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Inspiring younger generations through STRIVE

4 November 2016: posted by BigChange

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2014 and 2016 STRIVER, mum, and fitness entrepreneur Lara Milward shares her experience on the Virgin STRIVE Challenge 2016 and what having a growth mindset meant to her throughout. 


“Your charity dollar is much in demand from many important causes. As one of those causes, Big Change is not the most simple concept to grasp. I suggest you think of it as a hedge fund for investing in the future of the U.K, with that future being our children.

Big Change funds projects that help young people to thrive in life , not just exams. Many of these projects support the development of a growth mindset in our young people – a mindset that allows you to see challenges as opportunities to grow. Carol Dweck, a prominent US psychologist, has proven that a growth mindset has a bigger impact on your ability to thrive in life than your socioeconomic status. As UK taxpayers, we should all be behind this drive to ensure our children are net contributors to society; vitally included in education, employment, and more.

It follows that if we want our children to have a growth mindset, then we adults must lead by example. This is where the Virgin Strive Challenge comes in.

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Lara and the Core Team at the top of Mount Etna on the VSC 2016.

The power of mindset

Strivers raise money for Big Change by physically challenging themselves beyond their proven ability and experience. Every member of the core team is living proof that a growth mindset can get you through fear, discomfort, threat of failure and struggle. For no-one in the team was it a given that the challenge was achievable. Not one of us had covered that distance before and we knew it would be attempted in the public eye.

Abdullah Puri, for example, had never seen the Swiss Alps before, let alone hiked over them; had only recently learned to swim, let alone attempt the Messina Straits after 2000km of cycling. Marie Heracleous had a tough start in life on a London Council estate yet did not let that prevent her being the first of generations to go to University. She is now Transformation Director at Capita. She had never used cleats or a road bike before STRIVE. She has now cycled the length of Italy. Boom. Growth – not fixed – mindset.

A mindset that took both of these core team members further than they ever thought they could – mentally, physically and emotionally. The glory of that personal achievement is now banked in their cerebral and spiritual account; an account that will always pay dividends not matter what they face in life.

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Marie Heracleous and Abdullah Puri on the VSC 2016.

Jumping into the deep end

As a mother of two, I was naturally drawn to Big Change and its mission. As a lover of both the outdoors and sport, I was also drawn to the physical challenge. As a woman I wanted to show females of all ages that #thisgirlcan. But I had to adopt a growth mindset even to get myself to the start line, for two reasons:

1 – I have children and a business and I am terrible at asking for help. How could I take a month off? I had to turn my language around – How do I join Strive for a month? I had to include my family in the process – we were going to STRIVE as a family for those that need support to STRIVE in life.

2 – I had never cycled with cleats before nor owned a road bike. Road biking has never appealed to me. I am nervous in the traffic, uncomfortable (read: mortified) in the outfit and find concentrating for hours on the wheel /tarmac mentally numbing. I am, if I am honest, used to being good at sports and near the front of the pack. On a bike I am distinctly average and constantly miles out of my comfort zone.

In 2014, I gritted my teeth for the eight days and 1000km between Calais and Verbier. I had only done two days training on the bike. This year it was 15 days and 2000km on the bike. Brutal. But saying ‘I am not good at cycling‘ is a fixed mindset statement. This attitude needed to change and  ‘grow’.

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Lara leading stretches on the VSC 2014.

A collective journey

I started the VSC 2016 in Group 2 (medium fast) because I had done the training. I had put energy, effort, discipline and grit into trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I was going to STRIVE harder on the bike and I would do better. I had spent many a Sunday on a bike for six hours and then got up and out Monday mornings, Tuesday lunchtimes, Thursday evenings and cycled laps of Richmond Park, on top of the 10 hours of BlitzFitness I run every week.

By Cycle 3 of STRIVE I ended up right at the back of all the cycle groups. Sir Richard enquired empathetically where my smile had gone. It was with my blood sugar in my boots … But that didn’t matter. We had done it. The core team had cycled the length of Italy – all of us with our differing abilities, backgrounds and modus operandi. It was as much a mental battle as a physical one. It was as much about mindset as it was about muscle. Rising to a challenge in life is transformative.

Core team member Bruno Ocampo wrote from the heart when he said  ‘I started the challenge with a ferocious competitive mindset but I soon learned what Striving was all about …peaceful, emotional and selfless… A collective journey to empower other communities than our own’.”

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Find out more about the Virgin STRIVE Challenge.

Find out more about Big Change.

Read about our Project Partners.

Read more STRIVER voices.