“Discover the Best in You is the next best thing to having your own personal life coach” claims Sayeda Habib, a qualified and experienced life coach and the author of this book. I think I might speak for many when I admit that self-help books don’t appeal to me very much. This is may just be my ego coming into play, but it may also have its roots in the memory of someone recommending a self-help book that ‘changed their life’ by chanting “I am confident I am confident I am confident ” X number of times first thing in the morning. Cue incredulous stare. I’m sure chanting, meditation and the likes may work as therapy for some people, but I prefer to look into more practical solutions when facing challenges in life. I also don’t like people telling me what to do with my life as I feel they may not understand the emotional side of my predicament.
This is why it was such a joy to pick up Discover the Best in You and find that life coaching is not about telling you what to do, it’s “a process of collaboration and partnership where the coach supports the client to realize their individual potential and produce the results they want to achieve in their personal and professional lives”. Coaching is essentially being “given the space to design your own solution about how to move forward”. In other words, coaching is about being encouraged to think independently about your life from a new perspective and empowering you to be able to find your own solutions to challenges you face every day. Sayeda is, effectively, teaching the reader life skills. This is what makes coaching distinct from counselling and other forms of therapy. Discover the Best in You is aimed at anyone who wants to improve their life for the better.
Sayeda strongly believes in the concept of individuality: “there is just one person who thinks, feels, acts and experiences life like you”, hence the importance of learning the right skills to be able to deal with life’s challenges on your own. Although I would say that it is a reference book with chapters that can be read individually, Discover the Best in You is designed to be read as a progressive text, at least on the first read. The coaching begins with improving the self and then attempting to better your relationship with everything and everyone else. The book starts by asking the reader to re-evaluate their life vision and discusses the importance of planning and goal setting; it then moves on to improving self-esteem and discovering the reader’s true self. It is only after this that Sayeda discusses the subject of enhancing relationships with other people, reiterating the fact that a person is not in the best position to fulfil duties towards others until they are first able to fulfil duties towards themselves.
What impressed me most about Discover the Best in You is how simple and pragmatic Sayeda’s approach to self-improvement is. The exercises and activities suggested by Sayeda throughout the book involve sitting down and writing answers to the questions she asks. I consider writing to be a very cathartic activity because it allows you to spill emotions and thoughts that you might not have dared speak out loud and, very often, you may surprise yourself with what you write. Sayeda suggests simple exercises to challenge the reader’s way of thinking; for example, to encourage the reader to reinterpret life events that won’t let them move on in life, she asks the reader to write down their interpretation of an event, sort the facts from feelings and then write three alternative possibilities before adopting a new interpretation of the event in order to help the reader move on. Another simple but effective exercise that reappears in different contexts is to make a habit of writing down everything that the reader feels grateful for each day or everything they felt they had achieved that day, in order to encourage positive thinking.
After reading Discover the Best in You, I’ve realised that life coaching would be a very useful form of therapy for anyone, and it’s certainly a good option for Muslims as it respects a person’s lifestyle and aims to improve their life for the better, not change it. The fact that Sayeda weaves examples from the Qur’an and Hadith into the book to highlight her points, affirms the reality that life coaching is in fact a therapy that is perfect for Muslims as Islam encourages constant self-improvement and living the best life that you can by utilising everything that you’ve been blessed with.
Discover the Best in You is a must read for all Muslims, as everyone could do with improving their lives, no matter what stage in life they are at.
Originally published in SISTERS magazine, October 2012