Going slow to go fast

We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare. About how if we set off too fast we may feel like we’re winning, but then we get tired and need to take a nap – we wake up disoriented and then can’t quite pick ourselves up again to get going in the right direction and the race is lost.

I know this to be true when running races, but it’s often how my days feel like to me. I get up with a flourish, start attacking my to do list and am exhausted by lunch time. In a drive to shoe I’m being productive, I battle on and then call it quits early because I’m not achieving anything. As well as being tiring, it can be frustrating.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been taking a different approach. My mornings have been slower to get started “properly” (as I would have described it). My first activity has been creative – writing – not for business but for pleasure. A challenge to write a short story – no limits as to how long or by when – meant I had to find time to do it, to write at least a few words. And some mornings it’s been lots of words, which has been great, and when I run out I can stop and pick it up again the next morning.

Sometimes you’ve got to force yourself to find the time to do the things that you enjoy and once you start it’s amazing how time can get away from you, and how you can forget about any stresses or anxieties whilst you’re doing it. My mornings feel like they’ve been extended and this in turn makes it feel as if the daily routine has shifted, with a later lunch (coinciding with my slump time) and picking up again later.

By owning my mornings a bit more – whether by exercising, stretching or creating – and by starting the day more slowly it can set the tone to be more deliberate about what I do, feels more productive and may get me to my goals faster.

Any significant change will take daily actions. Agree a daily action with yourself and every day you make it happen put a visible mark in your calendar. That way, you won’t want to break the chain and it will give you an extra incentive to keep going.


Can I help you to get to your goals faster? If you’re feeling overwhelmed and too busy to do the things you want, send me a message to arrange a chat about how I can help you feel calmer and see the actions you need to take to start doing your dreams.

I could never…own an olive grove

Many of us yearn for the outdoor life, of living off the land and working with nature so I was very excited to speak with Fiona Makowski who is doing just that. Freshfield Grove is an olive grove in Tasmania, Australia and Fiona shows how important it is to have a balanced partnership around you who can support and challenge you. This is a classic case of being able to join the dots looking backwards and needing to persevere when the situation isn’t quite right – like when you have a job in Sydney but your passion is in Tasmania.

Have a watch to see how we need to embrace biodiversity and when there’s so much advice out there, how do you know what to follow.

 

You can find out more about Freshfield Grove here and find them on Facebook too.

If you’ve been inspired by this story and want to start doing your dreams, then contact me and I can help you get started.

I could never…cycle around the world

“Oh, I know the person you mean”. Ben Evans is always at least half a lap ahead of me at our local parkrun so it’s no wonder that it took a while before our paths actually crossed. But when we did meet I found a bundle of energy, derring-do and beautiful words. Ben currently holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon in a full body dinosaur outfit and has cycled from Cairo to Cape Town.

These are his words telling how our epiphanies may be subtler than we expect, and describing the freedom that we feel when we follow our dreams, even if we don’t know what will happen when we get there.

“I’m on a bicycle. On one side of the road is the River Nile, on the other the Sahara Desert. Kids run into the street and shout at us in Arabic and men in robes smile and wave Kalashnikovs.  I have 800km to go until the Sudanese border, 11,000km to Cape Town and no idea what I’m going to do at the end. I can’t stop smiling. What’s a guy from Guildford, with no exceptional talents, doing cycling from Cairo to Cape Town?

Rewind five years.

It’s a Monday morning. I’m walking to work, about to light up my usual morning cigarette. Its raining. I’m thinking about a programme that I watched last night about a guy from Scotland who’d cycled from Cairo to Cape Town. I’d like to do that one day, I thought. I don’t think I will, but it would be a damn sight better than downing pints in an empty pub on Sunday night.

My cigarette tastes terrible. Why do I do this? It doesn’t make me feel good.

I throw the cigarette in the river. Maybe I won’t do this anymore. Maybe I need to do something more interesting.

I know that sometimes people have these profound epiphanies when they decide to change their lives, but this was all that happened to me. I gave up smoking, I stopped going to the pub on a Sunday (still only Friday and Saturday) and I bought myself a bike and started riding it at the weekends. That was it. My life stayed pretty much the same, but took a slight change in direction, from the bottom of a pint glass to the possibility of an amazing adventure, cycling around the world.

A few months later, I was made redundant from my job. I thought this was a sign, so I decided to book a flight to California and cycle from San Francisco to L.A. I didn’t know how to fix a puncture, I hadn’t ridden over thirty miles before and the longest I’d spent abroad was a four day bender at Oktoberfest in Munich, but it felt like something I needed to do. I’d be 30 in two months, so it seemed like I had to this now, or I never would.

It was the best few weeks I’d ever had. Although I was riding around a hundred miles a day, up mountains, along highways, through some insalubrious areas of downtown Los Angeles, I experienced the world like never before. The California coast was stunning and cycling felt like the best way to experience it – breathing the air, listening to the sound of the waves, feeling every climb and descent as the highway snaked along the Pacific.

Then I returned home, and suddenly the pub, a pizza and twenty B&H didn’t seem so appealing anymore. I’d done something pretty awesome. I could do something else even more awesome. Cycling around the world seemed like something I could really do.

For the time being I had a new job to start, so this wasn’t an immediate proposition. I didn’t want to lose the fitness I’d built up however, so I decided to enter a half marathon instead. With all the cycling, I felt that I’d be able to hold my own.

I ran in 1hr 29mins. It hurt, but then at the end of it I felt great. Running was brilliant – kinda like drinking, except with a couple of hours of pain for good feeling for the rest of the day. I wanted to do more of it.

I ran another half marathon and joined a running club. Then, after a year of training and competing, I ran my first marathon – Brussels, in 2 hrs 43 mins. It was an amazing experience and it meant I could qualify for the London Marathon, something I’d never even dreamed of doing.

 

I ran it the next year in 2 hrs 38 mins. Over the next four years I ran around fifteen marathons – London, Berlin, New York – and completed them at elite – sub-2.45 level. I hit a 2hrs 37 mins at the Boston Marathon – the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world; I was invited to run the Test Marathon for the Olympics; I beat Paula Radcliffe in a 10k. Each time it felt more amazing and each time I felt privileged to be able to be doing it.

The main dream though, was still eluding me. Everything had started from that dream – to cycle around the world, but now my life was okay – I had a steady job, I lived in a nice, Surrey town and I had a great new hobby that I was really good at.  I couldn’t just quit it all, could I?

It took another year for me to finally build up the courage.  I’d run a couple more marathons but the feeling wasn’t quite the same as it was at the start. I was doing the same training routes, day in day out, and I was running the same races, week-in week-out.  I had one more ambition – to break a fancy dress world record at the London Marathon, but it didn’t feel like the right time to do it. I was also scared – of quitting my job, of leaving my home, of doing something out of the ordinary and not knowing what would happen at the end.

I found a company called Tour De Afrique that organised a group cycle ride from Cairo to Cape Town. They had a trip leaving in five months. I tried to convince myself of all the reasons that I couldn’t do it, but I couldn’t really think of any. I had no ties, no mortgage, no wife and kids, a job that was going nowhere. I was young enough, fit enough, stupid enough.

So I booked myself on, and suddenly a huge weight fell from my shoulders. It was right. This is what I’d wanted to do, for so long. I’d finally done it.

I quit my job, gave notice on my house, sold all my possessions and booked myself a flight to Cairo.

Cycling the continent of Africa was hard, harder than I could ever have imagined. In Sudan the daytime temperature reached over 50 degrees, in Ethiopia we climbed mountains over 5000m, in Namibia and Tanzania there were no roads for thousands of miles. I got sick; I was bitten by a spider; I was run over. I broke three ribs, had five stitches and had my leg lanced and drained in the back of a truck. Cycling was hard and 12,000km is an unimaginably long way. And yet, every day I was smiling. How could I not? The desert was serene, the mountains sublime, the night sky filled with stars and there were elephants and giraffes on the side of the road. Every day was the best day of my life.

Elephant

Four months later I was cycling towards Table Mountain, my bike, my legs, my body still operating, and my mind as happy as it had ever been. I’d seen the world. I’d done what I dreamed of doing.

This is wrote in my diary that night:

The tour cycling existence is one of perfect liberation – no bills, no work, no responsibilities, no hours or days – which leaves only two things to discover – Africa and yourself. While you are experiencing the former it’s amazing how the latter comes out.  If you are lucky, that person will be someone you like, and if you are even luckier other people will like it to.

I am lucky. I’ve found that person. I need to make sure I keep it, forever.

I didn’t do anything amazing – I just stayed true to myself, and did what I thought was right. Intuitively I knew who I was, but it took the something like the tour across Africa to remind me of this.

When I got home and I booked myself into the London Marathon and applied to break the world record for a marathon dressed as a dinosaur. A year later I was running past Buckingham Palace in a full body Tyrannosaurus Rex outfit, while a woman from Guinness waited with TV Cameras and a certificate. For some reason it didn’t feel that strange.

Now I have new dreams and new ideas. I’m about to cycle the Camino de Santiago in Spain and next year I’m looking to cycle from Kathmandu to Lhasa in Tibet. Everyone has dreams, but so many times we tell ourselves that we can’t do what we need to do to achieve them. I know now that those limits don’t exist and it’s only when we live those dreams that we really feel alive.

Happy living.”

 

I could never…create a life I LOVE

Four years after moving into my house, I finally found the perfect frame. I found it because I actually allowed myself the time to look for it. My first experience of working with Selina Barker led me to make some small aesthetic changes to my house. It had been on my list since I’d moved in. I had the idea, I had the materials but I’d never got round to actually doing it. This may seem a frivolous anecdote and in some ways, that’s the point. The small things can have a massive effect. By finally giving myself permission to do something I’d wanted to do (and scheduling time to do it) the floodgates began to open for bigger, and slightly more significant, changes.

Selina Barker is the original Life Design coach and a co-founder of Project Love. In this conversation we cover topics including the journey to freedom and what it feels like at first, the importance of learning and growing, how we can benefit from collaborating and why we need to fill our lives with love.

It’s a long one, but a good one and worth diving in to understand how you can design a life you love.

Anything is possible. Explore your limits with me and start taking actions for some extra oomph in your life. Start here for details and get in touch.

Storytelling

At the age of 4 or 5, I’m snuggled up in bed waiting for the story from my lilac-covered “365 Bedtime Stories” book. I always hoped it was one of the short stories and not a poem, but either way, once the tale started I was enchanted until the end.  I’ve always been an avid reader, but telling stories myself had always been something I struggled with. This neatly fitted into the box I’d put myself in: “not creative”.  Creative writing, making up a story, was something I wasn’t comfortable with at all.  It always seemed so ridiculous, so false, which is why my stories always ended up with me waking up and finding out it was all a dream.

But what if those dreams could become real? I recently participated in The Story Party – an event where people tell stories – which was a bit of a surprise to me, as well! There is a theme for each event and three rules: the story must be true, the story must be personal to you and there must be a message for the audience.  My main reason for volunteering (yes, nobody made me do it) was to start getting comfortable with public speaking. It was one of my first actions for exploring my limits this year.  And I’ve learnt so much more than the fact that I can stand in front of an audience and speak clearly.

 

My life is my story. I don’t have to imagine things, or make things up. I can tell what’s happened and I can choose my own adventure to create what happens next. But who wants to hear my story? Quite a few people, as it turns out. Because people like stories. It’s a tradition and a culture across the world. It’s how we learn and it’s a medium that’s accessible to all. And it’s really powerful.

You can learn a lot about yourself from your story and from telling it (writing, speaking, drawing or musically). You will unburden yourself and free yourself to move on to the next page or, when you’re ready, the next chapter. And your plans become what happens next.

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Reading by the campfire

What will happen next in your story? You can take the next step to start doing – and when you wake up it will be real and not just a dream.

If you want help to figure out the framework of your next chapter, get in touch and we can chat about how to do it.

I could never…volunteer

Back in the day, my impression of volunteers was of elderly ladies with time on their hands being seen to be “doing good”. I hasten to add, this is not my impression now.  Having given my time for different causes from packing hampers to be delivered to those in need at Christmas, to project management in a conservation charity and latterly in a variety of roles at sporting events I’ve definitely gained as much as I’ve given.  I’ve got experience from working in different organisations, I’ve helped people to run distances from 5K to over 30 miles and met a great bunch of people and this has made my life richer.

linda
Linda Cairns at the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014

I spoke to Linda Cairns, who I met at our local parkrun – an advert for the benefits of volunteering if one were needed – and we talked about her experience of volunteering, the London Olympics and how volunteering has led to her getting her perfect job.

Grab a cuppa and listen in to get motivated to find your place in your community.  We recorded this after a parkrun in a sports centre café, so there’s a little background noise, but that’s all part of the parkrun spirit.

 

Inspired but not sure where to start?

Firstly read Linda’s blog: http://poweredbyvolunteers.net/wp/ and then check out https://do-it.org/ ; and here https://www.joininuk.org/ or just get in touch the next time your see something going on and wonder how you can get involved.  I did just that to entertain a local lunch and activity club for the over 60s – they were delighted that I’d offered and I got an opportunity to practice my flute performance.

I could never… travel on a budget

David Fitzpatrick has a career history in the hospitality industry – managing hostels of varying sizes across Australia, amongst other things.  So who better to give the low down on how to travel on a budget. He’s currently taking time off work to travel around Europe and we caught up in London so I could get some top tips on budget travel.

Find out which days are best for cheap flights, what to look for when choosing accommodation and how to find the best things to do at your destination.

 

“Hostels are a bubble of people having the time of their life; doing the things they dreamt about.”

Book a flight, pack and go. Do the thing you’re dreaming about.

And if that’s not enough, here’s a little bit more: who knew that avocados were so crucial to creating the perfect trip?

Ask questions

What’s going through your mind right now? If you’ve been randomly browsing the internet looking for something, anything, then Welcome. (If you’re deliberately here, then welcome too).  I expect you’ve been looking for ideas for something to do. Something that feels right, that answers the question, is this it? You have a quiet voice telling you that you want to do it and a louder voice telling you that you could never do it.  So you carry on reading  and dismissing ideas until you come to the next one.

But what if you give some power to that quiet voice? The one that says I’d like to try, I could just give it a go.

Ask questions, gather the evidence to convince yourself and anyone else who’s bothered. Ask why you’re/they’re bothered – do they want you stay exactly the same person, because if you can do it there’s no excuses for them not to do their thing and step out of their comfort zone too.

Ask yourself why you want to do it, and by the way, just for fun is OK.

Ask how to do it, ask someone who’s done it before, ask someone else who wants to do it, ask the internet (but I think real people are better).  Refine your ideas, be clear on what you want to do.

Ask questions.  If you do this, your idea becomes real.  It gets closer to happening and you can start to say you’re doing not dreaming.


If this sounds like you or anyone you know, struggling with where to start – too many choices and an overwhelm of possibilities, get in touch.  I can help you to simplify your options and get you started.

I could never…busk

What a gem!  It’s the (late) summer of 2016 and I was eating lunch outside with a choice of the riverside, or a shady bench in the town centre.  I chose the latter and found myself parked up next to David Hamer who happened to be setting up his french horn for a bit of busking. Here’s a snippet of my lunchtime musical accompaniment:

 

Nothing unusual about that, until you realise that David is 13, plays in the National Children’s Orchestras and, as it turns out has some pretty wise words for anyone . I checked with mum, Fiona, before having a quick chat with him about his approach to busking, being nervous and just getting on with things.

I was totally inspired by this chance meeting and agree wholeheartedly with those words of advice: it doesn’t matter if people judge you, you’ll probably never see them again. Inspired enough for me to busk?  Well, I could never do that…

Be Inspired

We have just come to the end of an Olympic cycle with the closing ceremony from the Games in Rio.  For the last 3 weeks I have suspended my “no TV during the week” rule and been soaking up as much sporting activity as I can. I have been amazed, as usual, by the achievements of the athletes and can appreciate the hard work that has gone into being the best in each discipline, and this has inspired me to be the best I can be. I’ve been more aware than ever of a voice in my head saying “an Olympian wouldn’t slow down/stop/ not bother” for all sorts of things.

And this is my form of being inspired – one of the first steps to turning my dreams into my reality: forming ideas and letting myself dream.  It’s about finding people being the best that they can be on that day and knowing that if they can do it, so can I.

And what better example than the Olympics?  With Michael Phelps wining his 23rd gold medal in the pool contrasting with bronze medallist Edward Ling who had his return flight booked so that he could get back to his day job as a farmer and bring in the harvest.  Or perhaps there’s Usain Bolt who brings joy and fun to the track as well as fast times.  There were several examples of past Olympians having inspired current Olympians – of people daring to believe and being inspired by their heroes.

So go, find your inspiration and dare to dream and dream big.  Enjoy the process, but be prepared to work for it.  It might look easy, but as Michael Phelps said:

“My success is nothing out of the ordinary.  It’s goal setting, believing in myself and not giving up till I get there.”

Ordinary people. Extraordinary things.

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