As we’re well into the second half of 2021, now’s a good time to reflect upon how we’ve progressed towards the goals set at the beginning of the year. My guess is that you’re on track with some of them, whereas others may be collecting dust in one of the dark corners of your mind.
With the world still undergoing significant change and many of us facing uncertainty, the question of how we can be most effective in our lives – regardless of circumstance – becomes even more important. What I have realised is that goal setting is half the battle in moving towards your ideal future, but it’s just as much about the process of getting there as actually achieving it.
Would you take a magical pill if it guaranteed that you would achieve all of your goals overnight?
It might surprise you, but I would not. The process of developing who I want to be is what I’m really interested in. Of course, I want to accomplish the goal. That’s the point, after all. But who I must become to do that is the biggest gift.
How do you think you’ll feel looking back on a hard day – when you were taking micro steps towards your goals even when you just weren’t feeling it – compared to now, when you see how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come along? It’s a whole lot more fulfilling when you finally get to tick the goal off your list than if you had been handed the end result overnight with no effort at all.
When going through this process of becoming, you’re receiving not only the gold, but also other treasures – the diamonds, the pearls, and the tiaras. So yes, I definitely choose to be a goal digger over a gold digger. Here are five simple keys that are often missed on the journey to goal achievement – but require no magic pills:
Ensure they are SMART goals: Most of us are aware of the smart criteria (SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timebound), but when it comes down to setting our goals in life, they often can be a bit wishy-washy.
They are not ‘should’ goals: A mentor once reminded me to not ‘should’ on myself. Make sure your goals are fully aligned with your ideal future and not something you feel you ‘should’ be striving for.
They are big enough: There is a distinction between big and little goals. Little goals are really ‘don’t wants’ – they are not going to keep you committed and consistent in the long run.
You are willing to take responsibility: You must be committed to give it your best shot. If you’re not willing to do that, scratch it! You will need heightened focus to achieve goals, so get rid of the ones you’re not going to take responsibility for.
Write them down and look at them regularly: One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to write down my goals every day. It keeps your eyes on the prize and signals to your subconscious mind that you mean it!
Look back at what you set out to do at the beginning of the year and see how far you have come. Give yourself a pat on the back for any progress you have made, and adjust your goals to incorporate these five tips so that you can smash them effortlessly and be rewarded with the full treasure chest.
Beate Sifkovits is a Transformational Mindset Coach based in Dubai. Learn more about her and how to being a successful goal digger on her website, allboss.me.
Astrology has been around for two and a half millennia, and traces its roots to the Babylonian Age. This ancient craft was devised by the sages and the seers of those times to consult and strategise on behalf of rulers. Today, the worldwide collective consciousness has shifted from just spirituality to radical technology, social justice, and acceptance of the self through the rise of astrology.
On one memorable trip to New York for a women’s leadership training program, I had the strangest encounter of my life. I met with a psychic who told me something I’d never forget. At that point, I was at my lowest, both emotionally and physically, even though my life seemed perfect from the outside. I was exactly where I’d worked hard to be – at the peak of my journalistic career – and yet I wasn’t happy. When I visited the psychic, she said, “Don’t listen to the voices.” I was startled. “Voices, what voices?” I asked. She replied that I shouldn’t listen to the voices that tell me to kill myself. I had no idea that, at that moment, I’d begun the quest of my life by listening to the guidance of stars instead of those voices.
Fast forward to six years later, I am now a certified Applied Astrologer through the Debra Silverman School. I discovered myself, my potential, possibilities, and ultimately my soul’s journey. All the clients that I work with come to me with burning questions about their lives. They find themselves confused and torn amidst the internet’s takeover of astrology. They may have their entire astrological chart on an app, but they seek deeper knowledge about the cosmic imprint of their soul.
Astrology, Then and Now
The earliest known astrological illustrations were found 20,000 years ago. Some of the most striking ones include over 600 carvings found in France, which have the same symbols for the 12 zodiac constellations that astrologers still use today. Many cultures of the time believed that planets were forces of nature or representatives of the divine that shaped the life of every individual on earth. Whatever pattern constellated in the heavens, the study of it was always conjugated and never abstract. It was considered a necessity with life-and-death implications that required understanding the divine and mystical.
Before the advent of science, everything was connected to nature and its signs, climate, calamities, disasters, new comets, and eclipses. In the age of information, all major publications throughout the globe have a dedicated astrologer penning horoscope columns daily. The first one was published in 1930 by Sunday Express. While it was Ptolemy, an astronomer and mathematician who introduced ‘natal’ astrology, today, its sister science astronomy has split away from it, pushing many cynics to call astrology a pseudoscience. Regardless of the opposition and disbelief in the science of astronomy, questions about the millennial’s place in the universe are often comforted by astrological memes. And somehow, in this process, we feel connected to the community and end up feeling like an unique individual – a one in a billion.
Astrology, a Healing Art
Astrology as a healing art has come a long way from the Sun Sign Astrology found in newspapers and websites to a certified astrologer today, who studies a snapshot of the sky at the moment of your first breath – just like how they used to in the old times. The exact position and placements in the sky will let them have a look into the map of your soul. Just like how all psychotherapists do not work with you the same way, each astrologer looks at your chart differently.
The position of all the planets will reveal the nature of your life, almost like a neutral mirror. The map can guide you towards your true purpose. The natal chart works like an anchor for me as an astrologist, while I solidify a client’s unique qualities, challenges, possibilities to the future, as well as opportunities so that I can assist and guide them to truly live the life they were born to live.
Each planet is like a member of our counsel – almost like a spirit guide – that’s watching over us. Our lives are full of mystery and magic, and astrology as a healing art works best with time and layering of information. So, yes, grasping all there is to your life in a single session might be a far-fetched idea. Astrology is a symbolic language that appeals to both our conscious and subconscious mind.
Astrology Seeds to Sow
This healing art can speak to you when you need it most. It can actualise your destiny, and you can live out the potential of your entire being. It will illuminate the archetypes that you are living and the lessons that you are being taught. It can let you channel all energies to blend and translate into your life. Each sign within us and the planet where it plays out is the seed that we actualise and grow as we take care of it.
A story in The New York Times talked about how psychotherapists have now started learning astrology to understand their clients. Many shared that numerous clients were now using astrology as a reference point in their lives. Another article reported that venture capitalists were now investing in zodiac-focused start-ups as, according to them, astrology is having a cultural moment. I believe these factors indicate that with its rise as a constructive navigating tool for people from all walks of life, the whole debate about astrology being a pseudoscience is slowly dying out.
Transformation through Astrology
I use Applied Astrology as a healing art almost as much as an energy healing work. I practise it as a strong starting point for each client’s work with me. The natal chart acts as a roadmap into the transformation to make each puzzle of their lives finally make sense. This healing process is not for the faint-hearted and those interested in future predictions. Applied astrology requires us to comprehend where we are in our lives and to put in work for ourselves.
I create a sacred space for those who are committed, introspective, contemplative, and curious about moving into their lives with ultimate power. The tools of astrology – the planets, the positions and placements, the mystery of the skies – must be held in utmost respect for their power. There should be an understanding and awareness that it takes time to understand what these influencing factors are trying to communicate to us and what they are capable of in our lives.
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.
Tip 2: Count your breathing.
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.
How often do we really focus on the power of our thoughts when manifesting? We see daily reminders on social media, new age documentaries, and guided meditations, but do we really take the time to understand what it means and how it can affect us?
If we really understood the power of the mind, we would place far more importance on being aware of the texture of our thoughts on a daily basis. This practice starts with mindfulness. It means being aware of the mind within the mind and observing the part of us that allows these thoughts to churn and revolve unconsciously and continuously.
New neurobiological research has proposed that we have over 6,000 thoughts per day, and a staggering 95% of these thoughts are the same ones we had the day before. Out of this 95%, 80% of these repetitive thoughts are actually negative in nature. So what does this mean for us? This finding teaches us a lot about the essence of the amygdala, the part of the brain that is biologically programmed to keep us safe. We must understand that this part of the brain is not capable of judgment and rationale. It only understands one thing: that which is familiar is what has kept us alive thus far.
So, if these thoughts and behaviours have kept me alive this far, it makes sense to ensure that this consistency and repetitiveness continues to ensure lifelong safety. This is exactly why people find it very difficult to remove themselves from their comfort zone. The resistance is in-built! According to the law of attraction, if such a large number of our thoughts are inherently negative, then we will keep attracting the same situations that reinforce these negative thoughts, keeping us in a firm loop of manifesting the same things we are trying to change. So how do we change this process, and what role does gratitude play in it?
Allow me to answer this through a personal story.
It was about 4pm and I was traipsing through the sand as I took my regular afternoon walk right by the ocean. The day was bright and clear, and the sun’s heat was at that perfect balance between warming my skin and casting a beautiful orange glow. At that point, I had been consciously choosing my thoughts and emotions, tapping into abundance and reconnecting with my true self by relearning my purpose, my power, and my desires. In one way, it was a relearning. And in another way, it was a seamless unlearning of all of my programmes so that I could allow space to find my true essence of being.
I was feeling appreciative, hopeful, and grateful. And funnily enough, when I wrote about it in my journal that night, I accidentally wrote ‘gratefuel’. That was not a coincidence! It was just a subtle reminder from a universal source that gratitude is what fuels our manifestations and successes in life. That day, I felt so good during my long walk along the beach while I was breezing through my gratitude list.
I remember thinking, “Thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for the water, for where I live. Thank you for the sun. Thank you for the moon…” And as I acknowledged the moon, I realised that it hadn’t even come up yet. It was nearing sunset, but it was not quite there. Then I thought, “I was a bit early there, but oh well. I’ll be thankful for the moon since it will be out soon anyway.” I stretched out my arms, turned my face to the sky in happiness and peace, and what did I see? A perfect silhouette of the moon.
Let us never forget that universal energy has a way of making things abundantly clear to us when we cannot see it ourselves. This was just one way that the universe was able to demonstrate to me one of the greatest truths when it comes to manifestation: allow your desires into the present-day experience by being grateful for them now. This goes against the workings of our brain, which is wired to think negatively, but the awareness of that is your power.
You are always in control and you can always shift your thoughts. The trick is to become mindful of them through practice. Mindfulness is a muscle – when used right, it grows and strengthens every day. The more you practise, the less you will find yourself immersed in repetitive, negative thoughts and the quicker you’ll be able to shift to a new thought, emotion, frequency of energy, or a new possibility and way of living.
There is a common idea stating that if you desire something, it is because you are meant to have it. Desire becomes the indicator of possibility and likelihood. Whether you actually end up receiving it is down to you, your choices, and the ability to follow intuitive guidance. But it is already yours. It is there, waiting for you to claim it. I tend to ascribe to this philosophy on the basis that time isn’t linear, so the past, present, and future are really happening at the same time. Therefore, when we are grateful for something that hasn’t happened yet, we aren’t just living out a false fantasy and tricking our brains into it. We truly are being grateful for something we already have!
When we invite gratitude, joy, pleasure, and ease into our minds, we can see it and experience it in our lives. When I expressed my gratitude for the moon, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. I knew that it would show up at some point. At that moment, it was a completely relaxed certainty for me. There was no angst, doubt, or worry about whether or not the moon was going to come out. There was no impatience around it.
I could feel grateful for it now while enjoying the benefits of the last few hours of the sun until it arrived. There was no impatience for when it would happen because that thought becomes redundant when you trust universal timing. When you combine this with relaxation and complete faith, you will see the unfolding of this metaphysical law in action. It works for attracting our life partner, money, clarity – and really anything we can dream up!
The truth of the matter is, nothing and no one can get in the way of our manifestations except us. We create the experiences, circumstances, and relationships we want by staying in alignment by consciously choosing our thoughts and, by association, our emotions. When we choose to think through the lens of gratitude, we will feel grateful, thereby attracting more into our lives to be grateful about. In fact, make this your lifelong philosophy and you’ll never run out of things to be grateful for. If we choose to focus on what we lack, we will feel frustrated and therefore find more things we ‘lack’ in our lives to be frustrated about.
This is how the law works, and you have full control of it to utilise this law to your benefit. Ultimately, we deserve to live loving, prosperous, and purposeful lives. Creating is fun and the journey should feel good. When you give thanks for a little, you end up finding a whole lot more, so whenever you feel challenged by the concept of believing something before you can physically see it, take my experience as your own and just picture the moon. Picture it appearing in the midst of a sunset, feeling that sense of certainty and peace to the point where it’s almost impossible for you to imagine it not appearing. And in that moment, know that you are at your most pivotal manifesting point. Apply that feeling to anything you want, and it will be yours.
Let’s Delve into the Inner Workings of Board Membership
The nuts and bolts of it all.
The basic structure of a board of directors varies depending on the needs of the organisation and any specialties within a specific industry, such as its regulatory environment. You can have boards as large as 30 members (non-profit boards) or as small as nine members (typical for a Russell 3000 company).
The number of directors on any organisation’s board depends on the needs of the organisation and is mandated within the bylaws. If a board is too small, members are stretched thin. If it’s too large, it can be challenging for the board to operate as a group. This means that every organisation needs to determine what’s optima in order to ensure that the board serves to help – not hinder – performance.
What Are Bylaws?
At the top line level, the bylaws of an organisation outline:
How many board members are required
The method for electing new members
Frequency of board meetings and meeting rules
Specific voting rights
Officer positions and responsibilities
As boards represent the shareholders and owners of the organisation, it is understood that their role is to act within the best interests of these stakeholders. If you are going to serve on a board, you should consider what size of team you are comfortable working with. Do you prefer a small knit team or a larger board where you have greater exposure?
To strike a balance between the internal requirements and external expectations, it is usual for a board to have both internal organisation members and external members – the latter being brought in for their skills and/or specific industry expertise. To be able to effectively guide the board on decision-making, a well-managed board will have a board skills matrix in place.
What Is a Board Skills Matrix?
This matrix lays out the skill requirements that the board believes it should have, and helps in the recruitment process by managing the required skills, characteristics, and capabilities when a board is replacing a member or expanding the organisation’s board structure. In recent years, many boards have been tasked to develop new parameters aimed at developing more diversity and attracting participation from people who represent the wider customer base served by the organisation.
Diversity is bigger than just gender and race. It includes culture, age, education, socio-economic status, and especially mindset. With rich and relevant board dynamics, boards will be better able to meet the needs of their customers, relate to their pain points, and support improved performance. In general, boards benefit from including individuals with a broad mix of leadership skills, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.
Why Do Boards Require Team Effort?
Serving on a board of directors is a team effort. It takes the right attitude, the right level of commitment, and the right mix of personalities. As a collective effort, everyone has a vital role in getting it right. Good board governance includes having clearly defined roles and responsibilities, usually through a job description.
It also involves regularly scheduled reviews of member recruitment and activity to ensure the board is running smoothly and staying focused on tasks, and that every member is living up to their fiduciary duties (i.e. their commitment to act in the organisation’s best interests). Directors who hold particular roles on the board also carry additional responsibilities. There are a number of common board roles, with specific responsibilities associated with each. Examples include:
The President or Chairperson is responsible for leading the board and usually works most closely with the CEO of the organisation.
The Vice President of the board is responsible for specific assignments from the board chair and will assume the role of President when he/she isn’t available.
The Secretary prepares and maintains important records, such as meeting minutes and committee reports.
The Treasurer has the responsibility of monitoring finances, and may work with other board members to develop financial plans.
Why Is It Important for Directors to Know Their Fiduciary Duties?
Many at times, when appointed to a directorship of an organisation, people are taken up with their director responsibilities and are often unaware of their fiduciary duty obligations. On a high level, fiduciary duties require board members to stay objective, unselfish, responsible, honest, trustworthy, and efficient.
Any breach of fiduciary responsibilities could have devastating implications – including both collective and personal liabilities for the board directors. It is very important, therefore, that directors know what their duties are and what is expected of them at all times throughout the decision-making process during their time as board members, as there are possible legal ramifications.
A board director who is diligent about their fiduciary duties helps to protect the organisation’s reputation. The word ‘fiduciary’ is all about trust and, under corporate governance law, that is what’s required of directors. Specifically, there are three key duties that every board member must adhere to:
Duty of Care
Duty of Loyalty
Duty of Good Faith
They may sound pretty simple, but each carries its own legal requirements.
1. Duty of Care
The duty of care refers to the process and manner in which boards make decisions concerning the future of the organisation. This duty focuses on the need to be thorough, with a need to investigate and research any potential impact of decisions made. It seems straightforward, but given that an organisation has a responsibility of continuity – and a duty to take future strategy, goals, and vision into account – it could prove disastrous if the decision made today is short-sighted.
2. Duty of Loyalty
This is the duty to never let any outside interests, personal affiliations, or allegiances interfere with their responsibility as a director. Board members are expected to not engage with personal or professional dealings that put their self-interest or that of another person/business above the interest of the organisation.
To shed some light on what this could look like, some of the ways this has burned directors in the past include gaining secret profit that belongs to the organisation, competing directly with the organisation, or using their position to deal directly with the organisation as a vendor or partner.
3. Duty of Good Faith
The duty of good faith implies that after members have explored all options related to a decision, they must choose the one that they believe best serves the interests of shareholders. According to Cornell Law School: “A violation of the duty of good faith may include an intentional derelict in the usual duties of a director or officer, intentionally acting for a purpose other than the benefit of the corporation or intentionally violating the law.”
These duties sound clear enough, but they are generally based on law, and if a director chose to follow a path that they truly believed was the best option for the business, the law protects them from liability. There are circumstances that make a director liable to the corporation and, sometimes, to its creditors, shareholders, or other people for any losses caused by their inability or failure to exercise due care. A director typically breaches their duty in one of two ways: they may commit overt acts that constitute mismanagement or simply just not to act on important topics, which can also be construed as a failure to direct.
These legal responsibilities are also why a number of people shy away from board service. Yet, if you are acting with good faith and fulfilling your duties, there’s nothing to shy away from. It is also another key reason to stay on top of reviewing the minutes of every board meeting. If you are absent, you want to be aware of what happened in your absence. And if you were there, you want your input and objections officially noted. Serving on a board is a privilege – and with every privilege, comes responsibilities.
I often get asked why I left my 19-year career behind to do what I do now. The answer is complicated and multifaceted. I had a successful career in finance. I was paid very well and, from the outside, it looked like I had it all. But the truth is that I was constantly exhausted, and eventually realised that I didn’t feel content. I wasn’t happy and I wanted more from life. I wanted a life where I felt like me again, and I wanted to do something meaningful. So, I left the high paying corporate finance career that I’d worked so hard for – and entered the world of entrepreneurship.
I started by looking at what I enjoyed about my current job and what I didn’t. Then I worked on really digging into my value system and what drove me, what made me happy, and when I felt fulfilled. Combining both my values and my skill set, I arrived at the concept of finance coaching and finally found my passion.
What Is Finance Coaching?
Finance coaching is defined as providing expert advice and financial education to clients and enabling them to feel confident in their financial planning and money management.
What Is Money?
Money is energy. It’s a tool we use every day in our lives. Money often controls us when we should be the ones controlling it. Yes, it is transactional, but there is so much more to it than that. How much money we have or earn has the ability to boost or knock our confidence and belief in ourselves. How often is income directly linked to someone’s sense of self-worth? How often do you feel judged, or your value assessed, based on the assumption someone makes of how much money you earn or have?
Money and Women
When I speak to friends, family, and colleagues, I find that the vast majority of people who admit to feeling ashamed, overwhelmed, undereducated, and unskilled when it came to managing their money are women. Studies show that just 27% of women say they learned to manage money or invest in school. 47% of women feel fear, inadequacy, anxiety, and dread when the word ‘money’ is mentioned.
And sadly, 81% experienced negative stereotyping when dealing with financial advisors, banks, or other money institutions. While this equally angers and saddens me, it drove me to finally find a career that I would not only love, but also make me feel like I am contributing something positive to the world. I could help others while doing something I enjoyed and believed in!
Money and Stress
Have you ever felt lost, overwhelmed, or inadequate when it comes to money and wealth? Have you ever felt others were born with a financial playbook that you never got? I hear this regularly. People often feel shame, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy because they are not confident with money, can’t budget, have debt, or don’t know how to make an investment – but no one was born knowing how to earn and best utilise money. This is something that I, like everyone else, had to learn through experience. Very few of us are taught financial life skills in school. And if we are, it often tends to be conceptual, rarely practical, and never touches on the emotional aspects of money management.
Money and Happiness
Too much credence is given to the amount someone is perceived to earn and the level of respect that person then commands or is automatically given. Money does not make us better people. It doesn’t automatically make us happier either.
There is conflicting research that suggests more income can provide more happiness, and others that suggest the opposite. Surprisingly – or maybe not so unsurprisingly – more income also does not always equal more wealth either. I have many clients who earn what others may perceive as a small income, but are more financially secure, content, and happier than other clients who earn much more. What is the difference? There are many factors of course, but a key one is your money mindset.
Your Money Mindset Is Everything
A positive relationship with money will allow money to provide positive experiences, while a negative relationship may cause more money to actually create unhappiness and stress. How do you feel about money? When you think about it, does it provoke a feeling of anxiety or do you feel happy? Indifferent, perhaps? If you’ve never done this before, your response will tell you a lot about your unconscious money mindset.
Approaching Money Management
I believe in putting money behind our values. By doing this, we set ourselves up to live both more fulfilling and wealthier lives. Personal finance is exactly that – personal. How often do you invest, spend, save, or take on a new job based on what others tell you? I believe we live happier and wealthier lives when we let go of the ‘shoulds’ and focus on what is important to us, our values, and what we truly want to achieve in life.
It’s not always easy at the start, but it’s so freeing when we drop other’s expectations, live life, and use our money in ways that are meaningful to us. When we see money purely as an energy source that’s there only to support us to live, then the stress and anxiety often associated with money melts away. I have often witnessed clients’ wealth increasing unexpectedly when they let go of the stress and anxiety they attach to their money. Suddenly, it flows more naturally and abundantly into their lives – often in the most unexpected ways, such as repayment of old written off debts from friends, salary increases, a bonus that wasn’t expected, or unexpected reductions in living expenses.
Do You Put Your Money Behind Your Values?
How do you know if you’re putting your money behind your values? Look at your spending habits in detail. Are you proud of where your money is going each month? If someone reviewed your credit card bill and then made a judgement on the type of person you are and what is important to you based on how you spend your money, would it be accurate? Would you be proud of it? If not, why? Why are you not using your money to live the life you want, in line with your values, and what you believe in? Complete this exercise with your values in mind, and I promise there will be ‘aha’ moments that will change your money habits in a positive and easy way.
Why Is This Important?
My ambition is to help as many women as I can, not only to lead happier and more financially fulfilling lives, but also boost the positive rippling effect that it can have in our global communities. I want to empower women to use their income to boost their lives in a way that’s personal and right for them as individuals. But it’s not just about the individual.
Women live longer than men, and studies in the US show women control between 70% and 80% of consumer spending – this means that women are in control of trillions of dollars every year. Women are also proven to be more likely to use their money to support those around them. Wouldn’t it benefit everyone if the people in charge of that amount of wealth felt more confident and empowered with this money?