Ever felt you were in the wrong job or the wrong relationship or living the wrong life? It could be time to consult a life coach.
Sarah Al Bakeri is one of the few qualified Emirati life coaches working in the UAE (and a member of livehealthy.ae’s expert panel). And she knows all about feeling like a square peg in a round hole because that’s how she felt for years until she found her true calling. Now she advises others on how to find theirs.
The pandemic has been a busy time, with so many people feeling anxious about the future. Now that people are returning to work, new anxieties have taken over. But whatever the issues you are facing, as Al Bakeri told The Livehealthy Podcast recently, there are three pieces of advice that she gives to all her clients and even to her own children.
“Accept what has happened, accept what you went through, accept the circumstances, accept yourself. This was out of everyone’s hands. So just live the moment and enjoy the moment.”
“Whatever you went through, there are people who we lost. We are still here, we can still speak and see people, we still have homes, so let’s be grateful for that. If you have lost your job, be grateful that you still have your health. Just be grateful for the little things we do have. Being grateful will definitely bring you peace.”
“Whether you’ve lost your job or you’ve changed country, remind yourself that you are empowered through yourself and not by the circumstances. Those circumstances have strengthened you.”
Looking back, Al Bakeri says it now seems obvious that advising and counselling others was always what she was meant to do. Even as a child, she was the one other family members and friends went to when they wanted to talk through their problems.
“Ever since fourth grade, when I was nine or ten years old, I was the family social worker, the one who solved family issues,” she says. “At college my friends used to call me Mother Theresa. I was the one they came to for advice or to solve their issues or to have a different perspective and guide them to do stuff.”
But when she got older and the time came to apply for university, she was urged to pick a subject that would lead to a job, so she did a bachelor’s degree in IT.
“It was a trend and the it was true, by the way – I did get a job within two months of graduating. But I did horribly badly. I didn’t perform well at all,” she recalls. “It was one of my life mistakes. There was something within me telling me ‘This is not you.’ ”
She thought it might help her career if she sought advice from a counsellor. The counsellor turned out to be a careers coach and his advice to Al Bakeri was surprising: he told her she should train as a life coach herself.
She did not take his advice right away. Instead, she got married and had two children, did a master’s degree in public administration, had another child, yet still felt unfulfilled.
“I remember telling my husband there was something missing in me but I didn’t know what it was,” she says.
But still she resisted and stayed in jobs she didn’t love until a tragedy two years later, in 2017, made her re-evaluate everything.
Her daughter’s best friend died in a car accident. She was only 12.
“It really transformed my life,” says Al Bakeri. “I saw my daughter suffering, I saw everyone suffering and I asked myself, what do I really want to do? We never know when life will end – what do I want to leave behind?
She embarked on training with The Coaches Training Institute in Dubai and honed her skills further with online courses with the International Coaching Federation.
Becoming a life coach was not a common career path for an Emirati woman, she admits. Her father wanted her to go on to do a PhD or another master’s degree or study to enter the more familiar professions of psychiatry or psychology. Even now some of her family are puzzled by her choice of career.
“A family member asked, ‘Why would anyone invest hundreds or thousands of dirhams on this, when you can just talk to your family and get advice from them’? My answer to that is that I’ve had so much advice given to me in my life and it didn’t suit me very much.”
Al Bakeri says most of her clients are Arabs and most come to her via social media.
“It’s a real mix of everything – personal relationships, career, marriage. The main point is to understand yourself,” she says.
“Everyone has their own unique gem within them. Sometimes it might have some dust on it but we clean it up and give it back to them.”
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.