Read about Karen's incredible transition from geologist to adventurer, motivational speaker, and writer. She is currently training to make the 2012 Paralympic handcycling team and also wants to ski to the South Pole.
Writing my second book… title not yet decided, but maybe ‘Beyond Adventure’. It’s about how adventure and nature can help us find meaning and purpose, and remind us what is important.
Also training hard to try and make the 2012 Paralympic handcycling team; planning to ski (in a sit-ski as I’m paralysed) to the South Pole… and planning to raise £1 million for charity in the process, and involving school kids in the project.
For work, I have my own set-up, Inspire and Impact - ‘Positive impact speaking, coaching and development’. I work one-to-one and with groups, helping people achieve their aspirations, which is a real privilege and great fun. Every day is completely different.
If I don’t have to be anywhere (to coach, speak or facilitate a course) then I hang out in coffee shops with my laptop: reading, thinking, writing, developing ideas etc.
When I’m out and about, I might be talking to a group of school kids, or at a business conference, or working with people from social enterprises developing aspects of leadership. And in between I spend a lot of time training on my handbike or at the gym.
In my ‘previous’ life I was a geologist. I went to Uni after being told ‘girls in science’ is a good thing, and did a degree in chemistry and geology, and then a PhD in geology.
I worked as a geologist for a while with an oil company, and although it offered great opportunities, the meaning behind it all didn’t tick the boxes for me, and I found the corporate life a bit ‘stifling’.
I’m still glad for it though, as I learnt so much from it.
I guess for about ten years, though I never really dreamt it as such. I just knew I wanted to work with people, doing something that made a difference and felt meaningful – I didn’t know what that was exactly and its been a journey to get here.
Its like anything in life… you don’t even realise you’re doing what you ‘dreamt’ of because dreams grow and change all the time, and there is always more to look forward to.
I love what I do though, and feel very fortunate to have work that I get excited about getting out of bed for.
There wasn’t any epiphany, but a gradual process of becoming more dissatisfied with sitting in an office for long hours, doing a job that didn’t stack up for me – wasn’t aligned with my values, didn’t align with what I felt was my ‘purpose’, though I was still trying to figure that out too.
But I did go to Brazil, got operated on by a spirit surgeon with a rusty knife without any blood or anaesthesia, and after that I knew things would change.
Fear stops us from chasing what we really want to, but I knew after my Brazilian experience that only our own mind, our own ideas about what we should do, gets between us and what we really want to do.
We’re our own biggest barrier.
I re-trained whilst working. Did night classes, a distance learning course, and a Masters course over three years. Together these things skilled me up for a new direction, so that when I started working for myself, I had skills and some networks established.
The first year was a challenge because I also had some health issues going on. But because of my health problems I’d also had six months where I was being paid so that ended up being a huge help. It also made me realise, that if we’re not pursuing our purpose, (what feels right and good and interesting for us) then its very likely we’ll get ill! Disease is dis-ease, literally!
Hardest thing: It wasn’t really hard, because I knew it was right, but I did feel anxious occasionally, when you look in your diary and see you have no work next month, or one day… but now I just trust that it will come, and all will be okay. And so far it has been.
Best things: Feeling the fire inside i.e. doing something I have passion for, interest in, and can be creative with – whatever happens is down to me, and that’s a great buzz.
You’re in charge of your own life, and largely, can structure your day how it suits you. I train and cycle in the daylight and work in the evening – keeps SAD syndrome away (an issue when you live far north as I do!)
“Do what you love. Love what you do” Its actually the slogan of the ‘Life is Good’ brand, but what a great slogan.
Follow your heart. If you enjoy it, and you persevere, and believe in yourself, then surprising things happen. The universe seems to conspire to help you towards your goals.
The school of life. And inspiring books or individuals I’ve met along the way. There are so many books that might inspire you, but they’ll find you.