2016 draws to a close and “New Year, New Me” pledges clog my Facebook timeline as we reflect and set new goals: be it to lose weight, start a new job or take up Yoga.
After boozy office parties, over-indulgence and those sickly festive coffee menus with enough sugar to fuel an ice cream van, it’s no wonder gym memberships will soar through the roof. Sadly, it’s often the case that this fresh enthusiasm will scarper faster than politicians did after Brexit and our health clubs will resume normality. We are the result of the choices we make, and unfortunately, we are surrounded by people who may be resentful towards those who made better choices.
I don’t geddit … why wait until the 1st of January to make a change and improve our lives?
Earlier this year, I went on a course called the Starfish Project. It changed my life. It teaches a costal breathing technique to help control stammering. I’ve stammered since a toddler and never known what normal speech feels like – the simple privilege of being able to greet people, say my own name, socialize properly, make friends… the list goes on.
Here’s the weird bit. I’m a motivational speaker! This year I’ve delivered 44 talks to over 2,500 people. My last was hosting and presenting a corporate awards event in London. Most stammerers are ‘covert’, meaning we change words we can’t say with such ninja precision that you probably don’t even notice our stammer. However, when I have to announce the winner of an award (written on a card in my hand), changing a name probably wouldn’t go down too well…
Thanks to Starfish, I was in control. Truthfully, I began speaking three years before the course; but it has taken me to a whole new level. Most of all, it’s the small victories, like finally being able to make a phone call or order what I really want at a café.
Whatever your goal for 2017, focus on these small victories. Just like climbing a mountain with small steps, one at a time. For example, at half marathons, you get the runners who set off too fast and sound like they’re having a coronary by mile one – never mind thirteen. In one race this year, I made the same mistake, burnt out and bailed before the finish. To be fair, I was so dosed up on anti-depressants that even getting to the start line that day was a victory in itself.
So, a few weeks later I went back and changed my approach, focusing one mile at a time and not caring who overtook me (barring the guy dressed as Scooby Doo), knocking five minutes off my PB and winning my age group.
Every worthwhile goal will have challenges, and they don’t care how hard we’ve worked. Just when you think you’ve reached the top, the stammer will rears its ugly head, like last week, when flying back to Gatwick Airport from South Africa. Ironically I’d visited a Starfish friend out there, and how cool it is to have lifetime membership of a community across the world; who understand and face the same speech challenges as you. Two long-haul flights with a screaming contest conducted by a nearby kid would leave anyone despondent, but something caught the attention of a customs officer who asked where I’d flown in from. Not a single word came. Bugger. I can almost hear the internal dialogue saying: “No! Not now, sod off!”.
The stammer had other ideas. My case was dragged onto an inspection table, but whilst being quizzed her intimidating stare actually proved useful (since eye contact is part of the Starfish technique). Although soon sent on my way, I could have felt frustrated. But if we focus on the small victories, we’ll see just how far we have come. We can still fall off the mountain. It’s how we get back up again.
2016 has been a great and challenging year. Notably releasing my first book Icefall (now award-winning), organising Walk4Nepal, raising £25k for charity, new ambassador roles for YHA and PHASE Worldwide, a Cho Oyu expedition, a 24-hour time trial, rediscovering my love for running and of course, new friends made. Let’s just ignore the fact that Donald Trump became president…
2017 will bring my biggest challenge yet, supporting YoungMinds, and see so many people achieve their own Everest in life – the young, wise, keen adventurers, and those that haven’t tried.
Special thanks to Westgrove Group for continuing to stand in my corner and support my mission. To all my followers, sponsors, family, friends, mentors and clients, I’m hugely grateful for your support in 2016, thank you, and I wish you all a great Christmas.
Embrace your challenges in 2017 or let them have you. It’s your choice.