August 12 marked International Elephant’s Day. And while the old saying goes that an elephant never forgets, did you know that elephants can empathise too? As a herd, they are animals that show tremendous concern for one another – studies have shown them to actively use a unique, distinct sound, and a caressing trunk motion to naturally show understanding when they see another elephant in distress. Often considered one of the world’s most empathic species, they make responding to the emotions and need of others a natural imperative. A set of skills that we could all undoubtedly be learning from as we navigate the tsunami year that is 2020.
As we continue to work through the rollercoaster we find ourselves on, the practice of empathy for others is arguably our most critical skill towards recovery. The good news? However empathetic you feel you may be naturally, science has shown that the only thing between talking about being more empathetic and being empathetic is the decision to do so. Empathy is a skill so deeply embedded into our physiology that due to the neuroplasticity of our brains, research has shown that simply the decision to be more empathetic will lead you directly to be more empathetic.
But whilst it may come naturally to the socially-alert elephants that share our planet, how can we become as empathetic towards one another in our working life as they are?
Firstly, practice live listening – how often do you find yourself listening but not taking note of what the other person is saying? Your body may have been in the same room, but your attention is elsewhere. The first key to driving a deeper empathetic connection is to ensure that when you listen, you listen to truly hear.
Secondly, focus on those around you – we know that when people feel understood, stress levels are lower, immunity is, therefore, higher and our perceived safety and security goes up. Understanding the perspective of another not only helps you to gain clarity and context, but it creates confidence and calm in those you are connecting with. We need this more than ever right now.
Finally, be curious– enquiry drives connection. Start conversations and provoke sharing by asking questions to deepen your understanding of those around you. Encourage others to share more than their initial response by prompting them to know you are interested in hearing more
And if you think you’re hearing the word empathy everywhere right now, you’re right. It’s now on the lips of scientists and business leaders, education experts and political activists all over the world, and there is a good reason for it. 2020 may just turn out to be the year of empathy. For all of us.
Mimi Nicklin is an author and renowned empathetic influencer based in Dubai. Find out moreat miminicklin.com
Overthinking, also known as rumination, is when you repeatedly concentrate on the same thought or scenario to the point where it interferes with your everyday life. Overthinking is widespread and affects many of us. According to Forbes, 73% of people aged 25 to 35, as well as 52 percent of people aged 45 to 55, are regular overthinkers.
There are two types of overthinking: dwelling on the past and fretting about the future. If we overthink everything in our life, it becomes a habit or self-soothing behaviour that we adopt in situations where a solution is required. Overthinking can even make things worse. You may feel ‘stuck’ or unable to take any action if you’re battling with your own thoughts. It can be hard to focus on anything else or remove certain thoughts from your mind. You may feel as if you’re trapped in a maze of thoughts, each one leading to the next – thus creating a chain of unpleasant thoughts.
It’s critical to recognise when you’re overthinking so that you can use the correct tools and techniques to combat negative thoughts and prevent an unhealthy pattern from forming. Interestingly, though, if used the right way, overthinking can help us manifest our biggest dreams. The way it’s normalised today, however, isn’t the best approach.
While not always the case, overthinking has been connected to sadness. That being said, not all overthinking is unhealthy. In the short term, having many thoughts about an issue can actually motivate you to eliminate negatives and become prepared to overcome hurdles. When you’re apprehensive about a big work presentation, for example, the stress can motivate you to put your best foot forward. You may put in a lot of effort on the project and leave home a little early on the day of the presentation to make sure you arrive on time.
However, overthinking becomes unhealthy when it keeps you from taking action or interferes with your daily life and well-being. Stress can also make it more difficult for you to focus and remember things, making work, housekeeping, and other daily duties more challenging. These duties will take longer if you are stressed, which might lead to even more stress.
Overthinking and Poor Sleep
Why do we stay up thinking all night? Overthinking at night happens primarily as the brain processes what occurred during the day at night. This happens as we don’t have the space to digest our ideas throughout the day because our days are now filled with several things that involve taking in large amounts of information.
In many cases, we spend hours overthinking at night about a situation we faced in the past or worrying about the future. It keeps us awake and disrupts our sleep cycle in the process. Thus, by interfering with our natural sleep cycle, overthinking can have a negative impact on our overall health and well-being, too.
Figuring Out the Cause of Overthinking
Many people believe that overthinking is a struggle, but most of the time, it’s not actually a struggle – rather one of the symptoms of a struggle that we are unwilling to address. It’s the fear of not resolving a problem that causes us to overthink things.
This usually stems from not being used to resolving issues and lacking the courage to do it. We use overthinking as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with the situation at hand and, as a result, when it comes to resolving the conflict, we tend to overthink it.
Is It a Disease or a Symptom?
Overthinking can cause troubled mental health and, as such, must be treated right away to minimise its effects on our lives and physical health. It’s a warning sign that something’s awry, a signal that the underlying issue is lurking underneath the surface.
It can also be a symptom that can indicate depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and other mental struggles. The best approach to combat it is to seek therapy and professional help, and acquire the necessary tools and techniques because if left untreated, it will begin to cause far more problems than anticipated.
Three Ways to Avoid Overthinking
1. Keep track of patterns and triggers.
A little mindfulness and focus can help you get a handle on your overthinking. Keep a journal and jot down particular instances where you found yourself overthinking or worrying. After some practice, you’ll start to see patterns and anticipate overthinking triggers. This will assist you in developing a coping strategy for when you know you may overthink.
2. Seek professional assistance.
When you overthink all the time to such an extent that it interferes with your everyday activities, you should seek expert help. As this usually indicates a mental struggle, professional assistance is required in order to be treated.
3. Make your thinking more challenging.
You don’t have to believe everything your mind tells you – even if it feels that way. Overthinking can be stifled by challenging fears and ruminations, and viewing them objectively. Evaluate if a thought is rational, reasonable, or useful. There are moments when I, too, begin to overthink and the negative thoughts begin to creep in. As humans, our default response is to be aware of the negative so as to protect ourselves from it. Being mindful of the fact that we have spotted it and can now work on it, rather than allowing it to take over our minds is the key.
Much of the research around how and why women feel the way they do about money management isn’t surprising to us women. According to statistics, 81% of women said they’ve personally been a victim of negative stereotypes – including about their investing abilities. And while this is extremely sad, it’s not surprising to most. I, too, have experienced this firsthand on more occasions than I care to remember, even though I am a finance professional with the experience and qualifications to back it up.
I remember how every conversation was directed at my husband when I was talking to banks and brokers about obtaining a mortgage. I’d ask a question, and the broker or advisor would proceed to answer it looking at my husband as if he’d asked. As a regional head of finance who was responsible for billions of dollars in company revenues, you’d think I’d be taken seriously – and that’s notwithstanding the fact that the mortgage application was 100% based on my salary and would be my liability! It felt like my gender was overshadowing my financial credentials and my experience. Of course, as a woman, I can’t possibly be the decision-maker or capable of understanding a complex mortgage agreement, right? Wrong.
So much of that bias is unconscious, and it’s present in both men and women. We, as women, often display this bias against ourselves. We believe the stereotype that women are simply not good at managing money – that we cannot control our spending and we’re not good at investing. This idea is widespread and spread across cultures, geographies, and generations. When it comes to money, there is often a canyon of space between our mindsets and money-belief systems. But why is it this way? Thankfully, there is much research on this topic and I’m going to discuss some key facts here.
How Are Men and Women Different?
Women are socialised to save money, keep it safe, and not be greedy. Our male counterparts, on the other hand, are socialised to invest, seek out ways to earn as much as possible, and be proud of their financial achievements. For men, earning vast amounts of money is seen as powerful and impressive. Because of this, women tend to hold 71% of their assets in cash and shy away from sharing what they earn or have. Men, on the other hand, hold 60% of their assets in cash and are more likely to boast about promotions and what they earn.
What I hadn’t considered before was our tendency to use our money to benefit everyone except ourselves. Studies have shown women use money to create a lifestyle in the present. We do that by buying the groceries, making 70% of travel decisions, and organising the day-to-day lives of our families. This is a different spending perspective from the stereotypical one portrayed by the media, where women spend all their money shopping and even need to be given tips to stop or reduce.
On the other hand, we are less likely to plan for retirement, buy life insurance, or be involved in arranging mortgages. In contrast, men use money to create a secure future. They take on the role of decision-maker in significant and long-term financial decisions. Ironically, we women tend to live longer than men and, yet, we are leaving our retirement security in the hands of people we are likely to outlive.
Why Do Women Feel Less Financially Confident?
Money is genderless, and it’s as much of a tool for women as it is for men. So why do we feel so differently about it? This is where it gets particularly frustrating. The divide in money isn’t just about gender pay gaps, there is also a worrying gap in how men and women are spoken to about money. Men are taught the benefits of investing, blockchain, and NFTs, while women are told to stop drinking artisanal coffee so they can save for a pair of designer shoes.
A study carried out by Starling Bank in 2018 found that 90% of articles targeted at females focus on small ways to save money. 71% encourage seeking out vouchers, discounts, and coupons to save money. 65% define women as excessive spenders, urging us to limit, restrict, and better control our ‘splurges’. Our male counterparts, on the other hand, are targeted with articles about the importance of making big investments, how to mitigate investment risks, and how money can enhance one’s status as a man. Furthermore, 50% focused on how to protect themselves from future harm, including financial harm from divorce. Is it any wonder that arguments over money are consistently reported as the number one cause of divorce?
Why Is It Good to Get More Money into Our Hands?
As women, we use our money to help others. Women invest 90% of their income back into their families, while men only reinvest 44%. When I first came across this, it surprised me, but when I sat back and thought about it, it all made sense. When my mother spoke to me about money, it’s clear now that she assumed my income would be used to pay for my family’s needs. She also urged me to always keep enough aside just in case – which I did, but I too had unconsciously internalised her assumption. My income went back to my family and, for years, I didn’t invest or think long-term either. It was a real wake-up call.
Despite how the media portrays us, we are more financially responsible than men. When we do invest, we are more likely to invest long-term, we are more patient, and we achieve better returns. Studies show women are more likely to invest in ESG and sustainability, so we use our money to invest responsibly and do good for the planet. We use our money to help our families and our communities, so communities thrive when women make more financial decisions. We currently control over $31.8 trillion in worldwide spending – imagine the positive change we can create with that level of wealth if we felt empowered to use it in line with our values and help others?
What Can You Do to Feel More Financially Confident?
Put yourself on the path to financial wellness by taking small actions that you can do now. What’s most important when you begin is clarity. It means knowing how much money you have, and then creating a plan for where you want your money to go. Ensure the cash flow plan is in line with your values, not what others or the media tell you it should be. Set financial goals that are true to you and then build your budget to achieve those goals. Make peace with your money situation and forgive any past mistakes – every human makes money mistakes.
If you’d like to know more about financial wellness, get your free copy of my Conscious Finance Coaching Financial Wellness Checklist here.
Considering May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the topic of stress – and how to tackle it – feels more timely than ever. But what if conventional solutions aren’t cutting it? After all, yoga isn’t for everyone, some people aren’t comfortable with the idea of therapy, and talking a long walk in scorching temperatures is hardly appealing. Enter: seven unique ways to destress in Dubai, one for each day of the week.
Artistic talent is not a prerequisite to give art psychotherapy a try – it’s the process of making the artwork, not the end result, that matters. And because therapy of this sort is carried out by a qualified art psychotherapist, it’s used for both diagnostic and treatment purposes. Not only does art psychotherapy alleviate stress and foster self-awareness, but it also addresses issues that verbal psychotherapy cannot reach.
Like art psychotherapy, drum therapy entails no verbal communication, yet promotes healing and self-expression – especially when done in a drumming circle. This is because rhythmic activities readjust one’s focus and boost self-esteem, thereby calming the anxious mind. In fact, techniques of this sort have been employed for thousands of years to promote healing, especially as it’s safe and suited to all ages.
Don’t underestimate the stress-busting benefits of aquatic R&R, especially when it comes to floating in a highly concentrated solution of epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) in a private cabin or pod, with the water temperature set between 35.5°C and 35.8°C. As for why it works? Magnesium has been proven to reduce stress hormone – formally known as cortisol – levels, making sensory deprivation of this sort practically foolproof.
Hypnosis is one of the least understood techniques when it comes to stress management, but don’t let that deter you from keeping an open mind towards this ancient practice. And if you’re not quite ready to give self-hypnosis a try, guided hypnosis comes highly recommended as a trained expert will walk you through a powerful visualisation exercise in order to both let go of stress and regain control.
Do you really need a reason for this one? Well, it’s cheaper than therapy, for starters. It’s also designed to help participants release pent-up rage by smashing everything in sight – vases, plates, old printers, and old-school TVs included – in a judgment-free space. Perhaps that explains why 60% of the customers at The Smash Room are women? And while experts continue to study this area for more conclusive evidence, several psychologists say the act of smashing releases endorphins (a.k.a. happy hormones), even steering their clients in this direction.
Crunchy, new age-y techniques are admittedly not for everyone, but the ancient practice of sound healing certainly deserves a spot on this list. It brings together percussive instruments like gongs, triangles, tuning forks, and Tibetan singing bowls to help enter a theta state of very deep relaxation, thereby silencing the human mind through vibrations – a must-try if the stress is more chronic in nature.
Combining water and shiatsu results in – you guessed it – watsu, a practice that has long been used in South America. Taking place in a pool generally set at a temperature of 31ºC, a therapist will gently cradle, rock, and stretch you in a series of rotational movements, all of which lead to fuller breathing and muscle relaxation. Translation: lower stress levels, less anxiety, and sleeping more soundly than you have in ages.
Us men can seem like a bit of an enigma at times, appearing stoic, emotionless, carefree, and perhaps even cold and indifferent. The keyword here though is ‘appearing’. The truth is that we feel more than you think. It’s just that we’ve been conditioned to believe that the expression of emotion equals weakness – unless it’s related to sports or video games, of course.
I write this as a man who has struggled to express his truth with women for many years – a man afraid of reaction, rejection, judgement, and the truth I might hear reflected back at me. So instead, I lied, suppressed my truth, and consequently caused a lot of pain to those close to me. The battle between the man who wants to express his truth and the woman who wants him to when they both lack trust in each other is ongoing.
As you read this, you may think that it’s normal for a man to lie and hide the truth – and whilst I might agree with you, it does not make it okay. The reality is that men want to be honest. A man wants to unburden his troubles, but the conditions need to be psychologically safe. Most men fear that their truth will hurt the person they want to be honest with, so they decide to say nothing. They fear rejection, and their ego struggles to accept it, so they avoid being vulnerable altogether.
To the women reading this: you are the conductors of this journey and the experts of emotional expression – and we need your help. It’s not easy for us to switch between our emotions, especially with some of the vulnerable ones. They don’t feel nice, and we don’t know what to do with them. Most men want to escape a negative state of mind as quickly as possible, which is why we try our hardest to block our emotions or numb them.
So where do we go from here? It might sound cliché, but communication really is key. I’d like to share with you some ways in which you can create psychological safety for the men in your life in order to encourage open and honest conversations together. Of course, there are many men who are comfortable being vulnerable, but this article is written with those who are emotionally closed off in mind.
Before you read ahead, know that I fully understand there are times when the things I list will be difficult to do, perhaps because your own emotions may be heightened or the topic you wish to bring up has been on the table for quite some time. Every relationship is unique and relationship goals may vary. This is a journey and it will take time, but I promise that if you really work on creating safety, the man in your life will begin to open up.
Is this the time or place?
He’s just come home from work or hanging out with his friends, and you’re ready to talk to him about something that’s been on your mind all day – after all, you’ve had all the time to go over it and now you want to let it all out. But this is not the time. This scenario does not create safety. As mentioned before, it is difficult for a man to switch between emotional states and after having just come home, he’s in no state to talk about his feelings, so give him time to truly settle.
Talking to him just before sleeping is also a bad idea. Most men just want to sleep once their head hits the pillow. I can fully appreciate that you may have something on your heart and mind – possibly something that’s been bothering you for a while – but if you really want to have the best shot at an open conversation, find the right time and place to do so.
Are you really ready to hear his truth?
Before embarking on a journey to create safety for him to open up, ask yourself if you feel safe with yourself to receive his truth. Are you ready to accept whatever he says with an open heart, to listen and not react? What is your intention for the conversation? What do you want to achieve together? Check in with yourself to recognise if there has ever been a time where he has attempted to express his truth and you mishandled the situation, emotionally hijacked the conversation, or even used his vulnerability against him. It doesn’t take a lot for a man to shut down and never attempt to speak his truth again.
Be patient with him. Understand that he won’t always know what he’s feeling, Many men have been conditioned not to feel and he may need time to find his words. Try not to jump in or finish his sentences and just listen. It may even be necessary for him to go away and reflect on the topic and come back to you, so be prepared to hit walls.
Commit to holding space for him – even if his truth triggers you.
This also means a commitment moving forward that you will not use his truth against him. It’s important that you work to ensure that safety is maintained within your relationship. Try your best to remain open and take your own time to process anything that triggers you. Be mindful of jumping in with advice or rebuttals. We already get a lot of advice from other men, so what we want from you is to feel seen, heard, and understood. Turn up the dial on empathy and approach with curiosity. Use phrases like ‘I hear you’ and ‘tell me more’ to encourage the flow.
Approach with Loving-Kindness
Think ‘how can I open his heart?’ rather than “I want him to be more expressive’. Use physical touch to show affection, allow him to see and feel your presence, and reaffirm that he is safe. Use this as a moment to bond with him and build your connection. To foster more openness, you could even express your own truth and fears to show your vulnerability. I find that when working with men, they are far more likely to open up when I share a story about myself with them.
Ask Better Questions
Avoid asking big questions like, “Where do you see this relationship going?” It’s a very direct and important question, but such questions can be incredibly daunting to a man who finds it difficult to open up. If your aim is to create safety and encourage openness, start by asking softer and more specific questions like, “When do you enjoy connecting with me most?” Be playful and ask questions that he can answer. If a man begins to feel pressured or overwhelmed, he is likely to close and retreat. Try not to let him feel that he can’t keep up with the conversation.
Catch him doing it right and reinforce the behaviour. When he is opening up, let him know that he’s heard, thank him for his vulnerability, and tell him that it makes you feel good when he opens up to you. Men love to feel that they’re doing a good job, and positive reinforcement will create new neuro-associations in the brain that will likely encourage him to continue opening up.
If you’re not quite getting the response you desire, do not punish him. Instead, speak from your heart and express how it makes you feel when he struggles to express himself – but do so in a calm and loving way. This is more likely to elicit a response from him, but also be prepared for no reaction.
I know this can appear intense, but I cannot stress to you how hard it is for men to open up about their feelings. Real safety is so important in making a man feel comfortable. If we sense even the slightest bit of disingenuity or judgement, we’ll either stop talking altogether or get into our heads and begin disguising or playing down our truth.
It’s a Journey, Not a Destination
I have an exercise for you to try. This is something I used to do on a weekly basis in my last relationship. We would have a ‘check-in’ every week on Thursday at 7pm with the intention of creating a safe space for us. We’d used it to share how we’re feeling in our lives, towards each other, and the relationship. By having it at the same time every week, it allows you both to mentally and emotionally prepare yourselves for the connection – this is especially important for men. Here’s my check-in guide:
Pick a day and time that suits you both. Put it in a diary and honour it.
Both of you must take ownership in creating a safe environment. This can mean lighting candles, putting some music on, opening a bottle of wine, or burning some incense – whatever works for you both.
Sit facing each other and spend around five minutes looking into each other’s eyes (you can blink!) and settle yourself into the moment.
Next, take turns expressing how you’re feeling, knowing that anything can be said. The one listening can only listen, and is then to repeat back everything that their partner said. Try your best not to paraphrase and use their words. The aim of this exercise is to make each other feel heard and seen.
After each share and reflection, say thanks for listening to each other and embrace.
If there is anything that needs further discussion, continue with loving kindness while taking care to maintain physical touch and openness throughout.
If you would like support or are curious to know more, follow Adil Hussain here.
If there’s anything on-trend right now, it’s inclusivity, diversity, and gender – the media is practically screaming at us about! Some may say it’s about time, while others may question what the point is. That being said, there is no greater time to be a woman and define who you are on your own terms than now. Be it a businesswoman, a female entrepreneur, a mumpreneur, or a solo sister – anything goes! However, does this freedom create stigma, confusion, or even judgment amongst our fellow female counterparts? If this question got you thinking, then I welcome you to the concept of ‘gender bias’. Let me explain.
Have you or a friend ever judged a woman based on her weight, job, fashion choices, food choices, or comments? Ever commented, “I can’t believe she did that/said that/wore that!” If yes, it could indicate that you may have a bias towards the female gender, which means there is an unspoken expectation of what or how a woman ‘should’ speak or even act. These ‘shoulds’ are societal female expectations that make women base their relationships on persona and conduct – all of which relate to the self. Men, meanwhile, typically base relationships on performance, influence, and goal orientation in the workplace.
But fear not; everyone has a ‘bias’ towards something, and this is indicative of our upbringing, culture, environment, job role, and relationship status. However, by being aware of our biases, we can come to a place of acceptance and therefore become open to building stronger connections that will benefit our personal life and career.
Women offer so many skills and, in fact, the new term ‘soft skills’ (which includes empathy, a strong sense of emotional intelligence, the ability to make others feel heard, and a sense of perspective) are all skills that I believe women inherently possess. And we have all this whilst taking on 70% of household decisions! We sound truly unstoppable, right? But it comes at a cost – USD 160.2 trillion to be exact. That’s how much money was lost due to gender inequality in the workplace. In fact, the same report on the cost of gender equality estimated that full gender equality can increase the world GDP by USD 28 trillion by 2025.
Companies can transform million dollar ideas and concepts into trillions by checking their bias and focusing on the strengths and the incredible skill sets that women can offer. It can do this by allowing flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, part-time working options, and female mentorship programmes that create a space for women to talk about their performance and collaborate with others.
Let’s now start small and check your bias to allow you to look at a new perspective. When you think of a CEO, who do you think of? A male or female? When you think of a parent, do you think of a male or female? When you think of the breadwinner of a household, do you think of a male or female? If you’ve answered male to most of these questions, this shows that you may share the societal bias towards one gender over the other. It’s powerful and impactful to know our mindset as it puts us in a place of awareness, collaboration, and exploration. It can also make our experiences and relationships stronger and more meaningful.
According to a study conducted at Cornell University: “Women tend to underestimate their confidence, whilst men will overestimate their abilities.” Another study found that men will apply for a job role with only 60% of the credentials, compared to women, who will apply for a role with only 100%. Here are ways to check your bias and thrive with confidence if faced with a job opportunity.
What can I offer this role?
If confidence or self-belief wasn’t holding me back, what would I do?
What’s holding me back?
What impact would I make if I had this role?
Why not me?
If You Own a Business, Consider the Following Questions:
Could the company benefit from a different perspective?
How gender equal are we in this company?
Is our team stronger in one gender than the other?
What gaps need filling when it comes to gender equality?
These small insights and perspectives can offer a host of knowledge about what sets us back. Remember ladies, we all are worthy of achieving our goals and dreams – and 2022 is truly our time – so be proud, make a stand, and show the world who you truly are. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “I was once afraid of people saying, ‘Who does she think she is?’ Now I have the courage to say, ‘This is who I am.'”
What is victim mentality? The word ‘victim’ is thrown about a lot these days, but most people aren’t aware of how and when it should be used, and do not understand the impact it creates in our lives. Here, we’re going to delve into who a victim is to reduce all this confusion.
A victim, in this context, is a person who is at the receiving end of a bad incident or emotion when it comes to mental health. Not everyone is a victim till they allow themselves to be. You would have likely seen people give advice to take responsibility for our actions, no matter what the situation is. But most of us don’t know how to do it and what impact it can have.
How is this related to victim mentality? Consider this. Have you noticed that your life is circling the same path over and over again? Why is someone else always around you to trigger certain emotions – be it happiness or sadness? Why can’t you have a peaceful mind? Why is happiness always a short-term thing for you? If you have been thinking in this direction, congratulations! You are now one step closer to identifying the victim mentality in you and finding an answer to the problems that have been with you all your life.
How can victim mentality take over your entire life?
Let’s start with an example of victim mentality and how it turns into a cycle. If a friend hurts you and you are upset about it, you are now feeling sad because of someone else’s actions. This can cause you to feel like you were the victim of that incident. With the rise of this feeling, you are now giving your power to someone else. It’s like allowing them to be a trigger in your life. You give the other person the power to control your life.
Being a trigger, they can control your unconscious mind and make you think, do, or act as they like. By giving the conscious mind and thinking power away, you are entering a very scary path where this process repeat and become a pattern. It means that you’ll come across similar people who will trigger you and make you sad because that’s all that you know and are familiar with.
This is where you need to take responsibility for your actions. You have to tell yourself that you cannot react to another person and you must maintain control of your conscious mind. Now that we have decoded victim mentality, the same thinking can be applied to happiness, too. If you start relying on others for your happiness or the outside environment to make you happy, you are letting yourself be dependent on it – and not learning to be truly happy.
Whether it’s creating a cycle of sadness or depending externally for happiness, these habits can make life very difficult, very quickly. You cannot find long-term happiness or peace within yourself with such an approach as you’re letting yourself be a mere puppet. So what’s the solution? Believe that just as outside factors can control you, you can control the outside world, too.
If you can let your inner self control you – including your sadness, happiness, and all other emotions – then you will feel that the people around you cannot actually control your mood, especially with such intensity. You might still be sad or happy because of others, but they are no longer in control, and you know how to make yourself feel better.
How can you make yourself feel in control?
Changing your attitude is not going to happen overnight. You’ll have to undertake a lot of learning, unlearning, decoding, and adopting new habits while dropping older ones. All of this effort will help you in personal development and identifying a path that you can follow. Once these things align in your life, they become what many call coincidences and opportunities – though in reality, they are simply the results of your effort.
You have to realise that you are the power centre in this change. If you give your power away as a result of victim mentality, you’ll lose everything. In comparison, if you learn to control it, you can manipulate how you feel, what happens in your life, and how things align in your life – all of it will be in your control. The condition to gaining this power is to let go of victim mentality.
Therapy is one way to approach this as it helps you analyse your behaviour and thinking patterns and gives you the tools and techniques to change and decode them. You have to fight the situation. Let the conscious mind take control and utilise its creative and logical parts to make you believe that you deserve a really happy life – and before you know it, you’ll create it.
Having been on a journey with meditation, I can hands down say that it’s a life-changing experience! I turned to meditation when I had nothing else left. My first experiences of ‘trying’ to meditate were around seven years ago. I had been living in Dubai for a year and fancied going on a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka. I’m a very talkative person, and I met a woman just like myself at the retreat. We both struggled to take meditation seriously and confessed that we simply couldn’t switch off, sit still, and control the thousands of thoughts racing in our minds. When I asked for advice, all I was told was that it was about the breath. Unable to progress any further, I ended up giving up.
Several years later, I found myself in Thailand after a breakdown and turned to meditation again. This time, I trained myself to meditate and the results spoke for themselves! The thing to remember here is that the brain is a muscle, and it needs training like any other muscle. The more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes. I started with five minutes and now meditate, without fail, at least six days a week for a minimum of 20 minutes. I assure my coaching clients that if I can do it, anyone can – after all, I have always been someone who can’t sit still, someone who’s always on the move.
Daily habits and rituals are crucial for a happy, fulfilled life. In my line of work, I interact closely with women who want to learn how to be confident leaders. From my experience, everyone wants to learn the skills to be a great leader, but it’s the inner work that makes us shine – I call this the inner hustle. We live in a culture that rewards hustling, hard work, and long hours to be successful. This is an outdated system that leads to burnout, stress, and ultimately feeling unfulfilled. But there is much more to life than hustling!
I believe the new way is the conscious way – doing less and attracting more. It’s all about being in flow and alignment. We often feel that unless we are pushing and controlling, we aren’t productive or successful. I’ve found that when I am in this state, I make mistakes, have the wrong vibe, and end up doing more damage than good. It is only when you’re in the right space that you can attract the right people at the right time – and it all stems from feeling good.
When I work with women, I often see the same patterns, so I start by delving deep into how they spend their mornings. You can set your day up for success with the right habits and rituals. More often than not, we jump out of bed, rush to get ready, swig a coffee, and leave for the office. “I just don’t have time,” women say to me. We have to carve out time specifically for our morning habits and rituals to be successful. I can assure you the results will be outstanding if you do so. It’s the small, daily steps that lead to big breakthroughs. Meditation results in you feeling happy, calm, and in sync, and contributes to your overall wellness.
Meditation doesn’t have to be spiritual or ‘woo woo’ either – there is lots of scientific research to back up its benefits. When we meditate, we access what is known as Alpha brainwaves, which ignites creativity, inspiration, solutions, and problem-solving. There have been countless times when I have meditated and come up with ideas for my work right after. The fact is that 95% of life is created from the subconscious mind, and we can access it through meditation.
Meditation also reduces stress, gives clarity, increases focus, and promotes happiness. It is normal for thoughts to keep entering our minds as we meditate. The key is to get into the present moment, the space where we aren’t thinking of anything at all. This takes practice and the easiest way is to count your breath. Two thoughts can’t co-exist, so by counting, you are present. Here are my three tips for fruitful meditation.
Tip 1: Daily habits and rituals can be life-changing.
Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier each day and start with an inspiring podcast. Go to YouTube and look up ‘guided meditation videos’, especially ones that focus on positive energy. Pick one you like the sound of, lie back, and listen. I prefer to lie flat, though some people like to sit up. There is no right or wrong way, so do what works for you.
Count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale and 1-2-3-4 as you exhale. Remember to be patient with it. It’s called meditation practice as it takes practice – so stick with it. After some time, you’ll notice that you can do it for longer and longer.
Tip 3: Implement this daily, along with a gratitude journal.
We all have things to be grateful for. Every day, start with, ‘I am so grateful for…’ Combine these two things to elevate your vibration or mood. There have been times when I have woken up irritable and groggy, only to feel like I had another 10 hours of sleep after meditation.
My life today is barely recognisable. Having worked in the corporate field all my career to being an entrepreneur today, I have to admit that this path is full of unexpected twists and turns, highs and lows – and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted!
During a trip to Thailand to confront my fears, I sat down and started writing on a blank page, At the top, I wrote the following words: Authenticity, Voice, Freedom, Expression, Integrity. These were values that I live by and they became the ones I poured into my business, the WILD network, which is now reflected in my brand. I wrote the business plan in April and picked a date in mid-July for WILD’s first live event. I didn’t worry about the how; I just worked backwards.
It’s amazing how things all come together and the right people pop up at the right time to support you when you simply cast a vision and let it happen. It’s as though the universe is conspiring to assist you. I launched on a shoestring budget and the very first venue only cost me AED 600 as the owner was kind enough to support me. So believe me when I tell you, the universe has your back!
Now, when people ask me how I did it, it makes me recall my process of visioning and not worrying about the how. It’s about placing one brick at a time, not letting it overwhelm you, and having a deep sense of belief that you can do it – this is how you can turn the imagined into reality.
We place so many restrictions limitations, doubts, and fears on ourselves and this often comes as a result of societal conditioning or cues we pick up from others. An example: a few years ago, I asked a friend about doing an evening event in Dubai. Her view was that it wouldn’t catch on, people wouldn’t pay, and it would be a waste of time. That was her view from her limited belief, and I took on her belief and followed her advice.
A few years passed, and I changed my mind and decided to go ahead with the challenge – I even charged double of what I’d originally mentioned to her for the tickets. And guess what? It sold out immediately! Don’t get me wrong, she didn’t say it out of malice. She merely had her own limiting beliefs as she’d never done an event before and wasn’t best suited to advise me on it. I know it might sound easier said than done, and in some respects it is. But to vision and create is about getting out of your own way, aligning your vision with your values, and learning to trust your gut instinct. Here are my three tips for casting a vision.
Tip 1: Think about what you want to create.
Play it out in your mind and get it on paper. Try to draw it or write down some notes. Don’t worry about how it will happen. It’s only when we think of every detail and start getting anxious that procrastination and feeling overwhelmed sets in. Set a date in the future and work backwards.
Tip 2: Self-belief is key!
Know deep down in your core that you can achieve anything and build unwavering faith and grit as you go. You need to push past your comfort zone in order to achieve something new. Having the right support is also essential. This can mean finding a coach, a mentor, or even investing in a course that will give you the skills to be able to reach a new level.
Tip 3: Follow your gut and intuition.
We have all the answers we need within ourselves. Choose to rely on your own ideas instead of asking everyone else all the time. It’s okay to seek counsel, but go to people who you trust and have experience in the area you want to progress in.
Here’s How to Make a Career out of Board Membership
The rewards make it worth it.
Board service takes commitment and comes with legal duties, but gives you a chance to offer your expertise and guide an organisation. But let’s be real: what can you get from it? Why on earth would anyone want to give up their leisure time for more work (especially work that has definite legal ramifications if things go sour)? Every board director started with a specific focus as to why they started, and many who I’ve met have changed their reasons with time – nothing stays the same.
Reasons Why People Embrace the Opportunity
Being Recognised as the Expert
For many who are asked to serve on a board, doing so is like a badge of honour. A board member is usually sought after because of their track record as a successful outsider, with years of relevant and useful experience to bring to the table. As a board director, you are being recognised as an expert in your field and asked to share your wealth of knowledge to better the organisation.
Many find that working as a board director reinvigorates their interests in what brought them into their career and breathes new life into stale careers. This happens when you get the opportunity to interact and work with other people who are motivated and may work outside of your immediate sphere of influence – like at your day job. You might be supporting a start-up to grow and avoid costly mistakes or supporting a non-profit in giving back to your community – either way, you get to be highly engaged and personally motivated through lending your experience and insights. And who isn’t inspired by that type of work?
Increasing Intellectual Challenges
The duties of board directors are incredibly different from those of the operating roles that you would be used to until now in your career journey. Directors look at organisations holistically and eventually develop a more in-depth understanding of a breadth of topics that senior leaders have to contend with. These topics include mergers and acquisitions, executive pay, shareholder concerns, market growth campaigns, and technological adaptations. You develop and contribute in a way that expands your understanding of how organisations work and the process behind true strategic decision-making.
Powerful Networking and Growing Your Personal Brand
Being a board director conveys to other executives and thought leaders in your industry that you are an expert in your field. It highlights the fact that you have ideas, or at least that you can take a leadership role past the operational and are well-equipped to help shape the future of any organisation.
Being on a board highlights your qualities to other board professionals as well. It provides exposure beyond your current company or smaller network and allows you to be recognised by a wider audience of peers. Some of you may well be looking to make board service a long-lasting career and developing a portfolio of boards to serve on. A portfolio career is what we refer to when someone’s job becomes sitting on a number of boards at one time.
Some board positions pay you for your expertise. Yes, while most just pay a token amount, many corporate boards compensate handsomely for the expertise and advice that board directors provide. According to Lodestone Global, in 2020 the average director of a public company made $42,750 in 2020. And according to Veritas, the top range can be from $300,000 to $500,000 annually. If pay is increased on a salary side, this generally means a higher firm status as the compensation is linked to the increased risk and responsibilities.
Meanwhile, according to a Reuters report, S&P 500 companies tend to pay the most, with the average being $304,856. They have the financial backing to be able to recognise the substantial time and responsibility necessary to oversee the affairs of the company. Not all firms can provide this level of compensation, yet governance structures do make it public what compensation boards will offer their directors.
That being said, there is a huge discrepancy among the rest. Start-up boards typically do not pay a salary, and board members and advisors may be compensated in equity. For non-profit firms and school trustees, directorships are often entirely voluntary and the pay is the intrinsic rewards felt at performing the role and helping the organisation.
Taking Board Service to the Next level
For those who find serving on boards truly rewarding, a portfolio career – also known as a board career – can also become an option to pursue. Typically, it is when an individual pursues more than one board role simultaneously – not just as a source of income, but most importantly, because they enjoy the work as well as the flexibility and variety it offers.
Usually, a board portfolio can have a mixture of any activity that allows you to utilise different skills and involves engaging in various types of work, from directorship roles and board consulting roles to advisory board roles and governance board work. Being a board director takes work so, depending on the organisation you join, board service can be time-consuming. The role can be demanding and it requires staying abreast of the industry.
There can also be internal politics to manoeuvre and, at times, it can feel risky to navigate the legal considerations. Therefore, it is important to be clear on why you would want to start a portfolio career, what you want out of such a move, and how it will serve your interests. You can use a portfolio career to develop new skills, expand your industry influence, and expand your centre of influence – as long as you are very clear about what roles you take on.
In the end, board service is not for everyone, but if you think it’s a potential fit for you, begin by asking yourself a few key questions:
Does the work of that board spark a light within you?
Do you understand the role, responsibilities, and legal duties?
What can you bring to a board that is beneficial to the organisation?
What do you need to do to be proactive and prepared for such a role?
Does working on this board support your plans for the future of your career?
What time commitment is required to be effective in the role (both meetings and prep)?
Who else would be serving on the board with you? Who are you working with and learning from?
How effective is the board? And have there been issues within the board previously?
For me, serving on a board is a way for me to stay true to my purpose as well as continue to look out and look beyond. I serve in a mixture of paid and unpaid roles and, in the end, it is a service with rewards that go both ways. I give my expertise, time, and energy. In turn, I receive rewards that are fulfilling to me and align with my values. Be true to yourself and your values, and you will succeed. Being aware of the risks makes performing my duties easier as the ramifications are clearly known. If you have a need to serve, get out there. And if you know someone who you think should be serving? Put the bug into their ear, and help educate them to make the decision that much easier.
Money Matters: What Investing for the Future Has Taught Me
There’s more to it than working full-time.
The numbers are real. Statistics reveal that women, on average, earn better investment returns, save more of their wages, and are more consistent with their investment behaviour. And still, fewer women make personal investments a priority than men. Why do we, as women, not do more of what we’re clearly good at?
The Gaggler spoke to Angela Soudi, co-founder of Be Unique Group, a leading sales and marketing consulting firm in the Middle East. Having come to Dubai with almost no money to her name, Angela has experienced both highs and lows of career and business ownership over the last 12 years. Here, she shares her insights on work, money, and investing for the future.
You manage multiple businesses. What does money represent to you today and how has it changed over time?
My parents were working class – my mother was a nurse who worked nights and my father owned a small business. Both my parents were hard workers and, from them, I learned the importance of a strong work ethic. Watching them left a strong impression on me that I had to work hard for money and save money so that I could buy a roof over my head. I recall being surrounded by statements about money such as ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’ and ‘we aren’t made of money’. So, growing up, I believed it was really hard to make money. There was no talk of investing to earn greater returns in my family. I thought investing was for rich people – not me.
As my business began to grow, I saved money – that’s when I started to think about investments. I am an avid reader and began reading books on the subject to see how I might possibly be able to leverage different investment strategies to make more productive use of my savings. Then, I started to look at the wealth management options available in Dubai in a serious way. I was still very sceptical. It took me six months to become comfortable before I could even think about handing over my money to an investment professional to manage it for me. I was never taught to look at the stock market or trading to make money.
After doing a lot of research, I finally took the leap with a high-wealth trading platform and put the minimum amount I needed to. It was when I started to see returns coming back from my original investment that I wished I had learned about investing and personal finance earlier. I wished I had acted sooner. My view of money is very different today than when I was growing up. Now, I believe that money can work for you. Financially, I am in a situation where I really don’t have to work – 80% of my income now comes from passive or investment sources, and 20% from my salary. Despite this, I still have an inner force that pushes me to continue to spend some of my time working and keeping the rest of my time for family and leisure. Somehow, ‘earning’ money makes me feel more deserving. I do love the security of my passive income, but I still go to work.
Clearly, your upbringing had a profound impact on your initial views about money. Is there a particular incident that stands out about your early relationship with money?
I went to school in the UK, and I recall a time in high school that carried quite a bit of pain for me. Every year, there would be school trips to different European destinations. I was never one of those children who went on those trips. And I remember the physical pain I would feel when the teacher would hand out the application for the parents to sign. I knew I’d never get to go and felt like an outcast. I’d make excuses to my classmates so as to avoid ridicule. My family just could not afford those trips. We were fortunate to always have food, clothes, toys, and all the other essentials to live. However, extras like vacations were not something I grew up with.
And then my experience with money flipped after completing high school. As a young adult, I didn’t attend university as I couldn’t afford it. My escape back then was dancing, and I trained and qualified as a ballroom dance teacher. I was the youngest who qualified and started to give dance lessons to earn money. So, from an early age, I was driven to earn my own money. I had a taste of what it was like to make money at a very young age. When my friends graduated from university, they were broke and I had money. The tables had turned.
You decided to start investing your earnings not too long ago. What triggered that move and what has the experience taught you?
I started investing in late 2020 after I saw my husband invest with positive results. My husband is a risk-taker, and he was actually brought in to help train the company’s staff. As he learned about the company’s business operations and approach to investments, he invested his own money. At first, I was suspicious because it sounded too good to be true because of the ‘I have to work hard for my money’ mentality that I was brought up with.
When I saw his financial status change over the course of one year, my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to know more. My husband educated me, explaining how the investment strategy would work if I decided to commit my money. Again, when I did invest, I did so with the minimum amount required because I was still so sceptical.
Tell us more about passive income generation and what type of investment you’ve invested in?
There are many different investments and strategies you can invest in, and I can only describe what I have invested in personally. I am what’s considered a risk-averse investor, so I am comfortable with taking on no to minimal risk. I want my money to be secure. There are many different types of ‘policies’ and I opted for a ‘safe’ policy. I’d rather have less income, but have it secure, than take on additional risk and have anxiety.
Now, I earn above-average rates of return annually from my investments because I work with a wealth manager. If you go to the bank, you may earn a 3-4% interest rate on fixed deposit programmes. However, annual inflation is about 5%, so that will wipe out any return you receive. If you invest in real estate – and I have – you will earn around 6-7%, which doesn’t leave much over after inflation.
The way the ‘safe’ policy works is your investment is held with a regulated bank. I provide a power of attorney to my wealth manager, and they are only permitted to withdraw 30% of my original investment to invest in a variety of commodities, digital assets, and other types of investments. The wealth manager does not own your funds; they are just permitted to trade your funds according to the policy you’ve selected.
What are the advantages and disadvantages everyone needs to consider before investing in passive investments?
As with anything new, it is so important to do your checks and get references. If you are talking to a wealth manager, ask them to put you in touch with people who have invested or request case studies. Another consideration that’s important is ‘time’ – the policy I selected is a three-year policy. This means I cannot access the original investment for three years. You can do a two-year policy. Whatever policy duration you choose, make sure you can do without the investment amount for that period. And as with any business, check that the wealth manager or firm is licensed.
How has passive income generation changed your life?
Aside from the material gain, I have benefitted from not needing to work if I don’t want to – passive income has allowed me the ability to care for my mother. My mother had a brain haemorrhage a while ago and therefore needs round-the-clock care. I am able to pay a family member to care for her full-time in her own home because of the passive income that my investments generate.
This has also allowed me to have more free time to spend with my young children because I am not worrying about spending all my time ‘earning’ money. Growing up, I had this mindset that money causes bad things to happen. However, my experience has shown me firsthand that I’m able to help more people and do positive things with money. Good people will do good things with money.
You’re passionate about women improving their financial literacy and leveraging investments to achieve their personal finance goals. Why is this important to you?
We live in a society whose foundation is based on the most unsaid rule – women start their careers, then get married, start a family, and are put into the role of primary caregiver overnight. Whilst I was happy to step into that role and raise my two boys, my financial identity changed completely because I was pulled in many different directions as a mother.
This new role didn’t allow for me to keep the high-intensity work schedule that I had before children. Having the ability to put my savings towards investments that generate passive income I can comfortably live off is such a relief and allows me to work, raise my children, and live my life. I want more women to know that they, too, can feel this level of ‘freedom’ by taking small steps towards applying their savings to uses that can generate better results in the long term. It is so important for women to focus on financial literacy and explore different financial options.
I feel women are fearful of taking that step towards securing their financial future by exploring investments, and I want to help remove those fears. A Barclays Wealth Management study found that female investors experienced better results than men because women are more astute, do more research, and are more consistent. However, today, there are still less women investing for their financial future than men. This narrative needs to change.
What advice would you give your younger self about money?
Invest in financial literacy. Save sooner, save more. Understand compound growth. This last point is the most important I feel. Albert Einstein said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.” Money makes money. I wish I had known – and understood – the power of compound growth in my younger days.
What’s one thing about money that every woman should know?
Women need to see money as energy. When we have negative blocks in our mindset about money, it will not flow. Studies show that 99% of the beliefs we hold as adults are from childhood, so I feel it’s really important for women to work on their money blocks and create new positive beliefs related to money for their financial security.
Visit www.instagram.com/angelasoudiofficialto learn more about Angela’s personal finance journey. This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice. The views expressed are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of The Gaggler.