Last year was quite a write off for me, losing my mum and going through a significant operation, left me feeling burnt out at the end of the year.
Thankfully, this year has started much better for me.
Recently, I met adventurer Alex Staniforth on our empowered podcast, and we released this episode on Monday. Listening to his story really fired me up, and inspired me, even if our challenges are worlds apart.
Let me introduce you to Alex…
Suffering from a form of epilepsy at 9 years old shattered his confidence and self-esteem leading to panic attacks and anxiety. Bullying at school and a lifelong stammer, Alex labelled his mindset at the time as a “victim mindset.”
However, that all changed. A fateful encounter with paragliding on holiday unearthed a passion for the outdoors. More specifically a calling to climb Mount Everest.
Alex went on to climb Mont Blanc in 2012 aged 17 and headed to the Himalayas for the first time in 2013 to attempt Mera Peak. He was ready for the big one.
Alex attempted to climb Everest twice, experiencing the biggest consecutive natural disasters in Mount Everest history. In 2015 the Nepal earthquake trapped him on the mountain for two days.
After a lot of soul searching, he rediscovered his purpose. In July 2017 he became the fastest person ever to climb all 100 UK county tops, and many ultra-endurance challenges have followed.
He has also found the time to inspire others and is a motivational speaker for schools and businesses, despite his stammer. Having suffered with mental health challenges since a teenager, he also co-founded Mind Over Mountains. This is a mental health charity, helping others to restore their well-being naturally by getting involved in outdoor experiences.
The podcast is a ‘Must listen,’ and it has left a profound impression on me for several reasons…so here are my top 3:
The power of challenge
Alex set his first bold climbing challenge to prove himself wrong. He decided to choose his own challenges, rather than battling the mental health challenges that he had faced since an early age. Alex is a living example of the positive benefits that creating our own stretching challenges can have both on ourselves and others. This helps us to challenge our own limiting beliefs. It also acts as an example for others to follow. Alex continues to inspire people through his challenges and work with Mind over Mountains. In Curium’s leadership programme Voyage, we know ourselves the power of effective goal setting and using challenges to increase our resilience. Alex puts a great lens on this.
Inspire is a key value for us in Curium, so when we come across someone who inspires us, we want to learn more. Alex dedicates a lot of his time to inspiring others. Encouraging people to conquer ‘Everest’ in their own life, and never settle for basecamp.
You will notice how humble and grateful he is for his own experiences; however difficult they are. There is a real desire to understand and help others. He inspires people through his own stories and experiences.
As well as talking to school children and businesses, he also shows that “actions speak louder than words. He has raised over £85,000 for charity through various adventures. He carried the London 2012 Olympic Torch through Chester, won a Pride of Britain Regional Fundraiser of the Year award. He cofounded the charity Mind Over Mountains and is an ambassador for the YHA (Youth Hostel Association) England & Wales. And do you know what? He is not going to stop there!
Mental wellbeing, combining nature, inspiration, and space to talk
We asked him why he puts so much energy into his charity?
When he was going through a mental health issue himself, it took longer to access NHS mental health services than it did to cycle and run 5,000 miles around the 100 highest county tops of the United Kingdom (72 days). That is when the lack of support available truly dawned on him. He became determined to help others access the outdoors to manage their mental health too.
This is a fantastic way to combine the power of nature, inspiring mentors, as well as a natural coaching space to allow people to open up and share what they needed to share. Remember, “what gets said on the mountain, stays on the mountain.”
I, and my fellow coaches at Curium, encourage walking coaching and even walking meetings too. We have seen how beneficial this can be. After speaking to Alex, I commit to doing this more and even weave into change and people programmes, starting with my own team!
Alex has reminded me how powerful stories are. People like him, who are willing to be vulnerable, and share everything that they have been through, are a force for good for anyone and everyone.
I for one, will be taking this enlightening view of his world into my life and work at Curium.
If you haven’t listened to it yet, it’s called “Redefining resilience through adversity” here is a link to the page, scroll to the bottom: https://curiumsolutions.com/news/the-empowered-podcast/