20th July 2016
You wouldn’t know from the photo, but I’m pictured here with five extraordinary people. Each one of them has overcome incredible adversity, and gone from living on the streets to getting accommodation, a steady job, and beginning to rebuild their lives. It was taken earlier this month when I invited some of our Rising Stars (graduates of the Rising Stars Programme for the Homeless) to climb a challenging mountain, the Grosser Rettenstein in Austria.
After a long hike and a tough scramble up the final 500 feet, four of the Rising Stars were delighted to reach the summit, accompanied by our local guide. The fifth Rising Star, Isobel, suffered from dizziness and wisely decided to come down early. I have climbed the mountain before and was happy to accompany her. Isobel and I ended up talking about her life and experiences for many hours. Just eighteen months ago, Isobel was living on the streets in Walthamstow. A charity worker introduced her to the Pret Rising Stars programme and she now has a full time job in the kitchen of our shop at Stratford Station in East London.
The Power of Five (Exercise)
As we made our descent from Grosser Rettenstein, I took Isobel through an exercise I have learned called "The Power of Five." I was taught this exercise by an executive coach and I was intrigued to see if it would help a Pret Rising Star as much as it helped me. The exercise consists of coming up with five simple statements describing your life as you would like it to be in five years' time. Isobel took to it quickly, and within half an hour she had developed five statements about her desired life in 2021. I asked her permission to share them here and she has kindly agreed:
1. To own or share ownership of a flat in London.
2. To develop my illustrating skills as much as I can.
3. To be a non-smoker who eats well and exercises regularly.
4. To have a stable and respectful relationship.
5. To be a General Manager of a Pret shop (or a good competitor).
I could feel Isobel growing in confidence as she narrowed down the five statements. That evening she told me that she was starting to feel a real sense of direction and purpose. Since returning from Austria she has already applied for a promotion at Pret that she previously thought she wasn't ready for.