‘Follow your dreams!’ ‘Reach for the stars!’ ‘You can do anything you want!’ Almost overnight, it feels, we grew out of the child-like wonder at the potential of life.
But what does it mean, really, to build the life you want? To get to know yourself—your values, your passion, your purpose—and challenge yourself to grow in the way YOU want? We catch up with life coach Mariam Moussa to get to know how she answered her questions, and how she helps people answer their own.
(In addition to our regular blog content delving into the different aspects of healing and what healing can look and feel like in a world that feels hellbent on denying us the opportunity, we want to actually introduce you to the healers and guides of Healers & Guides.
Every episode of this article series features a different practitioner. We have them share their journeys, their stories, their motivations, and their approaches to healing. In the process, we hope you’ll get to know them a bit more and consider reaching out to them for a consultation or to learn more about their practice.)
Tell us a little bit about your story and how it led to your practice today.
I was a business analyst at a multinational, when at some point I just realized, no, I couldn’t imagine myself spending the rest of my life on Excel. I didn’t want to be in my manager’s place in a few years. There had to be something more.
I spent years looking for what ignited my passion, until I found coaching. This was back in 2014, and I didn’t know anyone who was coaching in Egypt, but I just found myself in it. It was all my listening skills that I wanted to use, it was guiding and helping people, in the way I wanted to.
I realized it a while back, when I was editing my CV for the first time in a while, and you know the ‘Objective’ part at the top that we used to write? I had basically wrote an exact description of a life coach, before realizing that’s what it was.
When I first decided to give it a shot, everyone around me was saying ‘oh you can’t make a living out of this, stick to a full-time job and do this on the side.’ It wasn’t common at all in Egypt, not like it’s been for the past two years or so. But the more I got into it, the more I realized this was the piece of the puzzle I was looking for, so I’ve been growing my business and my practice as a coach ever since.
And coaching has made a massive difference in my own life, I’ve become more open, more outgoing, more confident. I see the world completely differently, I’m outspoken, people think I’m an extrovert. It’s helped me understand myself, instead of the unrealistic stories that we all tell ourselves in our heads.
I think it’s really inspiring that you’ve managed to not just build your own practice, but a full-fledged business. What are the different things that you offer today?
When I started, it was personal branding, but now I have my own company called Procij, which means ‘self-awareness’ or ‘self-evaluation’ in Croatian. Broadly, we do four different things: organizational transformation and services to corporates, startups (where I help entrepreneurs tap into their leadership to establish, grow, and scale).
The third area is career coaching. I have my own story and career shift, so people know I’ll be able to understand. We work on discovering who you are as a person, what your values are, what your strengths are, and what your passions are.
The fourth is wellbeing, or personal coaching. I get a lot of clients who want what we call ‘self-leadership’. People don’t walk through the door asking for this; they come in wanting to discover themselves. They’re no longer feeling happy, they’re no longer feeling confident, they don’t know what they want, they’re sick of their daily routine.
What are the kinds of things people usually come in wanting?
They’re either too stressed out, they feel they’re not confident, they’re not happy. Sometimes I hear the feeling of ‘my life is getting away from me,’ a sense of loss of control, a sense of suffocation, like you can’t breathe.
A lot of people are searching for purpose and passion, but they don’t know what that is. A lot of us feel like we don’t want to just go along with the wave that’s carrying us, I hear it a lot: ‘I want to actually be designing my life according to what I want.’
I don’t know if you know this, but the #1 regret on deathbeds is that people don’t live according to their own terms. We’re always thinking about other people, about societal expectations, about what’s “in” right now.
Sometimes the client comes in unable to name exactly what they need, just a feeling that’s pushed them here. And by talking to them and exploring, we get to see the areas we can focus on. So the main topics end up being self-love, self-confidence, discovering yourself, passion and purpose.
What’s the difference between a life coach and a counsellor or psychologist?
I go over this with every client who comes in, because there are misconceptions about what coaching is and isn’t. There are a few key differences, for example, with counseling, you go deeper into the past. In coaching, you focus on the present and the future.
Counseling is more for people who are stuck in the past—whether that’s because of trauma or not—and aren’t able to move forward, so they need to unwind and heal from a lot to be able to go to the future. Sometimes I’ll refer clients to counseling first, sometimes people can do both in parallel, and sometimes we decide with the client which would be best for them.
Coaching is for everyone. Your life can be going great, but you want to make it even greater, so you would seek a coach to explore even greater potential. Nothing necessarily needs to be wrong.
Also, as a counsellor, you can diagnose and give advice. As a coach, I shouldn’t be bringing in my personal views, and I don’t diagnose. It’s more that I’m acting as a mirror for the client. Using powerful questioning and other coaching skills, I can reveal things to the client—about who they are, the situation they’re in, patterns or blindspots they might not realize—so they can see them and make conscious choices for the better.
Mariam facilitates regular retreats for people to learn about the power of their thoughts.
What are some common misconceptions you see that clients in Egypt come in with?
People sometimes think ‘oh, I’m going to come in, throw my problem at you, and you can solve it, just tell me what to do.’ At the same time, people might think it’s all about motivational speaking.
Yes, we empower; yes, we champion, but that’s not the foundation here. It’s not about a client coming in feeling down, and I give them a bit of cheerleading so they leave feeling super motivated, and then that feeling fizzles out. It’s not like that.
It’s deep, transformative, challenging work. Sometimes a client might resent the coach in the middle of the process and think ‘ugh, why are you doing this to me?’ and then they come and thank you that you pushed them over the edge.
So one of the biggest misconceptions is that coaching is all about saying a few nice things. I’m afraid not. If you’re really ready to do coaching, you need to roll up your sleeves and dive in.
If you could offer a large group of people one thing—an everyday practice or advice or a lesson—what would it be?
I always say it, that the more I get into the work that I’m doing, the more I realize the power of your thoughts. I want people to really realize that, how their thoughts are the key to any change they want to see.
At the end of the day, the result of a thought is an emotion and a behavior. If, for example, I think ‘I’m not worth it,’ I’ll feel down or sad or angry—whatever emotion comes with it, we’re all different—and the behavior is that I’ll sideline myself, I’ll sit on the side and shrink myself.
But if I want a different result—before changing the behavior, before changing the emotion—I need to go back to changing my thought. It’s all about the stories that we tell ourselves. We think that these stories are facts, they’re not.
The thoughts we have about ourselves define everything in our lives. It’s natural for a few typical thoughts to be the main ones. But if you’re more conscious about how your thoughts are products of your needs, your values, your life—and if you know what these thoughts are—you’ll be able to create different emotions and different behaviors, and therefore different results.
Learn more about what Mariam offers and book a free 15-minute consultation here.