Don’t Just Watch

life is not a spectator sport, don't just watch, get your hands dirty, dirty hands

If you’re going to spend your time just watching what goes on, then you’re wasting your life.

Life is not a spectator sport. You need to get your hands dirty!

Lauren Rains, creator of Outdoor Minded Mag, is doing just that. She committed herself to a regular “Don’t Just Watch Project” to make sure she’s not just watching, but actively doing… and benefitting society as a result.

Lauren says “We are all capable of making a profound difference in making this world a better place by combining our passions, resources, and, of course, a little bit of time and effort. These projects are my way of living by example, and doing just that.”

Here’s a wonderful video of her first “Don’t Just Watch Project” entitled “The Cigarette Mile”. It’s a fantastic example of how every one of us can benefit the society in which we live through the simplest of actions…


There are countless ways each and every one of us can make the world a better place in our own small way. What action could you take to benefit your own community? What legacy would you like to leave the next generation? What will be your “Don’t Just Watch Project”?

Don’t just watch. Get your hands dirty. Then, one day, your life will flash before your eyes. So make sure it’s worth watching…


32 Goals for 32 Years

Leo Pickford, an old housemate of Goalvanise founders Adam and Jon, has decided to embark on a special project following his 32nd birthday. Here Leo talks about the motivations behind his project, as well as sharing the list of goals he has set himself over the coming year…

Leo Pickford, mountain biker

Leo has set himself the physical challenge of cycling to and from work – a 110 mile round trip!

“When I woke up on the morning of 1st January I felt that I hadn’t done many new things in 2012. I’d spent lots of time working and my weekends had been filled with doing the same things for some time. I decided that 2013 would be a year of raising the bar and that instead of just setting a few new years resolutions, I would come up with a formidable list of goals – 32 goals for my 32nd year.

The process of coming up with the goals was itself enjoyable. Firstly, there’s quite a sporty theme throughout, both in terms of participating in and watching sport. Unsurprisingly this was inspired by the Olympics and I’ve been thinking about activities that will stretch me as well as  sporting moments to watch live. I didn’t manage to get any Olympic tickets, so am particularly keen to get to see the cycling at the Commonwealth Games for example. I also feel that I’d like to do more socially beneficial things, so volunteering, giving blood and making a difference in someone’s life all feature.

One of the major 32 goals is to change job. I’ve been working on a big transformational project recently, which is very interesting, but also extremely hard work. Focusing on delivering that has motivated me and got me out of bed every morning, but I want to think about my next role and through that try to achieve a better work-life balance. My goal is to have the next role lined up by June and to move into it before the end of the year when the project has been delivered.

Finally I have put some more domestic goals on the list, such as baking a cake and a loaf of bread. These may be simple things, but they do not feature in my everyday life at the moment and I would like to spend more time enjoying such pleasures as home cooking. If every goal that someone has is about climbing mountains or running marathons then I don’t think it makes them a well balanced person. So baking a cake is definitely on my list!

In terms of what I hope to get from this challenge, I would just like to be able to show that although I’m into my 30′s, I’m not one of those people who gets a TV package, puts their slippers on and sits back on the sofa. I’ve still got an appetite for adventure and I’m looking forward to realising my goals in 2013!”

We love Leo’s list. It’s a great balance of large and small goals across all areas of his life. Importantly, they all have real, personal significance to Leo which means he’s far more likely to achieve them.

LLeo Pickford, skier on mountain

Leo’s skied before – but this year he’s committed to trying a different type of skiing – waterskiing.

Here’s Leo full list of 32 Goals for 32 Years:

    1. Eat something new
    2. Try waterskiing
    3. Give blood
    4. Do a triathlon
    5. Make a positive impact on someone’s life
    6. Walk to the top of Kinder Scout in the Peak District
    7. Ride a Segway
    8. Be part of a studio audience for a TV show
    9. Go to see a tennis match at Wimbledon
    10. Improve my 10k running time
    11. Visit a new country
    12. Cycle from home to work and back (round trip = 110 miles!)
    13. Undertake a multi-day cycle trip (e.g. across the UK)
    14. Change job
    15. Break a habit
    16. Volunteer
    17. Read Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Successful People”
    18. Invent a new word
    19. Have an eye test (as I can’t remember when I last had one!)
    20. Silhouette of mountain biker, mountain biker jumping

      Leo, a keen cyclist, is planning to also watch the pros in 2013 – at the Manchester Velodrome

      Read “Tombstone” by Yang Jisheng

    21. Improve my swimming technique
    22. Bake a cake
    23. Visit Yellowstone National Park in the US
    24. Improve my German speaking
    25. Apply for Total Wipeout
    26. Buy a road bike
    27. Bake a loaf of bread
    28. Fly in a hot air balloon
    29. Visit at least one restaurant from “The Trip” (starring Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden)
    30. Get tickets for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games
    31. Make an effort to see my family more than I did in 2012
    32. Watch some cycling at Manchester Velodrome

Yes, this challenge will technically get more difficult as you get older. But as the years tick by we have ever more reason to work towards all the things that are important to us. A ‘Life’ List will become a ‘Bucket’ List before you know it! So why not create your own list of X Goals for X Years on your next birthday…

Related articles:

A Guide to Creating a Successful Life List (by Goalvanise)

50 Goals in a Year (Jon Maiden’s blog)


Why I Am Ditching My Best Friend

January would not be the same without a few New Year’s resolutions. I set mine up religiously every New Years Eve. And I, like most of the population, am full of readiness, enthusiasm and determination the next day.

We all know how long that lasts. But, this time it is different. I have only made one promise to myself this year and the promise is to ditch my friend.

My best friend in fact. She has been by my side ever since I can remember, stood by me through thick and thin, never letting me out of her sight, comforting me like a cheap polyester blanket.

They say that some friends drag you down and sometimes, just sometimes, you need to get rid of those energy suckers and make room for new vigorous ones. And this is what I am doing this year. I take all the courage I can find, inhale as much air as my lungs can take and shout out: Thank you and goodbye my dear friend procrastination, it has been a pleasure! Lebewohl, arriverderci, au revoir, we are done, do you get it?! (I think she does).

The only thing standing between you and your goal... Jordan Belfort quotesChange is scary but feels rather therapeutic. Only now I have realised how imprisoned I have been in my own body and mind. It has taken me years to make this decision. What was I so afraid of? Was it a fear of a failure? Was I afraid of all the possibilities and my own capabilities?

I am finally doing things. Just last weekend I sorted through a big pile of my magazines, some dating back three years. It might not seem like much, but this pile of pretty glossy paper was sitting on my coffee table for a very long time. It felt victorious! Admittedly these are only small steps, but as Marilyn Paul says in her book It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys “small steps actually taken lead to more progress than great steps that never happen”.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, Lao Tzu quote

I have read many self-help books over the years, attended life-transformational courses and workshops, took up meditation, sat meditation retreats, gave up meditation, then found it again.

What I have learned on my quest to liberation is that different approaches work for different people. What I have also learned (and usually this comes the hard way) is that no matter what I did, nothing worked unless I showed myself love and kindness.

Take each day as it comes. Start small and after every achievement, give yourself a pat on the back. Whether it might be sorting out your wardrobe, starting a journal or enrolling on a University course, no matter how big or small, all these steps make us into who we are.

This year is about making changes. It is about reaching our potential, letting our greatness run free, letting it find itself and become the authentic self it was always meant to be.

As I am sitting in my kitchen, writing this, I feel a lubricating sense of pride. Just for the fact that I am sitting here and writing… and not procrastinating.

What small steps outside of your comfort zone will you take today? Share them with us in the comments section below.

This is a guest post by Zuzana Pagacova      Follow her @zu_zips.


The Ultimate Adventure Bucket List (and UK Alternatives)

Those fine people at National Geographic have published their Ultimate Adventure Bucket List 2013. In what’s become an annual tradition, National Geographic ask their 20 Adventurers of the Year to share their dream trips and wildest adventures to help inspire us all to seek out our own adventures. You can also see their lists for 2011 and 2012.

Here we select our favourites from over the years to create our own Ultimate Adventure Bucket List. For most of us however these adventures are mere fantasy, so we’ve also offered an alternative, more accessible version of each – focusing on adventures that can be found right here in the UK…

Climbing K2

Photo by Edurne Pasaban

1. Climb the Seven Summits

Possibly the ultimate mountaineering achievement – climbing the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.

The ultimate mountain, of course, being the ‘roof of the world’ Mount Everest standing at 8848m.

UK alternative: The Three Peaks Challenge

Why not attempt to climb Scarfell Pike, Ben Nevis and Snowdon – the three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales – in 24 hours. 

Climb into an active volcano

Photo by Bradley Ambrose

2. Descend into an Active Volcano

Most people would ran in the other direction – and fast. But some choose instead to don a heat proof suit and brave the toxic gas, extreme heat, tumbling rocks, and unwarranted explosions to get as close as possible to the boiling lake of lava inside an active volcano.

UK alternative: Climb Arthur’s Seat

Long since extinct, but nonetheless a volcano right in the heart of the city of Edinburgh. Arthur’s Seat is a magical place regardless of whether your interest is geology, hill walking or just a great day out with the family. 

Ed Stafford Amazon walk

Photo by Peter McBride

3. Megatransect the Amazon 

The Amazon is the second longest river in the world – but certainly the most wild and dangerous. At over 4000 miles, mostly through thick perilous jungle, this trek is one very few have accomplished. The UK’s very own Ed Stafford being the most recent in 2010.

UK alternative: Walk from source to sea

A perfect way to get into the natural world and go on an adventure full of mystery. Simple find the source of a river and follow it until you reach the sea. No need for a map (although always have one in case of emergency) – just let the river guide your adventure. 


Photo by Alastair Humphreys

4. Bike Around the World

You’d be surprised at how many perfectly ordinary people are doing this right now. So if you’re tired of the everyday grind, hop on a bike and start cycling!

Al Humphreys spent 4 years cycling the world – and it only cost him £8000 in total. However, the world record stands at an incredible 105 days!

UK alternative: Cycle coast to coast

There are many routes but the most popular appears to be the 170-mile stretch across Lancashire and Yorkshire. Have a read here about how Paul Wilson got on when he attempted the journey in two days. 

Swim with great white sharks

Photo by Jeb Corliss

5. Swim with Great White Sharks

A combination of two of our greatest fears – deep, open water and the powerful jaws of the ocean’s ultimate predator.

Sharks do actually have a rather undeserved reputation as man eaters but this is still an experience that would terrify the vast majority of us.

UK alternative: Swim with sharks!

Yes, you can still swim with sharks right here in the UK. Okay, maybe not Great White sharks but there are plenty of places which offer you the chance to dive amongst a variety of sharks both in aquariums and out in the open sea. 

Ultimate descent, skydive over Everest

Photo by Sano Babu Sunuwar

6. Make the Ultimate Descent

In 2011, Nepalis Sano Babu Sunuwar and Lakpa Tsheri Sherpa paraglided from the summit of Mount Everest, biked to the nearest river, kayaked across the border into India, and then paddled the Ganges River to the Indian Ocean. They called it the “Ultimate Descent” and who can really argue with that.

UK alternative: Go skydiving.

For your very own ‘ultimate descent’ why not try skydiving. There are centres across the UK that offer both tandem and solo skydives. I did several solo skydives while at university and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. 

Jamie Mitchell stand up paddle board

Photo by Jason Kenworthy

7. Stand-Up Paddleboard Mentawai, Indonesia 

Paddleboarding adventures can be found all over the world but paddleboarding world champ Jamie Mitchell recommends Mentawai as the ultimate destination.

Read more about Jamie’s adventures here.

UK alternative: Surf the Severn Bore

The Severn Bore is the tidal surge that sweeps up the River Severn every day. It’s common for people to surf the bore in all sorts of different ways. Why not give it a go! Find out more here

Kayaking around South America

Photo by Greg Stamer

9. Kayak Circumnavigation of South America

Freya Hoffmeister is currently bidding to become the first person to circumnavigate the continent by kayak – in a three-year adventure around the coast of South America.

If Freya completes this incredible journey it will be the longest sea kayaking expedition ever undertaken.

UK alternative: Kayak across Scotland

It’s about 120 miles from Inverness, along Loch Ness, to the western coast of Scotland. I know this as I’ll be kayaking this route later this year (read more about my challenges here). This fantastic trip, about a week in length, is ideal for solo kayakers, groups or even families. 

Hike the Triple Crown

Photo by Kip Evans

10. Hike the Triple Crown

The Triple Crown is a combination of the three great long distance hike’s in the United States – the Pacific Coast Trial, the Appalachian Trial and the Continental Divide Trail. Total length a whopping 7900 miles including a total ascent of 190 miles along the route! The first person to walk the Triple Crown back to back was Matthew Hazley from Northern Ireland, who took 239 days in 2005.

UK alternative: The Pennine Way

At 431km the Pennine Way is one of the longest trials in the UK. It runs along the ‘backbone’ of the UK – the Pennine Hills starting at Edale, in the Peak Distrcit, and finishing just inside the Scotland border. The perfect introduction to long distance walking. Find out how I got on just doing two days on this epic walk here

I hope this Ultimate Adventure Bucket list has helped you dream big in terms of the adventure goals for your life – and that our UK alternatives may help to provide a way for you to find adventure right here in the UK.

Do let us know about any adventures, or microadventures, that you embark on. We’d love to feature them on the Goalvanise blog.

Happy adventuring!



Meet the Inspirational and Amazing Susan Spencer-Wendel


In her 20 year career as a journalist, Susan Spencer-Wendel covered many notable stories.  Tragically, her memoirs: Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy documents her own story, the devastating news of being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – or Lou Gehrig’s disease – a condition that eventually leaves the sufferer unable to breathe on their own.

Her incurable medical condition will probably give her only another year or so to live.

After her diagnosis in June 2011, Spencer-Wendel travelled the world completing her ‘bucket list’ before the degenerative condition eventually has a chance to take control of her body.

Her list includes a memorable visit to see the northern lights over the Yukon with her best friend and a celebration of her 20th wedding anniversary in Budapest with her husband, John.  Spencer-Wendel spent an early portion of her career helping start an English-language newspaper there during the post-Soviet era.

Also on her ‘bucket list’ is travelling to Northern California to see her birth mother and to Cyprus, the home country of her natural father, whom she never met.

In her book, she also talks about taking her 14-year-old daughter to a bridal shop in New York to purchase a dress for her child’s future wedding.

until-i-say-goodbyeAn event that Spencer-Wendel knows she has no hope of living to see.

She describes that moment on her website “As my beautiful daughter walks out of the dressing room in white silk, I will see her 10 years in the future, in the back room right before her wedding, giddy and crying, overwhelmed by a moment I will never share…”

“I am writing about accepting, about living with joy and dying with joy and laughing a helluva lot in the process,” she says.  “Our decision [is] to just be. Accept. Live with joy anyhow. And die with joy, too”.

Her account of that journey is likely to become a bestseller in America this year.  Until I Say Goodbye: My Year of Living with Joy is to be published in March.  The eagerly awaited work brought Spencer-Wendel an advance of $2m and the film rights have been bought by Universal Pictures for a further $2m.  Her remarkable story of how she turned a life-ending tragedy into something uplifting is also being translated into 25 languages.

By the time the publishing company Harper Collins caught wind of Spencer-Wendel and offered her a book deal, she had lost the use of most of her fingers as a result of the disease.

She wrote the book anyway.

Spencer-Wendel literally typed out her memoir using her right thumb on an iPhone.

She finished her book in just three months.

Spencer-Wendel is not just inviting the reader on her journey.  She is challenging them to  think about how they live their days.  Challenging them to make the most of every opportunity.  Challenging them to make a difference by concentrating on the things that matter in life.  Challenging them to leave a legacy.

Susan Spencer-Wendel had to face the question, ‘What would you do if you had a year to live? What would you do? 



Is Anything “Impossible” Anymore?

Brendan Marrocco

Try and imagine a time a hundred, fifty or even just twenty years ago. Now imagine saying to someone that in the near future amputees will be able to receive new limbs from recently deceased donors. Chances are that person’s response would have been “Impossible!”

But that ‘impossible’ dream is now very much a reality. Brendan Marrocco has not only become the US solider to survive losing four limbs but has now become the successful recipient of a double arm transplant.

Watch this inspirational video of Brendan speaking shortly after his operation…


This story of challenging the ‘impossible’ is remarkable on two levels.

Firstly, because of the strength and determination Brendan has shown in the face of adversity that we can barely imagine. He had these words to offer anyone facing their own challenges in life:

“Do not give up hope. Be stubborn. There’s a lot of people who say you can’t do something. Just be stubborn and do it anyway. Work your ass off to do it!”

Secondly, because of the fact that medicine has now advanced to an extent that the ‘impossible’ has now become not just ‘possible’, but actually ‘ordinary’ and ‘everyday’.

3D printers can now “print” new body parts. It’s just a matter of getting safe organic raw material for those printers to use. In the not too distant future, doctors will take a sample of your DNA, add to it some neutral organic substance, turn on the gene they need to make bone or skin and “print’ out whatever is needed to repair your body.

Brendan is now looking forward to swimming and driving again. One of his life goals is to even hand-cycle a marathon.

If a quadruple amputee can now not only be kept alive, but given the use of limbs once again, it begs the question: is anything impossible anymore?

Comment below if you can think of anything that is still ‘impossible’. Then we can look back in five, ten or twenty years time and see how many of those things have been achieved!