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STRIVER Voice: Resilience, the mountains and the everyday

18 October 2016: posted by BigChange

This year one of our newest project partners, How to Thrive, was represented on the Virgin STRIVE Challenge when co-founder Lucy Bailey took part in the hike from the Matterhorn into Northern Italy.

As an expert and coach in the area of emotional resilience, she was curious to see what kind of resilience it would take to complete the challenge, what skills could be required, and how she could relate her learnings back to the everyday.

Read Lucy’s blog below for her reflections on the Virgin STRIVE Challenge 2016.


At a Big Change event in London in May 2016 I got chatting with a previous STRIVER, who shared her amazing experience that involved walking from London to Switzerland and then climbing to the summit of the Matterhorn, entirely under human power.

Wow! I thought about how I would love to do something like that, and before I knew it I was signed up for the first leg of the 2016 Strive Challenge.

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Just to give some perspective to that, let me start with a little background. I co-founded an organisation called How to Thrive that specialises in practical resilience training for schools. We want every young person to develop resilience skills to be able to thrive in life. We provide the training, skills and resources that schools need to teach resilience to their student’s.

In 2015 we started a conversation with Big Change about how to scale our ideas to reach many more schools across the UK. 18 months later, I was at an event to announce our partnership with Big Change. One of the ways that Big Change generates funds to support organisations like ours is through the Virgin STRIVE Challenge, so everyone that took part in STRIVE will be contributing to our vision that every child should learn the skills of resilience so they can thrive in life.

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Students in a How to Thrive resilience lesson.

Just being at the Big Change event, for me, was remarkable; being surrounded by amazing people who collectively believe in the STRIVE philosophy that “growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone to achieve bold ambitions; magic happens when you do it with others.” To be invited to take part in STRIVE was a huge personal and professional privilege.

The whole 2016 Virgin Strive Challenge would definitely require resilience, but I was interested to understand to what extent and the types of resilience that would be on display. I also wanted to learn how I could relate my experience to those who wouldn’t have the chance to take part in the  challenge.

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I was so lucky to take part in such an inspiring 5 days of, yes, hard work and basic living conditions, but also amazing scenery, meeting wonderful people and having the chance to just take some time out. How could I relate this magnificent opportunity back to the everyday lives of the teachers and young people that we work with to develop resilience?

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Another lesson in resilience in action.

Having resilience skills means we can feel good and flourish in everyday life and cope when things get tough. It doesn’t mean being happy all the time because real life isn’t like that. Resilience is far more useful: it means we can deal with a difficult situation, small or large and learn from it. It means too that when an opportunity arises, we seize it and make the most of it.

It can be difficult to first admit that you are not as strong, or confident, or competent as you’d like. It can be difficult admitting to your friends or colleagues that you made a mistake.

Anyone that I have shared my experience with will know it wasn’t easy for me and I needed a whole range of resilience skills to get me through. The first resilience competency that comes to mind, and one that we teach in our curriculum,  is connecting and reaching out. It is a lot harder than it may seem to reach out, seek support, share your fears, overcome strong emotion. To reach out to people that are around you everyday can often be much harder than it may seem, particularly when things are not going so well.

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Emotions running high between STRIVERs at the end of the hike.

I did a lot of reaching out over the 5 days. Reaching out to an amazing group of people who I had only just met. Following step by step our guide, Giles, who modelled perfectly for me, how to climb 3500ft in a steady, controlled and successful way; taking the hand of a fellow Goat (the name of our hiking group), Fiona, as I tackled a huge personal fear of heights on unstable ground over quite a distance before collapsing in a heap of uncontrollable tears, (Fiona, by the way, is a remarkable Olympic medal holder, a hugely modest, understated, kind and compassionate person) and; slapping a high five with Dylan, the youngest member of our group, when he had overcome his own fear, making it across a narrow, unstable path at a great height.

As we high fived we were marking a shared experience, that really touched me in a way that I find hard to describe, but then examples of resilience are often very personal. These outward displays of reaching out can happen on the side of a mountain, but they also happen each and every day, but it can be hard.

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It can be difficult to first admit that you are not as strong, or confident, or competent as you’d like. It can be difficult admitting to your friends or colleagues that you made a mistake. It can be difficult to show emotion and cry because of a natural instinct to protect those around you from your sadness or anguish. However if you are competent in connecting and reaching out it will have a huge impact on dealing with everyday setbacks, but also enabling you to see the potential opportunities accessible to you.

While it may not be easy, if you can reach out to others you are doing two amazing things; helping yourself and helping others. Think about it – humans have a natural instinct to want to help each other, we are social beings, there can be no better start than to ask someone to help you solve a problem, overcome a difficulty, share an experience. Sharing a problem with someone else is not only an effective way to solve the problem, it’s also more rewarding and a more resilient approach.

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So having resilience can be applied to taking part in a challenge like Strive, but it also applies to the everyday connections we have to others, to reach out, to share successes and failures and to reflect, appreciate and learn from both.

Resilience isn’t a trophy to achieve, you are not either resilient or not resilient, its much more fluid than that. I may be resilient in some situations and less so in others. Resilience comes from a sophisticated, self-awareness of the way we see the world and through the application of a set of skills and competencies that we can learn and relearn, practice and fail at, but developing our ability to always take a step forward.

To find out more about the skills that we aim to teach young people, you can read about our resiliency training programme here.


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