What do you stand for?

I am often asked about how I went from working full-time to living the way I do now and it's really not a simple answer. So I have decided to create a series of weekly blogs that unpick my journey and hope this may provide inspiration in some way for you too. 

I used to dread going back to work after the weekend or a holiday. I felt deeply unfulfilled with a constant nagging feeling that gnawed away and brought up the same questions,  "Is this it? Is this what you survived cancer do with with your life? Is this really all you've got to offer the world?"

I'd spend my commutes dreaming about a new life and toying with possibilities of what I might do instead. I wanted feel better about myself, my future and the contribution I was making to the world. 

It was the risk of failure that stopped me from making change. The good intention that came from being strong and ignoring my heart meant I was becoming more out of touch with my needs. I was spiralling further into unfulfilment yet I was desperately seeking   more meaningful connections and personal growth - I just couldn't access it.

And now? I wake up feeling excited about the day ahead. I'm passionate about the mission I'm on and don't really consider it work - I'm just investing time in something I love and issues I care deeply about. 

The journey has been far from easy but after finally quit my job in 2016 - the year after I was diagnosed with cancer - without any plan for the future I can say I have found a rhythm I'm at peace with. Back then, by all accounts, I had already failed. I walked away from a well paid job and couldn't tell anyone why or what was I was planning next. I'm sure my family thought I was having a breakdown from the fallout of my diagnosis and, in some ways, maybe I was.

My work leaving drinks at work - a few tears goodbye that night

By the time I came to quitting work I had developed a quiet confidence in knowing that I'd got through the worst, most draining experience of my life with cancer so felt I could deal with anything thrown at me down the line. The future was uncertain but there was one thing I was convinced about -  I couldn't ignore that anxious itch inside anymore. 

What cancer hadn't already stripped of my identity, quitting my job finished it off.  I struggled to recognise who I was initially and it took time to construct a new version of myself and understand what I stood for and valued - a journey I'm still on today.

How did I work through it? I considered aspects of life where fear held the balance of power, working out if the perceived security it provided was worth giving up. Ultimately I had to allow myself to believe that the unknown life outside the existing narrative I was living in would be better.

We’re all hardwired to avoid change. We don't want to deliberately expose ourselves to anything that might threaten our routine, identity or security but it's by doing exactly this that we eventually come to a place of fulfilment.  

In the time I had after quitting work I did a lot of paddle boarding - the one thing I knew I enjoyed - whilst I mulled over and questioned what I wanted to do... and so began the unwitting start of my 'second career'. Funny how things work out! 

Our lives are as big as we dare to make them.

How can you start that journey yourself?


Firstly, and very simply decide what you stand for. Whatever lights you up - follow it. Whatever makes your shine sparkle - grab it. Release yourself from expectations of others and live by your own design. Locate that little voice within, let it rise up and listen to whatever it's telling you.

Paddling in dense fog on Windermere

Your head and heart will always be in a push-pull. We all want to feel accepted, safe and secure, it's basic human condition. It's only when desire for growth and self-expression outweigh the former that will feel empowered and strong enough to make a change. We all have a threshold for the mundane and we all, at some stage, reach a breaking point before taking action. It's not about turning our lives upside down - I realise mine was a drastic measure - but we do all need to give ourselves the time to listen to what we want and then act on it. We owe ourselves that much.

Only when you committed to stand up for a purpose greater than yourself will the bravest part of you rise up.

Think about how you define success. Does that align with who you are? Most of the time we've bought into a measure that revolves around superficial accomplishments and material possesions. These are external markers that place us firmly on a never ending treadmill of slogging away but never arriving! 

Success that emanates from a deeper place driven by a desire to find true fulfillment and clarity over what authentic living means is the starting point for something more meaningful. 

Views across the Atlantic Ocean

Of course, a comfortable life is easy but it's not always right. We only get one shot - as cliche as it sounds, it's so true. 

Live the best and most authentic way you can in the context of something bigger and more profound than your own ego and sense of pride - you'll reap the benefits,  I promise. .  

Next blog: How to redefine your success… 

Silencing the inner critic

Yesterday I ran 6 kilometers. I realize that, in itself, this is largely unremarkable. Especially as I'm about to tell you that I’ve been running that same distance 2-3 times a week for the last month.

Yesterday’s run was by no means noteworthy. It wasn’t particularly fast and I wasn’t racing up  hills. But what was worth noteworthy, however, was the way I felt before this run (and all the other 6ks that have preceded it).

Every time I'm due to train (I'm aiming to do my first long-distance run later this year, but more on that on a seperate blog this weekend) I undergo a mental battle with an inner voice trying to convince me otherwise. It tells me that I have a million more important things to do, or that I'm not getting any better, or I'm not a natural runner so what's the point?  Getting myself in the mindset of wanting to train, and silencing my inner critic can be a huge challenge. 

In scenarios where I feel as though I’m pushing my comfort zone, that feeling of fear kicks in and the little voice of negativity rises, willing me against the decision I've made. It’s a realization that what I’m about to do is unnatural to me. It's going to either hurt, or make me uncomfortable – or both!  These feelings all come down to one thing. I’m scared. I'm nervous that I won’t hit my goals, or I won’t be good enough, or that I will fail.

The only way to stop the negative noise is to give in to it, but that would mean stopping altogether. I don’t want to do that. That would be the safe option – letting a fear of failure override the opportunity I have to succeed.

Every day I get up and I have a choice of which voice I listen to. I can give up, or I can push through and remind myself why I'm doing it, why training for this run is so important to me (I'll explain this fully in a seperate blog soon).  It's down to me to make the right choice and face up to my fears and pursue the dreams that matter most to me. If it works out I know it will feel so good, and if it doesn't - at least I had the courage to try.

Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.
There is no illusion greater than fear.
Lizzie Carr running on Box Hill view point

That’s the beautiful thing about adventure, and what I have also found with running. No matter how experienced we all are, or how fast we run, how technical we climb, how sharp we shred, it forces everybody to square up to themselves and confront fear in a way they otherwise wouldn’t ever have to.

In order to get stronger, go further and finish faster I need to challenge my perception of what I think I can achieve, and learn that no matter what I do, or how far I go, there will always be a voice in my head telling me I suck. It's about learning to accept that, and channel the negativity to fuel my ambitions. 

My plan now is to up the ante and round next week off with my first 10k finish. And when I do that I'll book my first half marathon for a few weeks time. That means a lot of hard work battling my inner demons. I might not be able to achieve these goals, and I’ll probably suffer en route as I build up to it; I already feel scared - but I’ll do it anyway. 

Lizzie Carr at Box Hill Surrey

The Antidote to New Year's Resolutions

 

 

Having a long-term vision of the future and goal setting to achieve that is pointless.

Bold statement? It may sound defeatist but the truth is we don’t have control of the future. The only two things we control are our thoughts and our actions. No amount of planning or goal setting is going to get us to our desired destinations if external variables aren’t playing ball, so let’s all just chill out a bit.  

 

I had my life all mapped out five years ago and New Year was an important time to reflect, evaluate and set goals for the following year based on my achievements and perceived failings. At that time I was in a happy relationship and career climbing to buy me the lifestyle I was striving for. Cancer was the curve ball that ruined everything – all my plans had been scuppered overnight.
 

I got better and rebuilt my life again but had given up on my vision for the future. I had dealt with the unwanted feelings of unfamiliarity and uncertainty that cancer brings and the experience re-shaped my outlook entirely.

 

“Uncertainty is where things happen. It is where the opportunities — for success, for happiness, for really living — are waiting.”

 

I continue to set myself short-term goals that align with who I am, what I value and ultimately what makes me feel good. Recently I wrote a blog about my struggles with anxiety and the response was incredible – so many people could relate to it – but that got me thinking about resolutions.

 

We’re in the midst of an anxiety epidemic that all comes down to the expectations we place on ourselves to live a positive, happy life ALL. THE. TIME.

 

It’s no longer acceptable to feel bad or a bit miserable anymore, and even less so to express it publicly. Everything is screaming for us to live in a constant state of happiness and if you don’t, you feel even worse.

 

I feel bad for feeling bad, but why shouldn’t I feel OK about feeling bad sometimes?

 

If we go into 2017 obsessing over goals and setting expectations that serve to lessen our discomfort with uncertainty, isn’t that going to make it worse?

 

My resolution for 2017 is a simple one:

 

To give myself a break

 

·     Give up.

 

·     Try less hard.

 

·     Be wrong.

 

·     Lower my standards.

 

·     Care less.

 

"Of all the disappointments in life, there isn’t a kind more hazardous to happiness and more toxic to the soul than disappointing ourselves as we fail to live up to our own ideals and expectations."

 

If we keep envisaging the future and the illusion of a fairy tale ending we’re missing all the potentially new – and better - directions that might be possible in life.

 

If I hadn’t survived cancer, I wouldn’t have quit my job, I wouldn’t have started paddle boarding and I wouldn’t be living the life I am now. Life’s ambiguities and doubts are what living is about.

 

No matter how hard we try to create perfection in 2017 there’s going to be challenges, failings and under achievements for all us - because that’s the reality of life.

 

Let’s go into 2017 and embrace negativity and celebrate our failures, setbacks and disappointments because these will undoubtedly be the things that we’ll grow from the most.

Changing mindset

Lizzie Outside Walking

When I want to find stillness and solitude, I paddle board. It gives enough distance from land to muffle sounds and blur sights, offering a rare feeling of escape from the madness of life. 

Today, instead of paddle boarding, I went for a walk. I closed my front door without any plan or direction I put one foot in front of the other and covered seven miles, mostly in a daze. That's what I love about walking, it's so mindless that your subconscious kicks in and works its magic. 

I covered everything and nothing and was reminded how good it felt to have a clear head away from distractions. I started thinking about next year and what it might bring, but that usual feeling of excitement at possible opportunities was replaced by a thick sense of anxiety. The lack of control I have over my ambitions and future suddenly overwhelmed me. And the fear of my limitations, or worse, what people might think of me started to hold me back. I couldn't think clearly.

This time last year the feeling of uncertainty and unfamiliarity had me bursting with excitement, but not today. I had let my inner doubts take control and it made me question myself, my values and my ambitions. 

Getting back into a positive headspace can be tough when everything in your conscious mind is working against you. I struggled to work out what part of my thinking was rational, and what was a result of my flight response to the fear I was feeling. 

It took a lot to silence my mind and force it into a hard reset. I focused entirely on breathing, pushing out any thoughts that rose until my thinking was completely clear, concentrated solely on my breath. All responses to our thoughts - including these - are a conscious choice, but knowing that often doesn't make it any easier. I had the power to turn it round, but I had to find the will to do it. 

Getting over cancer taught me a lot about willpower and the importance of positive thinking. And every time I experience these wobbles I remind myself that I didn't survive it to let fear of my inadequacies dictate my decisions, or let what people might think hold me back. I quit my job last year to live the life I imagined for myself - and I'm determined to see that through.

I don't want to sound like a self-help book littered with cliches, but that walk - for the rollercoaster that it was - helped shape my mindset for the year ahead. I feel ready to start 2017 and all of the unknowns that it might bring, and I'm adopting a new outlook and I want to share it with you. 

Firstly, and most importantly, give less of a shit, and live a happier life for it.

Control the controllables and embrace change.
Don’t let fear dictate your decisions, use it to push yourself. It’s when we face what scares us most that we really come alive and realise just how much we’re capable of.

It's OK to be selfish to keep yourself sane and happy, and it's normal to doubt yourself and your abilities from time to time. 
But compromising on what you want to achieve from life, what you stand for and the very essence of who you are in order to fit expectations is always going to lead to unhappiness, resentment and frustration.

Let's make 2017 the Year of Fear.

Stand up to what scares you, embrace what inspires you and stick two fingers up to anything that tries to get in your way.

We're all stronger than we know.

Autumn Adventures in the Lake District

I arrived in the Lake District on Thursday afternoon to this view - if that wasn't enough to tempt me out onto the water on my paddle board, nothing would be. 

 View of Windermere from the window of my room at Low Wood Hotel.

View of Windermere from the window of my room at Low Wood Hotel.

I'd driven for almost four hours and although it was getting late in the day I wanted to stretch my legs. I quickly unpacked my stuff, picked up my paddle board bag and hurried down to the water's edge to pump it up. If I could get onto Windermere before sunset I'd be able to watch it go down behind the Coniston Fells from the water. 

 Sunset paddle on Windermere.

Sunset paddle on Windermere.

The winds were high and sudden gusts made the water quite choppy, but being in the middle of the water without a soul in sight watching the sunset in the distance was one of the main reasons I was drawn the to Lakes.  I paddled downstream and although it would have been nice to sit and watch the sun go down it was far too choppy for that. Instead, I jumped about a boat and got a lift back upstream, watching it from the deck instead. Don't judge me. 

Boating on Windermere

Instead of paddling back upstream against the gusty headwinds winds and darkening skies, I jumped aboard the boat and watched the final moments from there, relishing every second of it before heading off for a couple of evening beers. 

Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset.

I only had a couple of days in the Lakes, and I wanted to make the most of it so the next morning I got up before sunrise and headed down to the water again. 

 Launching from Low Wood Marina, Windermere with the hotel in the backdrop 

Launching from Low Wood Marina, Windermere with the hotel in the backdrop 

The heavy fog (I mean really heavy!) meant I didn't get to see anything that remotely resembled a sunrise. I'd also forgotten my neoprene socks and the pontoon had iced over that night as I stood on it barefoot, so launching into the water couldn't have come more quickly. 

 Low visility over Windermere.

Low visility over Windermere.

It was the first time I'd been out on the water in these kind of conditions - I couldn't see more than 10 metres in front of me and although it was quite intimidating at first, the water was so calm and peaceful that it actually felt quite magical. 

I spent the rest of the day on Iand taking on some trails and admiring the views overlooking the Lakes. 

 Lake Windermere with a snow topped view of Coniston Fells in the distance.

Lake Windermere with a snow topped view of Coniston Fells in the distance.

 Horsey! 

Horsey! 

 Autumn colours 

Autumn colours 

Later that evening I hit the water again to end my day with a relaxing paddle, the waters still remarkably calm. Sadly, the sunset wasn't as spectacular as my first evening but what I missed out on in views was made up for in company.  My fellow OS 'Get Outside' champ and badass adventurer Sean Conway, who entrusted me to take him out for his second ever SUP, joined me for the evening. 

 Paddling on Windermere with Sean 

Paddling on Windermere with Sean 

Paddle boarding on Windermere

We finished what was a pretty perfect way to spend a Friday evening back at Low Wood Hotel overlooking Windermere with a drink and an open log fire, pleased that neither of us had to test out the water temperatures.  

 Open log fire at Low Wood Hotel 

Open log fire at Low Wood Hotel 

The next morning I left to explore what other waters, meres and lakes were on offer and I wasn't disappointed. 

 Thirlmere Reservoir

Thirlmere Reservoir

 Overlooking Derwent Water 

Overlooking Derwent Water 

 Autumn colours on Derwent Water.

Autumn colours on Derwent Water.

I drove up to Thirlmere Reservoir where I spent the morning before heading towards Keswick for an afternoon on Derwent Water chatting to kayakers making the most of the mild weather, exploring the little islands that sit nestled amongst the water and watching the wildlife. 

 Goodbye Lake District

Goodbye Lake District

As I packed up my paddle board that afternoon the heaven's opened and the forecasted downpour finally arrived - just in time for my drive home. 

And that was the end of my 48 hour Lake District adventure. Until next time, Lake District. Well, in two weeks - I can't keep away for long! 

With thanks to:
Low Wood Hotel
Low Wood Marina
Cumbria Tourism

#PlasticPatrol | Part Two

In May this year I paddle boarded the length of England - 400 miles from Surrey to Lake District - all in the name of #PlasticPatrol.

During that 22 day challenge I photographed and location-tagged every single piece of plastic I saw along my route, and then uploaded them onto a map to scale my findings to locate the problem areas across our waterways.

Two months on and the mapping is complete. I've been able to identify where the hotspots are. As you might expect, the more densely populated areas (in and out of major towns and cities), the more plastic pollution I plotted. But there were some areas more severely polluted, and spanned over longer stretches of waterways, than others. 

But the four areas that stood out the most were: Coventry, Tamworth, Stoke-on-Trent and Manchester. 

The plan now? I'm going to re-visit these hotspots and give them a spruce up with support from double Olympic silver medalist, Rich Hounslow, who has just stepped off the plane from Rio.  

Starting on 19th September, we'll spend three days and picking up and removing all the plastic we encounter in these places. And I would LOVE you to join us. Whether that's on the water with your own board or canoe, or simply walking along the towpaths. How you do it doesn't matter, what's important is that you want to help make a difference.  

  • Tamworth - 19th September - 10.30am start
  • Nuneaton - 19th September - 2.30pm start
  • Stoke on Trent - 20th September - 10.30am start
  • Manchester - 21st September  - 10.30am start

All you need to do is keep an eye on the tracker on my homepage (it's very accurate, don't worry) and come and join us if and when we're nearby. 

You don't need to bring anything - the wonderful folk at Canal and River Trust have that all sorted. Just come along and get involved.

And what if you're not nearby or can't make it but want to pledge support? Fear not. The map I created to plot all my plastic findings is set up to now capture your #PlasticPatrol findings too. Simply make sure you use the hashtag and add your location to the photo and tah-dah, you've played a part too. 

Roll on Monday, and I hope to see you all over the next few days. 

Lizzie x