The power of connecting with positive people

The Virgin Strive Challenge is in full swing and one of my favourite things about the challenge is meeting and getting to know so many wonderful people as we prepare to strive together. We all come from different walks of life and have different motivations behind taking part in the challenge, but one thing unites us; a passion for creating change.

While the Strivers are hard at work, I want to introduce you to some of the amazing people taking part. Next up is Iona Stephen...

Life is made up of many challenges; some physical, some emotional, some social and some professional. Please can you tell us what has turned you into the striver you are today? 

My upbringing turned me into the striver I am today. I was surrounded by love in my family, but we had our fair share of ups and downs. I look back on it now and it all seems very surreal; one day I think I might write it down. At times it was painful and I learnt resilience from a young age. That pain turned into strength and I feel blessed for the path I had during my childhood. It taught me to see challenge as opportunity and I continue to look in that direction today. 

When I was about 11 years old, a met a very successful business man called Craig, who told me of his life mantra ‘CI'. He told me this stood for ‘Continued Improvement’. It sounds very simple, but this mantra has helped me on my journey enormously. In life and in my career, I strive for small steps forward, small amounts of progress towards my goals, all the time. 

Virgin Strive Challenge_Strive_Iona Stephen_2

Can you share how following your passion transformed you into a striver?

When I was at school, I always did what I thought was the right thing to do. When it came to continuing my education, I did what I thought was the ‘right thing’ to do. I went to study architecture but quickly realised my passion was in sport and it was time to do what I really felt was right within me. I remember the feeling I had when I played golf for the first time, and finally I knew I had found my passion and I hoped, my career. I had played many sports growing up, four at international level, but didn’t get the chance to try golf until I was 19. I knew straight away it was the game for me. Listening to my gut took courage and I quickly transferred my degree to the home of golf, St. Andrews.

I stayed there for a year before deciding to switch to golf full time. Again this decision was a bold move, but I felt so passionately about following this path towards professional golf and knew if I worked hard I could thrive within it.

For four years, every decision I made was around becoming a better golfer, a better athlete and progressing. I knew I was playing catch up and so had to work harder than anyone else to make to the pro ranks, but I was determined – and if I felt there was something that would help me perform better, I would find a way to make it happen, no matter what. After four years as an amateur, I played off a +3 handicap, had represented my county and country and had three course records under my belt. I felt ready to make the transition to professional golf. 

When people ask me how I made it to the professional ranks so quickly, I tell them I had a very clear goal. I kept this goal at the forefront of my mind, and made sure all decisions were made with this goal considered. The second thing I say is that it was my passion. Playing golf is what I love to do, so I felt blessed to find something that I could turn into a profession and didn’t ever want to take that blessing for granted. I hope I never will. 

Virgin Strive Challenge_Strive_Iona Stephen_3

What about STRIVE are you most 1. nervous about and 2. excited about?

I am nervous about how my bum will cope with 400km of cycling!! And 100 per cent most excited about sharing the experience with a new group of friends. 

What do you know now that you wish you'd been taught at school?

I wish I had been taught the power of connecting with positive people. Real honest connections, with real honest people. It is a skill that I continue to develop and a phenomenon than continues to lift me higher. 

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