There is a famous metaphor, of lobsters, used by Israeli-American Hasidic rabbi and psychiatrist, Dr. Abraham Twerski, that captures the core of personal development.
The story is as follows: when lobsters outgrow their shell, they cannot simply and automatically adopt a new shell like other crustaceans. Instead, they have to search for a rock crevice or somewhere to hide under where they are completely vulnerable and soft, and then sit and wait for their new shell to grow.
But, it is only when they feel uncomfortable that they are able to grow. In their most vulnerable state, and weakest form, they are forced to expand in order to feel protected again with a new shell.
Personal development for humans goes through the same process. We often know where we need to develop, but instead of breaking out of our shells and face vulnerability, we choose to stay in our old shells. We choose to avoid, to stay in our comfort, and to remain ignorant of our flaws and gaps.
The idea of having a life coach, a therapist, or a personal development to help guide you throughout life was not popular until recently. There are now multiple trained life coaches and it has now been recognised as a real discipline, with several colleges and university post graduate courses are now being offered around the world in the field.
Life coaching is more than just about personal development. It is essentially about discovering our inner selves and moving closer to what brings us joy. Whether it is vocation, truth, or passion, life coaching helps people find the inner drive that pushes them to move forward in life.
In Egypt, the field is slowly growing despite the fact it is often not viewed as a real career.
Ahmad Salah has been a motivational speaker and life coach for over five years, for more than 3000 clients as of today; he appeared in several national programs and radio programs, most prominently 99 FM.
Choosing to shift his career from business development – namely from a corporate job – to life coaching stemmed from his early passion in personal development. “I’ve always been interested in how someone can develop their life gradually and can be proactive in doing so through a number of steps. It is about walking the talk, not just repeating inspirational sayings and quotes,” he says.
Putting it as a life goal to become a life coach at 25, Salah initially took the first decision to become a motivational speaker, as he did not feel that he was well-prepared to carry the skills of a life coach. After delving deeper into the field through several books and courses, he identified three main skills for a life coach: to hear more than to speak, to provide practical steps that can be taken in the first session, and to be able to provide comfort and ease for his or her client to express themselves freely.
“Because I listen very well, and I have great analytical skills and can keep good memory of any information, whether it is from a human or an incident, in order to analyze situations accurately, I realized that I have the key talents that are needed in order to become a life coach,” he adds.
Salah faced a lot of resistance from his family at the beginning of his career switch, but he pushed through due to his belief in the fact that Egypt, and the rest of the Arab world, deserve more life coaches and motivational speakers that help unlock individuals true potential.
“The very first step I took was to see how life coaches around the world approached the profession, and what their services were to find their strengths and weaknesses and find what suits me best,” Salah notes.
His real breakthrough came with having his own radio show with 99 FM. In 2018, it was the most popular radio show in 2018 in the entire country as it covered a range of topics; from how to improve one’s own life, to time management and coping with stress.
“The radio show was at 6 A.M. every morning, and, I didn’t at all expect that people would wake up this early to listen to the show, but a large number did, and we received a huge following,” he says.
“The success of the radio show caught my attention that people need motivation, and there are many people in the Arab world who are taking it as something trivial or as someone who simply shares videos on social media. A real life coach has to interact with people in real life. It is about seeing people who continue to work with you on their journey and eventually seeing the impact of your coaching on their life. It is a much more personal experience, which is why it is important to establish a personal connection with the client because at the end of the day, the decision to improve their life starts with them,” Salah adds.
As he aspires to promote the idea of personal development in Egypt and the Arab world, and to motivate people to manage their challenges and find their true spark, Salah was inspired to write the Arabic personal development book ‘You’ (Enta)’, which revolves around the idea that everything starts with the individual mindset and the willingness to change. “I always tell my clients that even if you went to a 100 life coaches, you will never change unless you have the will to change,” he says.
Personal development is akin to reading a book, he says. “There are many different ways to read a book. Either you simply read the book without focusing or feeling any connection to it, or you read it with full attention and you underline certain words or phrases. This is what the book really aims to push people to do, which is to focus on everything we do as a guide to understand our life and our own selves. Everything goes back to our own willingness to understand what goes around us.”
However, Salah also aims to connect with Egyptians and Arabs living abroad, as some of them have expressed the difficulty of finding an Arab life coach that understands their own problems and concerns from a cultural standpoint, and that there is often trouble connecting with a foreign life coach.
“I hope that in the future more people in Egypt and the Arab world embrace the idea of a life coach, and I aspire to become the first ever global Arab coach in the world,” he says.