What Stories Do You Tell Yourself About Your Barriers? - Living Adventurously #8

Sarah Lister was drifting through her twenties until a 'doorstep mile' moment of commitment saw her quit her unloved job and begin again. Today Sarah lives in a cosy cottage at the foot of beautiful fells in the Peak District National Park. She works as a coach these days and this has given her a new way of thinking, teaching her that a fresh perspective comes from asking open, non-judgemental questions. I arrived at Sarah's house in a torrential storm. I was soaking wet and a bit fed-up. So when Sarah invited me to join her for a swim in the stream cascading down the mountain behind her village I was not particularly keen. But I remembered one of life's immutable rules: you never regret a wild swim. And, sure enough, the hills were beautiful, the waterfall was bracing and bouncing and we galloped back down the hill happy, and hungry for homemade pizza.
Sarah Lister was drifting through her twenties until a 'doorstep mile' moment of commitment saw her quit her unloved job and begin again. Today Sarah lives in a cosy cottage at the foot of beautiful fells in the Peak District National Park. She works as a coach these days and this has given her a new way of thinking, teaching her that a fresh perspective comes from asking open, non-judgemental questions.
I arrived at Sarah's house in a torrential storm. I was soaking wet and a bit fed-up. So when Sarah invited me to join her for a swim in the stream cascading down the mountain behind her village I was not particularly keen. But I remembered one of life's immutable rules: you never regret a wild swim.
And, sure enough, the hills were beautiful, the waterfall was bracing and bouncing and we galloped back down the hill happy, and hungry for homemade pizza.


(It’s completely free, zero hassle to do (click here), but really helpful for me trying to get a new podcast off the ground. If you’re feeling extra kind, please leave a review on the app – that really helps.)
Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn (“Alexa, please play the Living Adventurously podcast”) or on your favourite podcast platform such as Overcast, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Breaker, Soundcloud, Castbox, Castro.


Your very own outdoor experiences are waiting for you. Go explore more with komoot. Use the voucher code ADVENTUROUS to claim your free region maps bundle.
The personalised planning and navigation tools ensure you plan the adventure that’s perfect for you. Komoot is Europe’s number 1 outdoor app, with route planning and navigation functionality, and strong community-driven inspirational features in the form of recommended Highlights and inspirational route Collections. It is used by nearly 10 million adventurers worldwide. Komoot is becoming the app of choice for cyclists and hikers the world over, with rapid community growth in the UK, the US and other parts of Europe.
You can see my ride’s route on komoot here.


  • If you enjoy listening to this episode over a cup of coffee and think it might be worth the price, you can buy me a coffee here: www. ko-fi.com/al_humphreys
  • Keep up to date with future episodes (and my other adventures, projects and books) with my free monthly newsletter: alastairhumphreys.com/more/subscribe
  • Say hello on Twitter and Instagram: @al_humphreys
  • Sarah's website: careers coaching for those who don't know where to begin.
  • Sarah's Instagram: @about.the.adventure
  • Busy London routine meant Sarah had lost her zest for life. She did not like who she was and the negative way she was complaining about everything.
  • Sarah began using small escapes from London as a way to escape the city life she no longer enjoyed.
  • For a while it felt acceptable to use adventurous weeekend escapes as a counter to the job she no longer liked.
  • Admitting to herself that she had been drifting through her twenties felt very daunting.
  • Whilst she knew what she did NOT want to do, Sarah did not know for a while what she DID want to do.
  • Sarah wanted to pay off her debts, to be financially stable before leaving her job and making the change. But in the end an evening of adventure talks plus a ticking off from her boss sparked her into resigning.
  • In her coaching work Sarah sees a lot of people who are heavily swayed by the amount of time and effort they have put into something, even if they don't like it. (The only important part of the runway is that in front of you). "I've come this far so I might as well keep going with it."
  • Sometimes it feels easier to keep going with the devil you know rather than risking the uncertainty and newness and pressure of change.
  • Coaching has been helpful for guiding Sarah that it is OK to change, it's OK to be upset by it sometimes, and it's not always easy.
  • Coaching gives a new way of thinking and a fresh perspective through open, non-judgemental questions.
  • Don't just ask yourself what the barriers are, but also break them down and think about what stories you are telling yourself about them.
  • It would be good to give more attention and voicepieces to the unsung heroes of society who are helping to solve various problems.
  • University felt like a wasted experience for Sarah (and me).


Below is the transcription of our conversation. It’s done by AI so is perhaps a wee bit ropey here and there. If these transcripts prove sufficiently useful then I will make the effort to clean then up and make them better. Do let me know if you think it’s worth my time to do that. (Or, better still, do it for me…!). If you’d like to listen as you read along you can do that here:

Alastair Humphreys
How did you go from being a
young woman
working hard in London, to living a little cottage in the middle of nowhere, spending your days running in the hills?

Sarah Lister
Well, it started really
wanting to get out a little bit more. So I was in London and became very dissatisfied and not really thinking very, very critical. And I noticed that I didn't have not realised
you know, something, my office paradise. And looking in the mirror I didn't like who I was. And the way that I'm talking, I'm saying negative complaining about my job and complain about everything really, even though I had quite nice job in my class, I wouldn't really keep making it or enjoying it. And it does come through just a little tiny mini adventure in a living. And I was asked to see what was around me, and then say that that I hadn't known before. And that made me start
to work, roll and see more. And it's just like going outside of London.
so I'm coming here on Monday 10 on the safer dog on a Friday, go home, packing my bags ready for the next morning, coming up at five and six o'clock in the morning whenever it started. And get on the train, set them on the street. So I did get back on a Sunday evening. And then go back to work Monday. I thought I've got it. I've got it down about a week. Yeah, I thought if I can say this. And I say my family hated me. And then great.

quite a long time. And this is all

about three years in when I first on the event in London at the meeting here. And

Alastair Humphreys
what what to say long.

Sarah Lister
It was hard. It was hard scared of admitting that I didn't know what I wanted to say. I didn't actually want to say that my career path was not

Alastair Humphreys
what I wanted to do.

Sarah Lister
So I would get a favour and say, Actually, I agree.

It feels like at the same time.

But it isn't actually what I want to say what I want to do the rest of my life when I say it, yeah, it's taking having to admit that to myself, that I've got a Thanks, Mike. And I didn't feel proud of it. So actually send me off insane, because to me, seems really scary and daunting. And I didn't know where I would go from there.

Alastair Humphreys
Okay, that's going to ask us It

didn't want to be there yet, though.

Sarah Lister
Exactly. And the most obvious thing was the going to pipe eating some kind of adventure storeys and pipe goals that we may copy and say, and I'm trying to

Alastair Humphreys
get money, like to do that.

Sarah Lister
And However, by inaction,

I like taking people out on the floor and hiding.

And I enjoy meeting people and taking up space.

But I didn't want to be making it my living. And I want God to have my own a lot. I really like that. You have? Yes.

Alastair Humphreys
Quite they will do what

they would be scared about fixing to go. We're

live, you


Sarah Lister
I had a face out of my head. And I had a I had actually set a date in my calendar, when I'm with a quit my job. And the reason that I can it was because financial reasons. I didn't want to leave one of them job in debt. I wanted to fail. I did, I accepted my senior debt that we do hear that I have the credit.

So I wanted to feel safe. And all that,

however, and I can do the night of events, events.

And that really got me thinking about all of the things that I'm saying my head, why shouldn't be yet why should maintain. And also on the day that I actually have been removed. And my so I've gone to are going to be the most friends make coffee about my morning. And my boss at the time said, Sarah, you really should be at your desk at 9am you know why you in the kitchen today? And it just got the heart racing. And it was not uncommon, saying you know, it's always kind of baffling. And she was absolutely right. I should have been in my bed at 9am and no indication caffeine making coffee. But I live up to my desk.

Alastair Humphreys
So I they wanted to be there.

Sarah Lister
I didn't want to have to be sitting at my desk. I didn't want someone telling me that I should be doing that. Even though she was right. And I literally wrote nine husband that day. Right out when hopefully large capital. My mom said, my mom, she basically said yes, we can speaking about this, you want it you just do it?

And yes, but

Alastair Humphreys
I had to work motivation. And that was it.

Sarah Lister
And there was no there was no grand plan. I had some ideas about what I might do a tonne of money.

All of my time on calendar that makes me

Alastair Humphreys
possible. It

seems like a very nice, happy,

Sarah Lister
simple but

Alastair Humphreys
fulfilling life

coaching work now. Amongst the generally speaking people you

work with? What is it that stopping them taking the action? They want to say 30, generalities General,

General stuff about the storeys that I've really interested in.

Sarah Lister
Yeah, definitely, I think something I see tonight is that when people are connected quite a lot of time to a job or put in. I think they sort of, I think it's taught that they want to continue to forward and put so

Alastair Humphreys
much into it.

Sarah Lister
So it's always a kind of, I think they feel a sense of something percent of failure is based off. Especially if they haven't quite made a success in their mind what they thought they would do, then it's that kind of like, well, I need to keep going until I'm happy with it. And the years just go by, and yes, some good things might happen. But generally, they I think

things aren't going the way that they imagined it to be whether it's the global Centre for

Alastair Humphreys

Sarah Lister
say, yeah, I think it kind of taking that kind of attitude as well are coming off. It's too late now paying debt for anything to make sense of it.

Alastair Humphreys
I think very few economic theories, but one of them. So my life learning about some

fancy that. Was that? I buddy? Yeah.


Sarah Lister
Yeah, I think it's, I mean, it's the same to me now I thought, well, I've been five years and still get the quit now, when I'm to possibly get into a higher role or concerns with another organisation or whatever. It was that idea or, well, I just wasted the last five or six years, but what do I have the show for it. And I have nothing, got nothing to say, apart from a kind of average, and paid lifestyle. It wasn't terrible. But I just been inspired by it. I think that that kind of attitude of welcoming, so long that it would be silly to let it go away. Also, I do you know, that they've really encouraging State University. And I think they were quite happy that I had quite a nice job in London, you know, I had a nice place to live. I didn't want to face them. I really am not doing what I'm doing. I don't really understand why University, it was like saying all of those years and all that energy to put in?

Alastair Humphreys
Like, I don't have any of it.

Sarah Lister
Like I wouldn't have any of it. It is so hard to say that to people who have the currency and the money. And thinking to meeting today with the Yeah, I got the job and oh, hotel today at work and all those things. And yes, I think it was, to me it was that. But I think

Alastair Humphreys
the other people who buy Coke, I think it's also because they

Sarah Lister
don't know what they want to do. And it was the same to me. It was like, Well, if we don't do this, and what am I going to do? And that question is scary as well. Because, you know, there's so many other questions. And sometimes it's just easier to keep going what you know, and what you're already doing. If you're saying even though

Alastair Humphreys
that's the devil, you know, yeah.

And that doesn't work out, then you become a serial quicker.

That's another kid like yourself, you can do it.

Sarah Lister
Yeah, exactly. And then and then like, there's always more training on Okay, it feels like a big cluster. And, and it is I mean, even leaving London to me a lot of pressure, because it is tying up things in jobs. It was kind of invented at Staples, centre, all the stuff that you collect along the way. So it's like a really big breakup, you know, you see, everything changes, absolutely everything. It seems not, it's not something that happened to the My heart really nothing really happened to one

and be able to explore f3 very open to

Alastair Humphreys
what will happen for you for making, making that same stuff like that scepticism closes the life that I could still live,

Sarah Lister
I should live

Alastair Humphreys
a useful thing.

And then another good quote, is the best time to plant the tree 20 years ago, the second best time is now I think those two things together really helpful if I had to just try forgetting to cost

Sarah Lister
them. Yeah. And like, I mean, to me, the support that I have concerning different people say them special cases, my friends, my parents here, they're basically saying to me, you know, when, after college said r1 happening around the world, I did that for a year. And then I come back and I said what's the progress my life and life will be great. And they say, Oh, you went to meeting and you know, they've been through all of this with me. And I'm constantly changing my mind. And the support from them is the amazing. And, and yes, more of my family really. And I think particularly the coaches that they because they kind of guided me and said it was unpaid, became and it's okay to be worried and upset about it sometime, you know. So it's part of the journey and none of it is in life, there's nothing along the way that is, you know, you have to say we will fix changing things, asking questions and finding new answers and exploring it.

Alastair Humphreys
Tell me Then tell me about coaches, coaches, not just for

me, or

for me, not with?

Sarah Lister
Yeah, exactly. And I think

I'm saying that. You

know, I'm saying that I'm

asking questions in their own head about anything, is there anything to take your life that we might be very vague in life? Or it might just be like a little niggle? And that keeping people here thinking in their head for the chemical questions, or the questions keep coming up. But they're not actually getting to any amateurs about their

career or whether living or anything, you think it's something that

Alastair Humphreys
you should invest your time and money?

allocation of someone?

Sarah Lister
Yeah, I think it's a really useful tool. And and once you have started exploring the questions that came up, then you can, you know, keep that as a tool for life. So not saying write down the questions and feedback and say more neighbour neighbour again, that you start to open up, and you start to discover new ways of thinking. And with fresh perspectives, different questions, the questions might be quite different, how you lessen yourself. And they're very open questions go there without judgement, without someone telling us about business? or strange, or, you know, any kind of negative like that. Yeah, he's got a good coach, then they'll be very open and disguise the keyboard asking more questions. That's the whole Daniel bed. Yeah.

Alastair Humphreys
Well, that seems a good time, then. They made for me, rather than getting coaching a complete cheaper option of going free month long bike ride

with a microphone, and I got a

Sarah Lister
questions in

which the confidence of someone who has the same big barriers that are in your heart. And I think

Alastair Humphreys
the third thing is the barriers that you've got, which we talked about a bit, the things that are stopping us. So of course, lots lot of people in the same

Unknown Speaker
situation. Yeah.

Sarah Lister

Alastair Humphreys
Well, we as a coach that, would you just ask that question to that?

Sarah Lister
Yeah, I would actually

Alastair Humphreys
like, and?

Sarah Lister
Well, I would, I would ask this. What what are the barriers? Like, can we actually identify them? So it sounds like you've been asking me, what are the barriers to, you know, have this idea about the lifestyle? I wanted to have? What, what couldn't so long, you know, what was the barriers? And I think it's a lot to do in the storeys that we tell ourselves. And so I think, identifying the barriers, and the storeys that we have, and asking, What if I didn't have that storey? You know, what if I didn't have that storey about my money that I'm paying myself, you know, oh, I have to quit my job. When I've got myself out of debt. It was like I was beating myself, you know, the previous sentence and my dog. And actually, the way that things work, how I'm earning almost the same as it was

Alastair Humphreys
in London,

Sarah Lister
and then, and then paid off my debt now. So, yeah, I think it's not just asking what the big barriers are breaking them down. So you might say, Oh, well, I have failed something. And so you can start asking for what does that actually mean? What does it look like? How does it feel? Where does that come from? And what storey you're telling yourself around that? You know, what do you how do you how do you teach other people about it? You know, how do you tell? But you know, I've been talking about my death for such a long time. And I still have that storey You know, I'm still telling people about what I'm doing. And what if, what if you detach yourself from that storey? And then you can create something completely new. Thank you.

Alastair Humphreys
Next, up, yeah.

Sarah Lister
What storey would you put on the front page of a newspaper? Oh. And I actually think I volume pages because I think they are they can be very negative. And the it I think my head and sound a little bit. And

I would put some saying

some of the things about recently of how I would like to meet people and talk to people who have kind of been given a rise in finding that example of tech, Sheffield, and speak to the people who are doing things kind of behind the scenes, maybe was a doctor, nurse is working a charity or company even less obvious than that, to find out what they're doing, and what impact they're having, either in our national or global scale, and finding out what problems they are helping to solve. And finding out what it is like for them. And, and why they do it. That's what I was, yeah, there's like,

some paper that I read. Oh, that's up to them. That

if you could like to change one thing in your life, what would it be?

Okay, the hell a lot of things.

Alastair Humphreys
So the reason I

like this question is,

because it is quite nice to get to that often imagine things go when they removed the that reality. And then once you've come up, as I'm priming here, but once you then come up with that, I can change this. And you can often think, Oh, well, actually, I could change that.

Sarah Lister
Yeah, without the magic. But

Alastair Humphreys
he did my question.

Sarah Lister
Now. I love it. Magic. And

I'm just thinking is on thing that I see my head, the things that I have been telling lies that I'm trying to change.

But I give you a perspective. And I really want to make more effort with the people who are close to me in life, not in difficult. But my family and my friends, my close friends, please. I tend to get wrapped up in the same place where I'm in. And I don't very often feed my family, not not live life. And I would like to say that isn't


And say that

Unknown Speaker
if you could live life what would be

Sarah Lister
I would not

100% used to making being there. And I knew I didn't want to go I knew it. I knew that I didn't. I mean, maybe later in life, I need something to let me miss out. And it's not just because it's easy that I just found it to be very slow. And quite tracking in terms of financial privacy. And I for that my back. So you know, I just come back from travelling around the world. My eyes are wide open. And I think

Alastair Humphreys
that what I wanted to do, which was to work and travel

Sarah Lister
and see what I see what I've really been doing that year. And yes, they scrapped that they full year university. I just feel one college. Kid anywhere. Oh, you're just fighting off on my own. Trying to escape it. So yeah. Always going.

Alastair Humphreys
Yeah, I was gonna I just think, I think the common time I

Sarah Lister
wait wasted. Yeah. I've been reading some good books. Yeah.

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think a lot of people say, Oh, well, you know, there's my best years and stuff. But I wasn't drinking at the time. And I wasn't into that kind of culture tools. Like, I kind of isolate myself by not being part of that. I been slated money fall on there. And, you know, sort of biking I went off. And I mean, I think I made the best of it. But it just dropped on. So long. I took it so seriously. And verint myself in the and I'm not saying could have been different experiences, right? Yeah, I just didn't, I didn't make it, either.

Next question.

Can you share an example of trying to find a balance between contentment and self improvement? Okay, I've got to get one thing. So when I did decide that I was like, picked up mentally, and become a coach, which was, again, yourself treatment itself exposed being coached. And I just felt like rather than treating my whole outlook on life, bye, bye. started really interested in even though I'm still in my job at the time. And I went full pelt, into trying to start my business as a coach and make it effective, I could leave my job. And during that time, I found it really hard to have time just for myself, I was working in putting myself into something pushing myself harder. So my health is really downhill. Because if I wasn't at work, I was trying to going out on adventures and trying to improve my navigation, learning or, you know, walking, whatever. And, or trying to create an event, I was always plugging away at something, or the microwave meal from the go, and that my health was like a downhill, it was really frustrated, because I wanted to feel more balanced and happy. But I wasn't getting enough sleep. And I wasn't I didn't have a social life outside of work. So I found that really hard. Because I just push myself harder and harder and harder until I basically just burnt out. So and I wasn't I wasn't even showing up. That was the case, either. So. So now, and kind of a close thing just a second ago that I need to make more time with my family and friends, because now I do have a better balance in my health and my relationship. But that doesn't really extend to the people who remember me, forgive me through a hard time. So I really want to get back to that. That's that. Now

Alastair Humphreys
I think pretty much anyone who's taking you take

taking self employment seriously goes down that manic overload.

I think it's the

what you're passionate about what you're doing. You just want to go for it. Yeah. Often it's I think it's the nature of the person who has the audacity and the hubris things I can make it go with self employed,

Sarah Lister

Alastair Humphreys
Combined with a bit of a crazy cocktail, I think. Yeah, so the call you say that resonates with me. And many people I know you've gone self employed. But equally, I think you don't go kind of crazy. If it doesn't work and self employed sounds like you just sit around you come straight to work we get they wouldn't see that?

Sarah Lister
Yes, exactly. Yeah. And I, you know, I have been through that phase. In fact, very quickly, after quitting my job, I saw Oh, I've got my quit smoking conversation now, fashion design with what comes up little bit. People just, you know, hire me. And, and in the coaching world, you are kind of sold the idea that you take the lead, and you know, you follow certain formulas, and then you go out into the world and people will come to you know, I want to and a few services to help me. And I'm not saying that never work. And but it didn't work for me. I never wanted it to work that way, either. So yeah, there's there was definitely a gap where I kind of thought, What am I doing, I don't even know how to manage myself. And in terms of like my payments, and taxes and all that stuff. And it seems really scary, that none of it is is very appropriate for and the way that things work, how, remember how I can think that. I'm not saying to just jump into something and not have any idea how things work out. I think also, it's really important to not be rigid to how you think you think things should go and break out perceptions are going to be nice for self employment and to be quite open. And then do it. That's the most important thing to me to some that some days. If I feel like oh, yeah, I'm ready. This is leftovers, fill up my week loads of stuff. And then I think well, I still want to be able to go out for a run or women going to be I want to go meet some interesting people. So I try and fit that in. I remind myself that's okay. And that is why I decided to go those employed because I don't want to work and 40 hours a week and or anywhere near that. I don't work anywhere near that.

Alastair Humphreys
But yeah, you make me think good.

Sarah Lister
Yeah, exactly. Yes.

Yeah. It sounds like something's working pretty well.

Alastair Humphreys
You have a lovely water cooler. Yeah, thank you very much for taking me to jump in the water. In the wind in the rain. Mesquita though right there soaking wet and quite cold. actually wasn't really up for it. But as I said to myself, never regret take this trip and I thank you for answering my question. With a lot of eloquence and insight. And thanks for pizza. Oh, you're very welcome. Thank you. Thank you.

★ Support this podcast ★

Join our newsletter

checkmark Got it. You're on the list!
© 2019 Alastair Humphreys