Entrepreneur, Hacia Atherton, Thought She Would Never Walk Again
What is your area of expertise, who do you serve, and how do you serve them?
In 2017 my courage was tested as my life changed irrevocably forever. While pursuing my ultimate dream of representing Australia at the World Equestrian Games, I was thrown from my horse during dressage training and crushed as the 600kg animal fell on top of her. I endured the first six incredibly painful months of my recovery within the confines of a hospital room and my wheelchair.
My mental and emotional toughness was challenged as I grappled with the overwhelming reality that the dreams I once had would never be realized and that I may spend the rest of my once active and vital life bound to walking aids. I successfully turned trauma into triumph and have taught myself not only to walk again but now I am running!
This journey has made me an industry thought leader in courage and I am now passionate about how Positive Psychology can empower the next generation of leaders to achieve their remarkable potential. As an entrepreneur, I focus on inspiring people to overcome their adversities and fears through my Courage Coaching and Speaking.
As the founder of Empowered Women in Trades, a Not-For-Profit whose mission is to increase female representation in skilled trades and create a more equitable, balanced workforce that values and prioritizes the participation of skilled female tradespeople with respect and leadership.
I am also a member of the CPA Australia Emerging Leaders Network where I inspire young professionals and graduates to find their inner courage to achieve their remarkable potential in business and community endeavours.
My passion for courageous leadership through empowerment continues to inspire people across industries, in particular women navigating their personal and professional development.
Why would someone choose you over a competitor?
I have an in-depth lived experience in living life through courageous leadership, since my accident in 2017 not only have I had to teach myself to walk again but I have had to get myself back on my feet mentally, emotionally and physically again and again as I have had 15 medical procedure and I am still facing many more.
This lived experience has allowed me to develop my transformative ideology that success is a relative concept which must constantly be redefined, and that advancement in life is largely based on one’s ability to implement incremental goals which, when achieved, compound into large milestones.
Share a specific time you encountered an obstacle and describe how you overcame it.
When I had my horse accident I was Airlifted to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, where I underwent a nine-hour surgery to repair my badly broken pelvis, along with numerous fractures in both hips and severe nerve damage to my right leg. I woke to my medical team advising me I would likely never walk again in a meaningful way and would forever be reliant on a walking frame or crutches.
Devastated by my new reality, I fell into a deep depression. I spent hours crying in agony, defeat and frustration at the helplessness of my situation. However, my fighting spirit revived itself as I faced my toughest challenge yet – to stand unaided for the first time since my accident. The attempt left me nauseous and reeling from the pain. I was only able to stand with assistance for a few seconds.
I cried in agony, defeat, and frustration at the helplessness of my situation. I then realised I had a choice To let my tragic circumstances dictate the remainder of my life or to face the seemingly impossible goal of walking again with courage, positivity, and spirit. Spurred on by my newfound reserves of strength, I decided to embrace ‘progress over perfection. I decided to break the end goal of walking unaided into incremental goals which I could achieve and celebrate. In this moment, my new mantra of ‘can do, will do’ was born.
Now, four years later, I have taught myself to walk again, achieved my CPA, have been accepted into Melbourne University to study a Masters of Applied Positive Psychology, have completed several 100km bike rides and is now training for three monumentally tough events – Olympic distance triathlons (a 1500m swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run sprint triathlon), t a half marathon (21.1km run) and Amy’s Great Ocean Road Ride, which is a 130km road cycling event to help raise funds for the Amy Gillett Foundation.
Share a short story about your best (or favorite) case study.
Each and every person I work with is remarkable in their own way and are equally incredible. I think the best way I can answer this questions is to talk about the exciting moments when clients connect with their inner courage and step outside their comfort zone.
So often people allow fear to be the master of their life stopping them from achieving their remarkable potential. However, once people put a spotlight on those fears and start to have a courageous conversation with their inner gremlins the power is taken away from our fears.
Then when clients take that first step outside their comfort zone and achieve even the smallest of goals you can see their whole lives start to change. They build up the confidence to take bigger and bigger steps outside their comfort zone and become more and more excited about life.
What advice would you give the “20-Year-Old-You” who’s eager to start in life?
To take some time to understand your authentic self by having a curious mind which takes courage and vulnerability. Remember that people with great passion can make the impossible happen.
That we will never be able to rise above the internal story we tell ourselves so develop the self-awareness to hear what their internal dialogue is so they can then control this internal narrative and thus be able to control their destiny.
Please describe a monumental time in your life that you’ll never forget.
This would be 117 days after my horse accident, this was the day I stood on land for the first time since the accident. It was horrible and I was only able to stand for a few wobbly seconds before I came crashing down into my wheelchair. I was devastated, frustrated and on the edge of giving up hope that I would ever be able to walk again. I went back to my hospital bed and cried from the heartbreak.
Then I remembered a cartoon that was on our family fridge which was a little feisty frog in a pelican mouth strangling it with the words under it “Never Give Up”. I pulled out my notepad and used the principle of corporate strategy development to develop my own strategy to turn my traumatic situation into a triumphant success. My ability to redefine my own version of success has been key in my fight to regain control of my legs (and life).
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