A firm believer in the adage that “to coach life you must live life,” ex-marketeer Tamer El Sheikh has done it all — from modeling to filmmaking to meditation and volunteering at an HIV orphanage in South Africa. After establishing his own life-coaching practice in the UK, El Sheikh is trying something new this year: taking a writing course at Oxford University.
By Dominika Maslikowski
Tamer El Sheikh stumbled into an unorthodox career entirely by chance. He first worked at the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi before moving on to work for brands like L’Oreal. After leaving L’Oreal, he created the first online recruitment portal dedicated to the cosmetics industry. Then inspiration struck El Sheikh during an event by American motivational speaker Anthony Robbins, and El Sheikh decided to become a life coach at a time when few had heard of the new profession and many others had misconceptions about it. In 2009, he finished with merit a one-year online course from the UK-based Life Coaching Institute and says he now feels passionate about his work and motivating his clients.
Egypt Today caught up with the Egyptian living in West London to chat about what’s one of the Middle East’s fastest-growing professions, the blocks people face to happiness and El Sheikh’s quest to “walk the talk” and revamp his own life. Edited excerpts:
What inspired you to leave your marketing career and become a life coach?
It was basically Anthony Robbins, during a four-day course called “Unleash the Power Within.” It was an event that covered a lot of aspects including what to do with one’s life, and it inspired me. It was by complete luck that a colleague of mine was supposed to attend the event and couldn’t make it and I went in her place.
Can you describe what training for life coaching entailed?
As I was one of the early adopters and pioneers at the time, out of the rather limited coaching courses available back then I chose the best one I could, with the Life Coaching Institute here in England. This course was well structured, accredited, online and the deadlines for task submissions were flexible. It was a series of practical and case-study modules covering most of the key life coaching topics like parenting, relationships, career and finance, and it worked for me schedule-wise and financially. I started the course in Egypt while on vacation and completed the first few modules there.
Do you believe that some people are better suited for such work than others?
Like with any job, definitely yes. You need to be passionate about your work, and you need to enjoy what you do in order to do it well. That comes across, and that’s the first personality trait you need to demonstrate. The second thing, which is more a requirement for a life coach, is empathy, or at least the ability to use it with your clients. As a coach you tend to take on board their personal issues whatever they may be — or whatever they may choose to discuss with you — and therefore you cannot have any preconceived notions or be set in your judgments.
Is a life coach any different than a best friend that’s inspiring and supportive?
While friends and family are great support networks, they don’t always have the time to give you the undivided attention and focus you may need. They have probably only ever seen the same image of yourself projected and it’s that one they enforce, not the new one you seek to now improve or change. While they would probably be a lot more passionate towards you than a hired life coach, the passion sometimes is heated, possibly biased or self-serving towards their own set of beliefs or desires for you. I even think hairdressers could make for good life coaches in terms of empathy skills, listening and building of trust. However none of those kind individuals are trained or equipped to be unbiased, dedicated to you, able to ask you the right questions, offer you a different perspective and keep you motivated and focused.
How do you determine if a client has a minor psychological block or a more serious problem that requires a qualified therapist?
That is why having the right qualifications is very important, because it’s not a regulated field and because some individuals have some more severe issues to overcome and possibly may require a different type of help. Usually from the first session, using my training and experience, I can tell straight away what that individual’s issue or block is, and I’m able to direct them if they’re able to benefit from the life coaching process or whether I think different forms of help are more suited.
The main difference between coaching and psychology is that psychology is all about the past. Life coaching is about the future and the coach would be saying, “Well I am sorry your dad screamed at you when you were two but you have now grown up so let’s move on and leave the past where it belongs.” If someone is still stuck on that issue and depending on the level of trauma it caused, then, yes, life coaching is not particularly suited.
What are some basic, small changes that people can make in their daily lives to help achieve happiness?
Establish a goal in each aspect of your life: relationships, career, health and fitness, and so on. That’s the first basic. Consider all the different aspects of your life, because life isn’t just one-dimensional. If you find this difficult, you are not alone: A large majority of people don’t know what they want out of life or are unable to establish goals. However all of us know exactly what we do not want. So for example if it’s a career goal, you may say I don’t want to work 9 to 5 or I don’t want to travel, and that list should help you narrow down your options.
The self-help book industry has been booming in popularity lately. Do you see any value in reading such books, or is it better to go through one’s problems with a life coach?
I’m a believer that there’s value in just about anything we do — even in a bad book or experience. The self-development field has grown rapidly and is still growing from fad diets to detox spas and life healers to self-help books. There’s a flood.
Life coaching is not a fad and should not be viewed as that. However, if a lot of people find more comfort with a book than with a person, then they’re not at a stage where they can let somebody in to help them move forward.
We are all different, we have left and right brains and we all absorb, learn and develop differently. There are benefits to books for sure, but you still get a lot more benefit from the practical work you do, the additional motivation from a coach and the help in maintaining focus by working with a professional.
Have you made any changes in your personal life or outlook since you became a life coach?
Life coaches are human like everyone else and the biggest first change I made was to become a life coach, especially coming from a cultural background where there’s still a lot of stigma in not pursuing a more common career like law or medicine. I always try and walk the talk, not just to develop myself but also to inspire my clients.
So for me it was several things like the New You boot camp which is a physical health and fitness program, a volunteering holiday at an HIV orphanage in South Africa, different forms of meditation, and my latest challenge for 2014 will be a writing course with Oxford University. However, a life coach is also human and has their own challenges and obstacles to overcome. et
For more information about Tamer El Sheikh’s life coaching practice Missing Piece, visit www.missingpiecellc.com or write to firstname.lastname@example.org