Karen Darke is an experienced coach and Paralympic athlete. She speaks to audiences around the world about overcoming challenges and believes that we are all capable of more than we oftentimes believe. She’s passionate about supporting and inspiring others to achieve their goals. We asked Karen some questions to learn more about her vision with the I’mpossible Retreat!
As a Paralympic athlete, what did you learn about yourself during training and competing regarding how to overcome physical and mental constraints?
Nearly everything I’ve achieved as both an adventurer and an athlete, I thought was ‘impossible’ at some point. What I’ve learnt is that ‘impossible’ is a barrier that we usually create in our own minds. Our fears, worries and anxieties can often block us from believing in our own abilities. I’ve learnt to quiet that doubting part of my mind, and whilst of course I still experience doubt and uncertainty (it’s human!), I know that much of it is a story made up in my head! With intention, commitment and effort, many things are possible that we might not otherwise believe. I love the expansion that comes with possibility, and helping people to consider and challenge the blocks and barriers that can hold us back.
The demands of elite sport alongside the added challenge of being paralysed from the chest down have the potential to be very stressful. I’ve learned ways to create balance and ease in my system (my body, mind, and spirit) using a few simple daily practices so that I can sustain the levels of training and performance that my life as an athlete requires.
In your experience working with clients, what is the best way you’ve been able to motivate others to go after their dreams?
Following my own experience, I know that when we do one thing we never thought we could, it shows us that more is possible than we thought.
Sharing my own stories and experiences is one small aspect, but giving people an experience of their own to remember – a reference point where they do something that surprises themselves – is a great way to help people feel more motivated to go after their dreams. It might be something physical, cognitive or emotional, but anything that pushes us beyond our previous experience of ourselves has the power to really change our thoughts, beliefs and behaviour. Part of the I’mpossible Retreat is creating the opportunity for those ‘surprising’ experiences in a safe and supportive environment.
The other aspect is learning to connect to our feelings in a deeper way. Sometimes when we are so busy rushing around in daily life, we can become disconnected from ourselves, from who we are and what we want, from our dreams and aspirations. Taking time to re-connect and remember what we are all about is a great way to re-energise and re-motivate, setting the foundation to create the life we want.
What inspired you to create and plan the I’mpossible Retreat in Mallorca at the end of October?
The idea for I’mpossible retreats came about in 2014. I was inspired by Mallorca’s Jose Manuel Lopez, a local guy in the process of achieving a Guinness Record for the number of Ironman triathlons in one year. He began with a month holiday from his job as a full-time psychiatric nurse, with a 30-day challenge called ‘I’mpossible’: an ironman every day for thirty days. An ironman is a crazy hard physical challenge: a 3.86 km swim, 180.25 km cycle, and 42.2 km run, guaranteed to stretch the mind as much as the body. How could he be doing all this and maintaining his job, his family, continuing his significant charitable work and still maintain such peace, happiness and balance? I was compelled to shake his hand, and agree to attempt the last ironman of his year with him. We completed his 90th ironman together on September 6th 2014. The experience added to my fascination with how we can achieve surprising things in life and led to the making of the documentary film ‘Impossible’… and the idea for I’mpossible retreats. I believe that to be our best it’s key to break old patterns and conditioning, and learn new ways to listen to, honour and be all that we can be.
What are you personally most looking forward to about the I’mpossible Retreat?
I really look forward to working alongside Moira Darling again. She has such an incredible ability and down-to- earth approach to bringing about connection to what is disconnected in people. Together we enjoy helping people join the dots in their life, perhaps to make sense of what appears to be non-sense. It’s really rewarding to see people transform from a position of stress, anxiety or uncertainty to one of solidness, certainty and focus. Life is a journey that can be rough at times, and it’s a real privilege to use our own experiences to support others in navigating some of their choppy waters.
Big thank you to Karen for sharing with us! For more information about the I’mpossible Retreat, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.