Why stop at a pay rise when you could be director? Why stop at director when you could be CEO? Mike Peake finds out how to smash through your self-limiting beliefs and aim higher
Fight adversity and be the butterfly you deserve to be. Friday tells you how.
When a young UAE mum of two in her late 20s – we’ll call her Sara – suddenly found herself single again after divorcing her cheating husband, it didn’t feel like a chance to start anew: what followed were feelings of desperation, loneliness and failure.
Sara quickly convinced herself that she was stupid for having put faith in her philandering ex-husband and that he had been lying every time he had told her she was beautiful. She put on 25kg, and started dressing in a dowdy fashion.
Her status at work suffered as a result, which made her miserable and irritable around her kids, and at that very point the promise of even a tiny pay rise or perhaps a single date would have felt like a major victory. Sara had forgotten one of the most basic and important truths of life: we can all be whatever we want to be.
‘We don’t start off with limiting self-beliefs,’ says life coach Deena Al Mansoori, founder of the Fortitudo Consultancy. ‘When we were babies, we knew what we wanted and knew how to get it; we tried everything and feared nothing and we filled our minds with our curiosity and experimenting.’
Then, she says, we grew up. We got conditioned to think and act in certain ways. ‘By parents, family, friends, society, schools,’ she says. ‘We were told that we can’t do this, we can’t do that, that we will only be loved and respected if we behaved in certain ways. We sidelined any desire to try things differently because we sought the love and approval of those who matter to us.’ The net result, which is common among many people, is that our core beliefs become distorted. We become ‘programmed’ not to stretch ourselves, and, says Deena, we become afraid of getting out of our comfort zone because it is unknown territory and seems too risky.
For Sara, her boundaries and beliefs had suddenly and dramatically been redefined in a very damaging way indeed.
Marcus Smith, founder of the Dubai-based health and performance company InnerFight, witnesses self-limiting belief all the time. ‘I see it in about 80 per cent of new clients,’ says the well-regarded performance coach. ‘It has somehow become a normal state for people to be in, and I think the problem is that people have a very poor perception of what they are capable of. They have limited vision, and because of that they never see themselves in that perfect job, running a marathon or achieving amazing things in their life.’
Often, he says, the cause of people’s self-limiting behaviour is that they actually don’t know what they really want to achieve. Which is understandable, as there are so many
It’s hard to know whether to be a Call Of Duty champion, a charity leader or a singer on Arabs Got Talent. To avoid sticking our necks out, we often excel at nothing
things vying for our attention these days it’s hard to know whether to be a Call Of Duty champion, a charity leader or a singer on Arabs Got Talent. To avoid sticking our necks out, we often excel at nothing. ‘A fear of failure, plus concerns about how others will judge us, means we end up in a disaster zone,’ says Marcus. A disaster zone in which we never really achieve anything.
For Sara, life started to change for the better when she realised that what appeared to be mapped out for her wasn’t, in fact, carved in stone. That her expectation ceiling could actually be raised. ‘We first worked on her belief system,’ says Deena, who helped coach Sara back to a state of self-confidence. ‘I helped her see her life from different
perspectives, which made her realise the limits she had surrounded herself with. I also worked with her on loving her body and dressing for it.’
Sara stopped saying yes to her boss’s requests to work late every night, and instead put her focus on something she loved doing: making jewellery. ‘She soon lost all the weight she’d put on because she started cooking healthy meals with her children,’ says Deena, ‘and she got promoted at work after she walked into the CEO’s office with a proposal to make some changes that would increase productivity and reduce costs.’
Today, Sara leads a team of more than 30 employees, and has also started selling her jewellery online, with her young daughter handling the account for her. Her achievements might not be up there with those of Bill Gates, but they are a thousand times more impressive than she thought she was capable of just a few short years ago. ‘Her eyes now are full of sparkles instead of bitterness and sadness,’ says Deena. Powerful stuff. So how do we all get some? It begins with changing your belief system, Deena says. ‘What I advise my clients to do is to open their beliefs bag and put the contents one-by-one on the table,’ she says. ‘Take a good look at every belief and decide if you want to put it back in your belief bag – or get rid of it.’
She says, for example, that you might have a belief you have to be married at a certain age – which sometimes pushes people to settle for someone who is not a great match. ‘If that belief was tossed out and you put in another belief instead that says “I will get married when I meet a person who can be my best friend and a supportive partner”, then the pressure is off. It is no longer about achieving a goal to please others, but for ourselves.’
Think also about commonly-held beliefs such as: ‘I could never write a novel’ or ‘I’m only destined to go so far at work.’ Who says so? Who’s in charge here?
When reappraised like this, beliefs can be reworked so that they steer people towards their true goals. For Marcus, helping new clients to realise what they want is crucial if they are to flourish. ‘There needs to be a level of self-awareness,’ he says. ‘It’s no use me saying, “Your goal should be to run 10k”, people have to want to do it. Not everyone knows that at the start, so I try and pull the goals out of them.’
He says an important next step is to make people aware of the process and the sacrifices they may have to make in order to get there. ‘People deserve to be told,’ he says. It’s an important point – if your path to being the next UAE hurdles champion will involve strict training and extreme dieting, then you need to be up for it. ‘But if you are willing to work hard,’ says Marcus, ‘then life really is amazing. The feeling of achievement is truly unique and one achievement and the buzz from it almost always leads to another.’
With the right mindset, you can punch above your weight at the gym, in your
‘Open your BELIEFS bag and put the contents one-by-one on the table. Take a good look at every belief that you have and decide if you want to put it back in your belief bag – or get RID of it’
relationships, in your personal goals and certainly at work. Muhannad Ziyadah, who runs the Middle Eastern operation of SME consultants Business Doctors, says that people often set their career expectations at a secure level that they know they can achieve.
An alternative option, he says, is to aim high… and brace yourself for failure. ‘To be truly successful, you not only need to give yourself the freedom to fail but you also need to readjust the way you interpret failure. Failure brings with it fantastic learning opportunities. Most successful people have experienced failure; the difference is they saw it as the end of chapter one rather than the end of the story.’
While you don’t have to be extra-special to punch above your weight, certain characteristics may help.
Marcus says those that make it are often the ones who focus on their goal pretty much 24/7. Muhannad, meanwhile, says that in his experience the business people who tend to be really successful have a passion, and their business is based on something they strongly believe in. ‘They have a cause that’s beyond just making money,’ he says.
Deena says that, ultimately, everyone’s future is in their own hands. ‘Everyone on this planet is capable of achieving anything they want. Everyone has the strength, resources, and the wisdom within them.’
So think big. And then think bigger. ‘To be successful, you need to have the ability to set your sights beyond the expected, beyond what other people think is achievable,’ sums up Muhannad. ‘If you don’t step out beyond what appears to be feasible, then you lose the ability to stretch yourself. It is no good setting a realistic ambition that you can almost certainly achieve; you need something that will push you that little bit further.’