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Life lessons: Working towards your goals with Turia Pitt

by Alex Carlton

Inspirational burns survivor, humanitarian and author, Turia Pitt talks to Open Colleges about how her incredible experiences have influenced her approach to life and offers some practical advice on reaching your goals.

You may know Turia Pitt as the woman who survived a horrific accident during a bushfire in 2011. At just 24 years of age, she suffered massive burns to 65 per cent of her body while running a marathon in the Kimberleys in WA. Her courage since has been astounding: she trains for Ironman competitions, studies and travels the world giving motivational speeches.

Turia’s autobiography, Everything to Live For was published in 2013. “Never, never, never give up,” she has said. “Live life to its fullest. Be determined. Persevere.” This is a woman who sets goals and smashes them. Here, she talks to Open Colleges about strength, focus and the advice she lives by.

Embrace the tough stuff

Turia was already a keen athlete before her accident and it hasn’t slowed her down. She says the parts of training she dislikes most make her stronger. “I’m training for an Ironman comp and I do not like the cycling part at all,” she says. “The cycling section of an Ironman is 180km. As part of my training I cycled from Sydney to Adelaide last year which is about 2000km. I hated every single kilometre. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. Even though I hated it, I’m really glad that I did it.”

Turia and her partner, Michael

Turia and her partner, Michael

Focus on what matters

After getting caught in a bushfire whilst running a marathon in 2011, Turia endured 864 days in hospital and over 100 surgeries. Since then she’s been inspired to help people around the world who can’t afford hospital treatment, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Last year I raised over $200,000 by climbing the Great Wall of China and this year I’ll be tackling Machu Picchu in South America where I hope to raise $300,000,” she says. “The money goes to Interplast, which provides free surgery to people who need it in developing countries – people born with a cleft lip, women who are victims of acid attacks or burn survivors.”

“I’ve seen firsthand some of the work they do and it was inspiring and heartbreaking. I had a traumatic injury to 65 percent of my body and I know that people in other countries would die if they had that level of injury because they don’t have access to medical care.”

No excuses

“I think it’s really important to still train if I’m feeling tired or hungry or a bit off because even during an event you could feel any of those things; tired, a bit sick.” Think of setbacks as challenges, she says. “It’s real preparation for the actual day.”

Turia and Michael with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Turia and Michael with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Fit study around your life

Even before the accident Turia was a woman of exception: working as a model and achieving a double-degree with Honours in Mining Engineering and Science before landing her dream job in the diamond mines of Kununurra. Today, she’s studying for an MBA and Masters in Mining Engineering. “I’ve always enjoyed the process of study,” she says. “Right now I’m taking it really slowly; one subject per session.”

Distance education allows Turia to live the life she wants while furthering her education. “It lets me live where I live now, on the beautiful NSW south coast and means I can still work and do my Ironman training.”

Discover the study methods that work for you

Turia’s study technique has evolved over the years. “When I did my first science/mining engineering degree on campus at uni I was a crammer,” she admits. “I’d stay up all night to do an assignment, hand it in, go have a beer and then go to sleep.” These days, she’s a little more disciplined. “I can’t really do that anymore because these days because I have to go to training.  I’ve got to go to work.  I’ve got other obligations that I have to fulfil.  So now I have to plan the times I study, start the assignment earlier and break it down into manageable chunks.”

Turia’s top tips for shutting out distractions:

  1. Have a dedicated workspace
  2. Turn off email and Facebook – set your phone to ‘do not disturb’
  3. Mark out a time period and stick to it. “I tell myself, ‘You’re going do two hours and nothing else until that two hours is over!’” she says.
  4. And coffee of course. “I’m a bit of a caffeine addict,” says Turia, laughing.

The best advice I’ve ever received

Turia’s top motivation comes from her dad, and she says it’s the exact advice she’d pass on to her kids one day. “My dad was pretty tough on us growing up and he had two rules in the house. The first one was ‘No whinging’. And the second was ‘No bloody  whinging’!  It’s such a typical ‘dad’ saying but I honestly think that’s really helped me on my journey because there’s no point in complaining about something. I guess that’s why I don’t. I try to look at life from the most positive view.”

Would you like to see Turia at a face-to-face event for a worthy cause?

Turia Pitt’s Interplast Gala is being held soon!

It’s happening on Thursday 16 April 2015 @ 7pm in Sydney.

All funds raised will go to Interplast.
Tickets are available here.

Thumbnail image courtesy of The Australian Women’s Weekly

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