Hi guys and welcome to Make Your Break. You all know I talk a lot about mindset; it’s so important for a creative entrepreneur. I’m delighted to welcome a very special guest on the show today; An Award-Winning Leadership Strategist, Harvard-trained coach and member of the esteemed Forbes Coaches Council, Shadé Zahrai is a specialist in building a success mindset, self-belief and self-mastery for business professionals, and enhancing people-centric cultures.
Even in lockdown, I’ve been finding time to accentuate the positives and keep focused on my business and personal growth. I was wonder if Shadé had any insights into keeping a strong mental framework during challenging times. It’s a scary time at the moment, especially for entrepreneurs, with COVID-19 raging around the world. While fight-or-flight may naturally kick in, Shadé says that isn’t a useful response.
Shadé left the corporate world in March of this year, deciding to focus solely on creative entrepreneurship. Her and her husband were going to move to South East Asia, but a week before they were due to fly, the main COVID restrictions hit. This has given Shadé a chance to implement the mindset techniques for herself that she usually teaches to others.
With live events and speaking engagements up in the air, Shadé Zahrai decided to experiment with different methods of reaching an audience. She went online, started up a TikTok that in three months had clocked up almost 250,000 followers. It’s opened up a huge audience that Shadé never would have thought she would reach. When you conduct yourself with the right mindset, the right people align themselves with you, and opportunities seem to pop out everywhere.
Yes, revenue and projections have been hit hard in the current circumstances, but Shadé has been using this time to make sure that she’s well placed when things open up again. By reaching an audience through new channels, she hopes she’ll be the first one they think of when business is back to normal.
Since focusing on her online platforms, Shadé’s reach has grown significantly. In addition to TikTok, she also has almost 16k Instagram followers. The important element to this growth is a genuine desire to help people, as opposed to trying to sell them something. Add as much value as you can. Your thoughts shape how you feel. In turn, they influence your environment. This is a strange, uncertain time, but the people who are reframing their mindset are faring best. It allows them to regain some control.
Shadé shares a story she often uses in her keynote speeches. Two English shoe salesmen were sent to Africa in the 1900s to conduct market research. They did their job and sent a report back to the U.K. The first salesman said, ‘unmitigated disaster. No one here wears shoes’. The second said, ‘glorious opportunity. No one here wears shoes’. Two people, in exactly the same situation, with the same amount of information. Their mindset alone made them difference.
I would call myself an opportunist, because I identify opportunity all the time. My revenue was hit by COVID, but I saw an opportunity to expand my reach online and focus on my podcast. Shadé agrees; you’ve got to actively choose to see the opportunity. It comes down to a concept in psychology called cognitive appraisal. Basically, it’s the mental process we go through to assess the world around us. When you identify something as a crisis or a threat, it physically drains your energy. Your body releases noradrenaline, which constricts the muscles around your blood vessels, resulting in less blood flowing around the body. This leaves you more susceptible to negative thoughts.
However, when you see a situation as an opportunity instead of a threat, it changes everything. You physically get more oxygen; you can breath more deeply and you have more mental acuity. This is the power of our thoughts and the result of what we choose to focus on. If we wake up feeling negative, this will influence everything in your day, and more broadly, your life. Your mindset can physically affect your body.
I was interested in knowing whether you can change your mindset over time. For example, if you’re a naturally negative or narcissistic person, but you take the time to meditate and be grateful every morning, will that have an impact in the long-term? Shadé Zahrai says yes, for two reasons. One, the research backs it up, and two, she’s seen it in herself. A thought pattern is simply a neural pathway in the brain which is being activated. We can create new pathways in the brain through practise. When it comes to riding a bike or driving a car, you don’t think about what you’re doing, it’s muscle memory. The same thing applies to thoughts.
Some recent research from Georgetown University reinforces this view. When you speak your thoughts, they have far more impact than if you keep them within your head. In this scenario, negativity acts the same way, but more powerfully. So when we talk about being positive, it’s not about fanatical positivity. It’s about constantly reinforcing a positive view in the face of difficult or trying circumstances.
I’ve been practising emotional intelligence for the last number of years. If I’m experiencing negative emotions, I allow myself to explore those feelings instead of just dismissing or denying them. Shadé agrees that this is the correct practise, because if you don’t do it, you’re denying the human experience. You should ask yourself questions in response to these emotions, and try to figure out why you’re having them in the first place, rather than repressing them. Shadé was once told that emotions are like data, or information. We choose what we do with that information.
Our internal critical voices become louder in challenging times. Much of Shadé Zahrai’s psychology-based work has been helping professional women navigate their business world and improving their mindset. Through that, she’s identified five critical voices that are lurking inside our minds, waiting for an opportunity to speak.
The first is the classic judge, which we use to berate ourselves for not doing enough. The second is the victim, which is a pessimistic, powerless voice. Many people find themselves listening to this voice in the current circumstances. The third is the protector, which wants to protect you from harm. It keeps reminding you that you might fail; but in trying to keep you safe it holds you back from positive action.
Next is the ringmaster, which tells you that your value is based on how disciplined you are. It makes it so that your sense of self worth is proportional to your output, and if you slow down just one little bit, you’ll feel like a failure. Last is the neglector, who tells you that everyone else’s needs are more important than yours. Shadé finds this one is more common in women, who have internalised a ‘carer’ role. All of us have these five voices within us; they can emerge at different points in our lives. But they are not us, they are sub-personalities. We can acknowledge they’re there, while still trying to rise above them.
I find most of my audience are female, as men are often too stubborn to learn new things. Ego gets in the way. When I do my workshops, I want to make sure that everyone steps up to table equally, instead of advocating initiatives like ‘girl power’, which doesn’t sit right with me. Shadé has always believed that men and women are two wings of the same bird. Women are more likely to focus on what they lack. When you start to identify what you’re missing however, you’ll start to see more and more things that you lack. In the long-term, this will hold you back.
Studies have found that men apply for promotions when they satisfy about 60% of the job criteria. Women will wait until they satisfy 100%. We’re never going to feel completely ready or know everything, so engendering confidence in yourself and your skills is hugely important. You have so much to offer, but if you don’t recognise it, no one else will either. Even though Shadé’s work is geared towards women, she finds that men often reach out to her too with confidence issues. It affects both genders, but women do struggle with it more.
Shadé Zahrai’s advice is to focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses. Early on in her career, she realised that she was one of those people who focused on the things she couldn’t do. This held her back and prevented her from stepping into her power. Create your own momentum.
I want to say a huge thank you to Shadé on behalf of my community and myself for taking the time to talk to us and inspire us with her insights. See you next time!
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