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Overcoming limiting beliefs: an Ivy House alumni story

There are moments when I feel totally humbled. And speaking to Stephen Kakouris about how he has smashed his own limiting belief is definitely one.

Stephen is one of the Ivy House Alumni, and when he completed the Programme he made a commitment to himself. Despite having mild motor disabilities, which cause him challenges when walking, he wanted to take on and conquer the Brighton Half Marathon.

Stephen’s performance coach, Ray, says this about Stephen: “He was fantastic to coach. Experimental and committed. He took on feedback well and was an incredible guy. When he said he’d do this challenge I had to do it with him! Others also jumped to support him reflecting the Ivy House spirit of radical support. People were pushing themselves outside their comfort zone as they were inspired by his story too.”

So, the day after the race, I caught up with Stephen and spoke to him about his undertaking:

How did the idea of doing the race come about?: When I started Ivy House, I wanted to work on some limiting beliefs. Specifically, those surrounding the challenges that I face as a result of being born with mild motor disabilities. I have adapted my life so it doesn’t affect me in any way but I still felt quite uncomfortable talking about it. So, on The Ivy House Programme, I challenged myself to get up in front of a group of people I had never met before and openly discuss it. Talking about my speech impediment and challenges openly I experienced a greater acceptance of myself. It was very powerful for me.

When I went on to do the rest of the Masterclasses, I discovered a limiting belief that I would never be able to run a half marathon. I struggle with walking and have always hated running. But as I learned more about stepping out of my comfort zone I challenged myself in front of the group to run a half marathon.

What support did you have?: The amount of support that I got was amazing. When I committed to doing this, 7 other people on the Ivy House Programme decided to join me. And Ray, my Ivy House executive performance coach, came and said he would do it with me and make sure I crossed the finish line. I can’t think of a more committed coach. On Sunday, he set the pace the entire way and helped me to accomplish something I never thought I’d be able to do.

How did you prepare for the race?: I needed to train my body. So, I started running 3 to 4 times per week. The first time I went on the treadmill, I had to stop halfway through doing 5k at relatively low speeds. I went on to finish the race in 2 hr 15 mins, even better than I thought I’d do.

What was it like at the end of the race?: I took the medal and didn’t want to take it off! I had never given up even though it hurt. Some of the pictures show that I was in pain but I was so happy that I finished the race.

I was raising money for the Alzheimers Society. I received a lot of support from my network and friends who sponsored me and it felt good to say that I had done it. These people believed in me, encouraged me and helpedraise money for a cause that’s important to me.
I even wore my medal the next day. I thought that people would think that I was walking funny because of the half marathon. Then I realized that I walk funny anyway, and felt proud of what I‘d done.

Could you sum up how this has impacted you?: Being blessed with physical differences, all my life I have been smashing the boxes that I have been put into because of what people perceive my limitations to be. I ran further than I’ve ever run before and I had to put a lot of work in before the race. I saw it as a metaphor for what I’m trying to accomplish in my whole life. I was running towards a goal – putting in the hours to achieve something great. Even though it may look like I have a problem walking, I know I’ve run a half marathon in a pretty decent time. I now can’t tell myself that there’s something I can’t do due to my limitations.

If you put in the time and effort, if you show up, I believe you can achieve great things. I’m not yet where I want to be in every area of my life but when I crossed the finish line, the amount of pride I felt made me reflect on other opportunities in my life.

So what’s next?: I realise now that I actually quite enjoy running. I think I’ll keep going. I’ve committed to doing a second half marathon in 3 weeks’ time. I am flying to Cyprus, where my parents live. Then they can see me run a half marathon too. They are very supportive, and have decided to run 5k with me too. I’ll be running with the team linked to my father’s work – a much bigger team of people – but I won’t have anyone close to Ray with me through the race, showing me the way.

I’ve gone from not running at all to running 2 half marathons within a month! Maybe with some more training and a few more half marathons, I’ll be running a full marathon.

How has this impacted the others who’ve been with you on this journey?: When I think of those who showed up this weekend, some were raising money and some wanted to prove something to themselves. They did it for their own reasons. The fact that I committed to do this started the ball rolling for them too. Possibility is contagious. The mindset of possibility is contagious.

Today I wore my medal into work and showed someone who hadn’t thought I could do it. He had been genuinely worried for me and had tried to talk me out of it. Seeing the medal, he talked about things going on for him and said that he felt inspired too. It made my morning. I hope that people will say, ‘if Stephen can do it, why can’t I?’

ABOUT IVY HOUSE: Ivy House is on a mission to create a new generation of purpose-led and values-driven leaders who have the courage to look at how they show up and be challenged to change. Stephen took up the challenge and flexed both his physical strength and his mental strength. For more on the Ivy House Programme visit





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