The Fearless Leader: How charging your fears can help you navigate through anything that life throws your way

by Isabel Valle

There are moments in life when you feel under attack. It could be a batch of bad decisions, unfortunate events, epic failures, health issues, financial struggles, stress and overwhelm at work, sleepless nights, family or friends’ grave illnesses… or even a global pandemic which gives little signs of easing up. Sometimes, it seems as if most life domains work in synch to charge at you, and it is frankly difficult to navigate such times. 

The last few of years have seemed that way to me. I have struggled with health issues, such as leaky gut and adrenal fatigue. My husband had to leave us and move to another country for work, and I was left in Bangkok alone, with my two amazing children, who unfortunately took to their dad’s departure with great disappointment. A very sick mum – living far away in Spain. My daughter’s trust issues as a result of bullying. My son’s heartbreak by his dad’s departure. The prospect of moving to a very expensive country without the “expat” cushioning of benefits… add to that my – timely – decision to embark on a big mentorship program to help me up my game and develop my business to a whole new level, and what you find is a real scramble of a person trying to get through my days the best way possible. 

I am not going to lie to you. There have been days where all I could get done in order to get through my day was breathing. I am up and down like a yo-yo, pushing through, constantly demanding more of me, giving out more, doing more, then crashing and recovering for a bit, only to jump back onto the vicious cycle. 

Not easy to have to juggle so many balls at once. But I want to tell you one thing. I am not sorry that this is happening to me. On the contrary. I know that every challenge that I face, every obstacle I stumble across, brings me closer to becoming the type of person I want to be. Every hurdle, every disappointment, every mistake brings with it new learnings, fresh new insights as to what I’m capable of, and even more determination that, not matter what comes my way, I will conquer it with the continuous courage and decisiveness that I put into my life. Because if I don’t, what would be the cost of succumbing to it all? 

It was over a decade ago that I decided to claim a leader’s seat and let go of my victim’s role, a position I had played very well for the majority of my life. 

In going through a huge transformation – from the inside out – I built resources within myself that I never knew I had. And from that moment on, I made a commitment to myself that, no matter what life threw at me, I would charge up and face it head on.

It wasn’t long after that commitment, that I believe the Universe decided to test me, and sent me on a quest to demonstrate whether I would show up as a fearless leader or I’d run away.

During that time, I was living in Brunei Darussalam, in the Borneo jungle, where I would spend hours daily running through the jungles. It was on one of those days, a particularly quiet one, that I decided to go for my weekly Saturday 22km loop. Towards the end of my run, something happened, that would allow me to cement my commitment to charging to fear. 

I was only about 2 km away from reaching the main city, people and buildings, when, out of nowhere, I was faced with a pack of wild dogs charging aggressively at me. 

Wild dogs usually travel together, and they often have rendezvous sites like wolves. I happened to be unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and these dogs were determined to get to me. 

We’ve all heard that if an unfamiliar dog approaches you, to not run, panic of make loud noises. And if the dog knocks you down, to curl into a ball with your head tucked under your fists. Well, I can tell you now that at that time, that advice became insignificant. 

Very quickly I could assess who the alpha dog was, charging straight at me, and the other three dogs started to spread out, and I knew that they were going to try to circle around me, whilst the dominant dog of the pack would approach me head on. 

I knew I had one chance at changing the situation I was in, and that under no circumstances could I let those dogs get behind me, or that would be it. I also knew that I couldn’t run for my life, since I had just ran over 20 km and my legs were ready to give up. 

Intuitively, I knew that I needed to focus on the alpha dog of the pack, and that if I could scare the leader off, the rest would follow. Unfortunately, I wasn’t carrying any sticks, not did I have time to find a rock or something to throw at them. My best bet was my hydration pack, so I quickly took it off and, at that moment, I decided that charging my worst fears was the only way out – and so I did. 

Tapping into strength and courage I didn’t know I had, I bravely decided to face the alpha dog and charge at it, speeding towards it face on. I ran as if there was no option but to win the race, to give my all, and I screamed so loud that I couldn’t even hear the angry dogs barking anymore. For a second or two, I thought that was it, if it came to the alpha dog and me crossing paths, I would lose, yet at that moment I had nothing to lose, so I decided to give myself to the charge. 

Just a second before crashing with the leader of the pack, it suddenly stopped, and I could see the confusion and disbelief in the dog’s face. I believe that it understood that no matter what, I would show up in the fight fully, and at the very last moment it decided to stop and back away. The other dogs followed, and they ran deep into the jungle until all there was left was the feeling that my heart was going to come out of my mouth. 

It took me a moment to come back to a present state. I felt the need to shake uncontrollably and let go of all the adrenaline build up that still persisted in my body. 

I thought about running back to civilisation, but I was beat. There was nothing left to give in me, and I slowly walked back home. 

Once I reached home, I passed out. It took me a good few weeks to be able to reflect about that incident and to come out with some nuggets of wisdom that would allow me to release the trauma and move forward.

With time I understood that in the face of fears or obstacles, charging ahead is truly the only way. I have since tried to adopt a “fearless leader” mentality, so that, no matter what gets on the way, I will be here ready to face it. 

Life is what you make of it. It won’t always show you its best parts. There will undoubtedly be times when life will almost be unbearable, and, during those times, look within, tap into the strength and courage we all possess within ourselves, and charge ahead, for soon life will show you some of the best sunrises yet. 

To the fearless leader within you, awaken your power, the time is now. 

Here’s to your success!

Isabel x

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