SELF-IM­PROVE­MENT

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

Friday - - Contents -

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.’

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