hike to the top of Scafell Pike. I have had some issues with my residual limb over the last few years, and am awaiting revision surgery which has meant that I have not been able to do as much walking as I would like to, so I was a bit nervous about it. After we fitted in a bonus practice climb of a mountain in my beautiful home town Bergen in Norway, I felt positive that even with my limitations I would be able to climb a few extra metres to achieve my goal.

At the top of Ulriken in Bergen.

In preparation I did read about the best route to climb up Scafell Pike, downloaded descriptions, maps and some pictures to help navigate and keep us off the trickier routes. When the day came for the climb we set off early to make sure we got a parking spot and off we went. What really surprised me the most was how there was absolutely no easing your way into the fact that you were climbing a mountain, it was pretty much steep uphill from the get go. Yes I know it’s a mountain but I have done a few of them in my time, and normally your thighs seem to get a bit of an easier start to the climb. Not so much with Scafell Pike. It was also a beautiful sunny day as well, which meant my prosthetic became very warm and I needed a few stops to wipe it down and reset the leg. I will admit that there was a moment I even thought to myself, I am not sure I will be able to do this.

At this very moment I asked myself -is it worth it to me? Is it worth going on? The answer was YES and even when the path turned into lots of small loose stones (which really is tricky for an amputee) I pushed through. I could have so easily given up, but guess what -I made it to the top!

At the top of Scafell Pike

On the way down we met many people who would ask ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘How far is it to the top?’ ‘Will it get any easier soon?’. There was so many different tactics used trying to push on an unwilling member of a group, a slightly unfit friend or the absolute clueless to the fact that climbing a mountain would mean an uphill hike. It struck me then, and I have thought about it a lot since; the power of attitude and self-motivation, the internal drive that keeps you moving forward to what matters to you.

Motivation can come in many forms. We overheard some guys who was trying to encourage a friend who was struggling by telling them it’s only 30 minutes left. Even she could see when she looked up that wasn’t true. Some others told a family members that the worst was over when we knew it had barely begun. There were countless of ‘well you’ve made it this far now, so you might as well keep going.’ Who knows -maybe they all made it to the top listening to well meaning encouragement and some false promises, but it made me think that borrowed goals and motivation through incentives (or fear), really makes giving up very easy.

I love standing at the top of a mountain, after years of not being able to, I really love that I can! The sense of achieving the impossible, accomplishing a dream once so far out of reach. It really matters to me, and it makes it worth the extra blister on the stump, the rest day and leg-off day I need after a climb, or a long hike. It is worth it to me! I do not need some false promises or somebody dangling a carrot in front of me (though chocolate is always a pick-me up, and it is good to surround yourself with great people who are there for you and support you when it gets a bit tough). It is my goal, my choice and my achievement. And when I had a little wobble and thought I couldn’t do it, all it took was one question: is it worth it to me?

What is your mountain?

We can change!

Change can be a very hard thing sometimes. Whether we are changing jobs, moving home, learning to drive or have to change a pre-consisting unhealthy mindset, change can be, and often is, difficult. I am sure you know someone who loves a bit of change and then you probably know the opposite too, those who would do anything to steer away from any change of any sort. As a previous sufferer of chronic pain and now an amputee I am aware that change can be very overwhelming, and sometimes even feel impossible.

I love the book ‘What happened to you’ by Oprah Winfrey and Dr Bruce Perry. Worth your time if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet! In this book Dr Bruce Perry states one extremely powerful thing ‘Hope lies in the adaptability of our brain’. I am fascinated by our brains and something that is called neuroplasticity -the brains ability to reorder, change and adapt through experiences, memories and spaced repetition.

When my leg was still here, but in it’s chronic crippled spasm, I had three very young children. Having not been able to drive a car for years, we realised that we could get an automatic car adapted with a left foot accelerator. How cool is that, I could have the option to drive again if I wanted too. I could be able to drop any of the kids off to an activity, or even drive to a park. It felt huge and definitely something I wanted. But how do you learn to drive with your left foot if you have always done it with your right foot? It felt wrong to start with and certainly meant a few harder than normal slams of the brakes and some nervous times on the road not to mention roundabouts. The more I did it the more normal it became! My brain was adapting and what once felt overwhelming and almost impossible became normal and second nature to me.

Harvard Business review -the change arc

This image sums it up beautifully I think, because change can be difficult, costly and weird, but over time and by changing behaviour and attitudes, it becomes easier, more doable, rewarding and normal. Freidrich Nietzche, the Marmite of philosopher (for the non British -you either love him or hate him) said: If you have a why to live for you can bear almost any how.

If you have something big or small that needs to change, ask yourself: is it worth it to me? If the answer is yes, no matter how hard it will be, it is possible, because HOPE LIES IN THE ADAPTABILITY OF OUR BRAIN!

What you say about yourself!

This week I have been thinking a lot about purpose and these words have been replaying in my head a lot:

‘What you say you are greatly affects what you become.’

I’ve shared with you before about confidence; the ability to comfortably be you, trusting yourself and having faith in your own strength and ability. This phrase just takes it all a bit further for me. It has made me think about how my words and ‘inner voices’ also frame my future, and that I can positively affect not just who I am now, but who I am becoming. Zig Ziglar famously also said: you cannot consistently behave in a manner inconsistent to the way you see yourself.

Whilst I was pondering all this one of the things I have been working on is writing a mission statement for my life, a summary of my reason for being. (If you fancy having a go at writing your own, do it! It feels good and it’s a good way for you to take personal responsibility for your future). So in the context of believing that what I say about myself will affect what I become, I am sharing my mission statement with you.

My life mission is to:

enjoy life, build a strong family that support and cheer each other on. Embrace adventure and challenges. I want to use my own experiences and life lessons learnt to inspire, encourage and motivate others to believe in their own potential.

Ta-da list

We all have some sort of relationship with a to-do list. Whether we’re a lover or a hater, or somewhere in between. I have met many people who just couldn’t imagine a day without making a list as their first priority every morning, who loves a post-it note or two, and sometimes can be almost addicted to the thrill of a completed list at the end of the day. There are also some who are more of the spontaneous and impulsive no-list kind, or just someone who don’t like to make lists but are all for a good schedule.

Anyways, this is not a blog post from me trying to convince you of how good or bad, necessary or unnecessary I think a to-do list is. The other day I was listening to a podcast when at the end of an episode as a little addendum one of the podcasters said she had started making a ta-da list. My ears pricked up. She said that she can so easily focus on the negatives and she had been encouraged to make a list of things she did that when she looked at it, it would help put her in a better mood.

In my job for LMI we often talk about the importance of keeping a score of our progresses and our victories. I have seen the huge impact this can have on peoples motivation and staying-on track power, as well as just making us feel good. Famously it’s been said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Often we focus on the I didn’t make it, or the I am so far off my target, that we forget to see the mile we covered today as a success. It is probably not a surprise to you then, that I love the idea of a TA-DA list. A list, not of things I have to do, but of the ‘I did that!’

Try it – start a Ta-Da list of your own – I am loving mine!

Confident and Outgoing -is it the same?

One of the best part of my job is the privilege I have of guiding young people through a program called ‘The Making of a Champion’. This program is all about helping these fantastic young people develop skills, habits and attitudes needed to pursue dreams and worthwhile goals, and to help them be the very best version of themselves. I love it!

One of the lessons in the program is about Courage, and facing challenges with confidence. A few times when I have facilitated this session there are great conversations about all things confidence, and what this means and also what it looks like. It has struck me many times how confidence so often is defined by how outgoing someone is. If you are the one in a friendship group who is the loudest and most likely to ask for the bill or stop a stranger to ask for direction, the one who seemingly without any nerves stand up and make presentations in front of the class, you are most likely being defined as the most confident person in the group. Is this a great measure of how confident someone is, or is it telling us more about how comfortable someone is in a social setting and in dealing with new people. Off course this can be linked to someone’s confidence, but if it’s the only way to define how confident someone is we are excluding introverts from anything to do with this.

So what is confidence? To me it is about trust, trust in yourself! Being comfortable enough to be you, whether that is an outgoing person or not. To be your authentic self, having faith in your own strengths and ability, not letting the judgements and opinions of others hold you back and make you try to be and act differently, that to me is Confidence.

As with so many things we often define ourselves as this is me or not, and that’s that. But I love that you can work on and grow in so many of the things that we often exclude our self from -we all have potential! Anyone can, and should be, their own number one fan, their own Cheerleader. The root to confidence seems to be positive thinking and positive self talk. Confidence in your ability happens through practice and work. Every week we get the young people to set a goal, one for school/work and one personal one, why? Because goal setting is about moving towards something that you have defined as important to you, something that matters. When we accomplish a goal it makes us feel good, makes us proud, it breeds positivity, and it has been proven to be good for, amongst other things, building confidence.

Set a goal today, or over the weekend, do something that matters to you, or something you are good at. Write something positive to yourself, make a list of your accomplishments, and work on eliminating the negative language we have made far too normal. Learn something new, be curious! Confidence doesn’t happen in one moment, but it happens by all the little things we say and do everyday!

What to do with all the madness?

There are sometimes in life when I feel so little and helpless. I have a roof over my head, I am warm (might sometimes wish we had the heating on a bit more), I am surrounded by my nearest and dearest, I have food to eat and can take a stroll through my peaceful village and the beautiful countryside whenever I want.

Since the 24.February the pictures we are seeing on the news from Ukraine is a nation torn to shreds by Putin’s aggressive madness and his special ‘military operations’. The reality of his war means that Ukrainians have had their lives turned upside down, peace has been shattered. Millions are now fleeing their homes and their country, having to leave behind their belongings and more importantly, all the men who has to stay and fight the ‘western paranoia’ of a man who wants to remake the Soviet Union. We have read of, and seen horrible images, of the evacuations of civilians being halted because in the midst of ‘agreed’ ceasefires, we learn that we can’t trust the words of a big bully like Putin. I feel anger, frustration, sadness, and my heart is breaking for the children, the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, the young and the old who will be scarred mentally and physically by the injustices done to them by a neighbouring country. I also feel immensely proud of the strength, bravery and fight the Ukrainians are showing. I am amazed by Zelenskyj, a leader who is courageously fighting alongside his people, who is standing up for what is right, who is uniting, motivating and inspiring.

I am also proud of the bravery of the Russians who despite the fear of their own government and the repercussions, are standing up for what is right and taking to the streets to protest this war. So far over 12 000 brave men and women in 66 cities across Russia has been arrested trying to show their disgust at what is done in the name of their country.

Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev’s writes the message ‘No War Please’.

Apart from supporting organisations who works on the frontline in this humanitarian crisis, I do feel very little when I look at what one man and his protégées are inflicting on their own people through propaganda and fake news, and on their neighbours through bombs and bloodshed.

‘War is contempt for life’, is a line from a poem we did in school when I was younger. Nordahl Grieg wrote it to the youth, the generation growing up in 1936. ‘What is my shield against violence, what is my sword? Faith in this life of ours and the value of humanity… Don’t turn your face away from the need of others, reach out a helping hand… Defend the beautiful, the gentle and innocent…’

I might be little, but if all us little people stand up to injustice and show kindness, fight the good fight against hypocrisies and ‘dirty’ money buying it’s way into society, politics and sport, then our little bit becomes bigger. Together we are stronger! Together we will stand up for what’s right and reach out our hand any way we can!

PS. Don’t get me started on how little the UK have done for refugees so far. Makes my blood boil.

Becoming an adult!

2022 has already been happening for almost 3 weeks now. One big thing for me at the start of this year, has been to celebrate my daughter turning 18. Parent to ‘an adult’ seems like a massive leap for someone who still feels like they are winging the whole adult thing most of the time.

As you can imagine, I have been thinking a lot about growing up; about the things I know today that I wish I knew at the beginning of my adult journey. Working with young people and being the parent of teenagers, I am so aware of the pressure that they are put under, and for a lot of them the impact (and here social media plays a big role) this can have on their self-esteem, the way they perceive their abilities and the worth they put on themselves. I love to play a part (however big or small) in people developing to be the very best version of themselves. Helping to empower anyone to be a leader is to help them to; understand themselves, take personal responsibility, develop a more positive outlook on life, work on building confidence, recognizing strengths, finding the bravery to try stuff, and develop the habits that helps motivate you for success.

Whilst I was dealing with the idea of being the mum to an adult I came across something that has been whirring at the back of my mind, and it is still something I am chewing over. ‘Often who we are today stands in the way for the person we can be tomorrow.’

Who doesn’t have dreams they want to achieve, or goals they are working towards? New years resolutions anyone? When it comes to achieving goals it is often said that motivation is what get’s you started but it is the habits that keeps you going. We can all have good intentions for tomorrow and for the future, and it’s great to aim high! But the question we need to ask ourselves is; am I letting my feelings, my attitude and focus today hinder my progress towards the who I want to be?

So what would the me today want to tell the me at the beginning of my adult journey? I would say something along these lines: Unashamedly aim high at being the best version of yourself. Don’t limit yourself. Have fun! Listen well! Be honest -especially with yourself. Life won’t always be easy and sometimes things comes your way that you do not plan for: you can still live with purpose and authenticity, and please remember; it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help.

The power of the small wins

In my life I am often astonished how much impact it can have when I focus on the small steps and little wins. Working on the smallest of attitude changes, developing a new positive habit, really does make a massive impact on the way I feel about my day and also my sense of achievement. There is a Navy Seals officer, and we all know how though those guys or girls are, who gives a graduation speech where he tells the kids that the one advice he would give them is…… drum roll…… To make their beds in the morning. Make my bed? Why? Such a small thing? But imagine starting the day by having achieved one thing, and how that sets you up for the rest of the day! The little details matters!

David Brailsford

The Great British cycling team has been dominating medal tables in the last 4 Olympics. In this years Tokyo events they left with 12 cycling medals. If you follow the sport it is a bit hard to imagine, but there was a time when the team wasn’t so great or successful. In 2003 they brought in a guy called David Brailsford as the new performance director. At that time Tour de France had never been won by a British cyclist, and since 1908 the British team had only taken home one gold medal in the Olympics. So what did David do that changed the success of the team? He believed in a strategy he called ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’. The whole principle came from the idea that if you can break down everything into riding a bike, and then improve those by 1 percent, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.

I find it fascinating to read about the changes he and the coaching team made: it covered everything from equipment tweaking to teaching the best handwashing technique so the riders wouldn’t catch common colds. They even tested out the best pillow for the different riders so they could take them on their travels (I think they now even bring their own mattresses too). Did the pillow help win Tour de France or make riders into Olympic champions, probably not, but a cyclist that has a great night sleep will perform a little bit better than one that hasn’t been sleeping as well.

So I now have a picture of a a pillow as the lock screen on my phone. It is a little reminder to myself; what is the one thing I can do today that might not seem like a huge thing, but it is moving me towards something that matters to me, giving me the courage to grow and helping me experience progress.

As my favourite big eyebrow philosopher once said: The journey with a thousand miles begins with one step.

The power and beauty of Determination!

I love the Paralympics and this years Tokyo games really was no exception. So much of what happens is simply awesome, inspiring and often blows me away. The determination to compete and to overcome challenges, the love for their sports and what it gives them as athletes and people really is something we can all learn from.

One story that really spoke to me was watching young Ellie Robinson attempt to defend her title from Rio in the 50m butterfly (S6). After coming fifth this year she gave an interview that was so beautiful and full of emotions. What struck me when watching this, is how we define OUR stories! Our measure of success and where we set our sights should be personal and not determined by anyone or anything else. Ellie’s fifth place really is a story of triumph and of determination, of deciding her own end to a chapter of her life. Nothing can hold you back if you have a strong enough desire, and in this instance the words ‘even if it meant crawling on my hands and knees to the starting block’ shows us just that. The refusal to quit and to face challenges with confidence is the a mark of a true Champion. So yes Ellie has all the rights to be proud of her achievement, and I for one am also proud of her!

Hope is a Journey

Since I last wrote on here I have been working on an exciting project that has taken up a lot of my time. I have been listening to audiobooks and podcasts, researching and reading articles. As I have been pondering I have also looked at my own life and lessons learnt in light of all these things. The concept I have wrestled with is hope.

For me hope was always something outside of myself that I could stretch towards and have faith in. Hope was an anticipation, an optimistic state of mind, a want, and a deep desire for something almost impossible to imagine. A clear, bright light at the end of a tunnel that calls you and draws you in. That was how I would have defined hope; Hope for something better, a solution or a favourable outcome.

When I remember back to my own situation of years with hospital appointments, trying new treatments, experimental drugs and therapies, meeting with doctors and specialists who were interested in my case, hope was something that again and again was being crushed. I do remember reading the proverb that says ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick’, and I thought it was best to stop hoping all together because it just became another battle to fight. Rather than the light becoming brighter and the end of the tunnel seeming closer, I felt that the light was disappearing all together. I started to always prepare myself for the situation not changing, and the little ray of ‘maybe’ was pushed to the back to not cause any more disappointments. I called it staying realistic, and I found that was a lot easier to live with then clinging to fragile hope that never materialised.

However, the more I have been pondering and trying to understand how to balance hope and realism, I have understood one really important thing. Realistic thinking is where real hope is found! When we face the facts of our situations, whatever that may be, and we spend energy on the things we can control (accepting the things we can’t change), that’s when we can find the balance between realism and aspiration. Once we open ourselves up for realistic optimism that’s when we can start to pursue small victories and one percent growths: those little changes that can make a big difference to our motivation and can drive us forward (even a small step forward is still moving)! Suddenly hope becomes a journey to take alongside and through all the anguish, pain and longing! And a journey is much more manageable then believing in magic!

I will write more on this in another post as well as explore how we can practically use realistic optimism to move forward.