Many of us lack the freedom or the opportunities to experience all our possibilities. This might lead some of us to be influenced by society’s expectations and to be pressured to follow them, thinking it’s our only option. Thus, we end up trapping ourselves in situations that do not bring us joy. However, Allah’s mercy can come in the form of a turning point in our lives. These turning points might create stress and anxiety for us. These points of stress and anxiety should not be overlooked, but rather managed. One can try to manage this stress and anxiety through life coaching, which allows individuals to unlock their true potential and understand their goals. In Qatar, life coaching is still relatively foreign to many people. Even though it is a less-ventured track, Asma Al-Kuwari pursued this field, transforming it to suit the Qatari society’s needs. So, who is Asmaa Al-Kuwari?
I am a 31-year-old woman who started her career in business. I studied business and ended up in marketing, telecommunication to be specific. I fell in love with the digital world and worked in the field for eight years. Although I enjoyed my job, I found my true passion in a different career, life coaching. If I am going to define myself, I would say I am a digital humanist, a marketeer, and a life coach.
What inspired you to join marketing?
I was interested in understanding consumer’s behavior. I wanted to know why consumers buy a particular product or prefer a specific one. Ever since I was a child, I was obsessed with the creativity of advertisements. I remember seeing ads and thinking about the thought process behind them. I wondered how the company thought of presenting the product in this manner. At that time, I was not aware that what I was fascinated by was the final product of a process called marketing. I would say that I was interested in the field from a very young age. Later, I graduated from Carnegie Mellon with a business administration degree. The great thing about this major is that it teaches you a wide range of topics related to business. However, I chose to pursue marketing because of its creative aspect. Telecommunication, the field that I specialized in, made me love it even more. I pursued digital marketing as an interest, as I chose it because everything is digital nowadays and it has taken over our lives where we live through our phones or computers. It also transformed the way we communicate and express ourselves. Instead of using plain texts, we started using emoji and pictures showing that it is ever evolving. Furthermore, I was interested in understanding how companies utilize digital platforms to sell their products. After my graduation, I worked in a company for few years. However, I did not find myself in that department. Fortunately, someone saw my love for marketing and helped me transfer to the marketing department. It was a beautiful journey that made me decide to pursue a master’s in digital humanities.
What made you pursue a MA in digital humanities rather than digital marketing?
I think life coaching helped me realize what I wanted to pursue in my graduate studies. Digital humanities focuses on human interaction with the environment around them, the digital environment being one of them. With my experience in the field of digital, I wanted to understand how this field is affecting human behavior. Digital Humanities is relatively a new field of study in Qatar, another reason that intrigued me to pursue it. I remember when I attended the information session about the MA program in digital humanities, they discussed how it is connected to many aspects. For example, they discussed how you could digitize history, science, social media, marketing, etc., making it a versatile area. I would say what sparked my love for marketing sparked my interest in digital humanities too.
What made you switch to life coaching?
I think it started in a way that I was not aware of. I was always reading self-development books about improving oneself, whether it’s through time management, or other topics. At that time, I was not aware of ‘life coaching’ as a concept. What made me transition to this field officially, or, let’s say, expand on who I am as “Asma” was my predicament at that time. It happened when I was at a stage in my career where I constantly thought, “What are you doing? Is this what you want? Where are you going with this? What will your future look like? Are you doing it for the money? Or do you want to do it? What are your intentions? What is your purpose?”. These questions would cross my mind occasionally, but I would dismiss them and tell myself to focus on my job. I was a workaholic; my life was my job. I am not saying I hated my job. It is the opposite; I loved it. However, there were problems. The job gave me anxiety because of my superiors at work. I feared taking any risks in my career and life. I believed I was destined to do this job. Also, I believed in the importance of having a secure job. However, a major incident changed my perspective. My cousin, who was close to me in age, passed away. Her passing was like a slap in the face. Death does not know age and that fact made me reflect on my life and wonder what I was doing with it. I was not living a purposeful and mindful life. Life was dragging me, and I let it. At that time, I was following a lady on Instagram that I met in a course about entrepreneurship. She talked about life coaching and how it changed her life drastically. I remember thinking that this was absurd, so I saw it as the typical hyping up marketing tactic. Nonetheless, I asked her to elaborate more on this training. She told me about it briefly and introduced me to the concept of life coaching, she said that I should trust her and contact them if I want to find myself and my purpose. I thought there was nothing to lose from trying it, so I contacted them to know more about the course. They usually interview candidates before launching the course to discuss the participants’ expectations and intentions from this course, and it was on the phone for about fifteen minutes. The interviewee asked me to explore my aspirations. First, she asked me to imagine the life I wanted and describe what it would look like. Then, she asked me to imagine success and what that would be for me. I slowly started visualizing things that I have never thought about, you begin listening to your thoughts, how your body responds to them, and at times you can be emotionally triggered. That phone conversation really enlightened me. Later, she informed me that what we just practiced is life coaching. The course was to deepen your knowledge about yourself and create awareness. I knew then that I needed to try it, because if I could be impacted by a brief phone call then what would be the outcome of a three-month training? The course was a good investment, even though it was expensive, but I promised myself that I would invest in myself. To say that the course was one of the most demanding training I have ever experienced is an understatement. It took place every other weekend for two days for the duration three months. We would start at 8 A.M and finish at 8 P.M, it was both physically and mentally exhausting. The physical exhaustion most likely came through exploring suppressed emotions. You can uncover things about yourself that you did not expect. For example, you recognize elements that affect you, but you were unaware of. You start understanding why you behave in a particular manner or why you are afraid of certain things, and the fears that are holding you back. This experience was vital for me. Within these three months, I was able to make decisions I would have never dared to make. This was when I decided to leave the job that gave me anxiety and affected my mental health, I finally realized that continuing to do that job meant sacrificing something crucial, my mental health. It also helped me improve my relationship with my father. It taught me to be more forgiving, understanding, considerate, and empathic in a way I never thought of. I enrolled in the program to discover myself, but what I found was the career that I wanted to pursue. I wanted life coaching to be my career. I wanted to help people the same way life coaching has helped me.
How is your experience as a life coach so far?
Life coaching has been amazing in many ways. When I started in this field, there were only a few Qatari life coaches, around two or three other certified coaches. The concept of life coaching itself was not common in Qatar. Hence, I encountered many hurdles at the beginning. Since it was a new concept, I had to raise awareness about life coaching and what it meant, as it is different than being a therapist, mentors, or trainers Furthermore, it was considered taboo to seek help for mental health and mental issues, like psychiatry or psychotherapy. Moreover, the fact that I am Qatari was another hurdle I had to surpass. It was hard for Qataris to trust another Qatari with their personal journeys. I had to work very hard to build trust between my clients and me. They needed to be assured that their privacy, trust, and confidentiality are my highest priorities. I built my client base through word of mouth. At first, I worked with clients for free. Once these clients noticed a change in themselves, I hoped that they would share that experience with others, driving more clients towards me. Thanks to Allah, the awareness of life coaching in the past two years changed drastically. Today all my clients are Qatari. I discovered that people just wanted to talk, especially people in our community. We do not talk about the societal issues we face; a lot of them are simply swept under the rug. The sessions allowed people to talk about these sensitive issues and how it affects them. They felt like their voices were finally heard. I believe that is what people are looking for, and that is where I found myself as a life coach.
What is your vision for your life coaching company?
I want to expand my reach as a coach and have clients from outside Qatar. When we talk about the issues we face within our community, we think these problems are specific to us. However, that this is not the case, and we all go through similar issues. Knowing this helps me understand my clients better. I also hope to expand and have a training facility and complete empowerment programs on an international level. I would love to have more life coaches in this project with me.
How do you practice life coaching? In other words, how do you help people specifically?
Life coaches work on finding their area of interest where they want to focus their effort on. For instance, there are life coaches in startups, business, health, executive, etc. I wanted to focus on transformational life coaching. I help people transform from their current stage to a better one and find ways to stay motivated while doing so. My target is the youth because I feel they go through a lot in such a short time. I wish I had processed many things earlier in life, and with life coaching, I want to be that person for them. I want to give them a place when they can process emotions and create awareness earlier to lead a purposeful life. I noticed that most of my clients are female, which I am happy about. I am interested in women’s empowerment, but not secluding any other clients. I also try to discuss sensitive societal issues on my platform to raise awareness since they are often ignored. I believe these discussions are important because when people hear someone discussing the topics, they do not have the courage or the platform to discuss, they feel empowered. A lot of people respond to my discussions positively. They are happy that someone is finally opening up about these issues and that they can relate to my discussion. I believe digital humanities helped me understand the way society operates, the way tradition is mixed with religion, marriage, and cultural taboos. I try to create awareness around beliefs and practices that benefit us and those that do not serve us. I try to help people go through different situations, hurdles, and burdens and explore our potential and grow from it. The coaching process starts with an exploration session. In it, I explore with the client their biggest goal that they want to achieve. I believe everyone has a purpose in life, and discovering it is what I work on. After that, we proceed to explore the client’s smaller goals that would help them achieve the big goal. In this exploratory session, we discuss the different aspects of the client’s life and all the different sides that make them. There is a set of questions and assessments that help me understand them better. This is important to employ the right tools for them and find the answers they are looking for. For the other sessions, I focus on the smaller goals that I help unravel. It is like finding the diamonds in the rough and removing all the charcoal to find each person’s core. It looks different from a client to another, as everyone is unique.
How did your family react to your transition?
Thanks to Allah, I was blessed with a supportive family, especially my mom. Her support may have stemmed from her seeing something in me that I was unaware of. She always tells me that I already had these abilities in me. That transition helped me a lot. Perhaps, not everyone was supportive, but my close family members support me and constantly encourage me to be true to myself. And for that, I am very grateful.
Did you face any challenges in your journey?
No carrier path is ever free of challenges. Being in a new field and promoting change always comes with its challenges. There were, of course, internal challenges that I had to face on my own. I had to deal with negative thoughts such as ‘I am not good enough or ‘they will not trust me; what am I talking about. I had to work on these internal thoughts, especially the fear factor. I was trying something outside of my comfort zone and did not know where it was going. However, I always say, “feel the fear, and do it anyway.” As for personal challenges, many of the issues that I discuss do not sit well with some people. A lot of people tell me to be careful with my discussions. Others told me not to dream big, and of course, I will do the opposite of that. This fear that showed was not because she cared for me. Instead, it was their fear and how my work can affect them negatively. It is all about setting boundaries and not letting the opinion of others affect me. I know my purpose. I know what I am doing is pleasing Allah and not affecting anyone negatively. These feelings are the driving force to keep me going. I am trying to create positive change by helping people to live their life purposefully and find the answers they are looking for.
What is something in your life that has resonated with you?
In my life, two people have resonated with me deeply. The first person is my life coach, she is a big reason for my decision to pursue life coaching as a career. She is not just a life coach, but also a role model that I truly respect and look up to. She keeps me grounded and pushes me to do more. I will always be grateful for her. The second person is my mother and her tremendous support. It would have been harder to go through this journey without her support. Life coaching even changed my relationship with her and my family. Sometimes, when you are growing and changing, you might start feeling that you no longer fit in with the same people you were around. In that case, you must decide if this is something you can accept and live with or something you need to distance yourself from. Other times, when you are growing, people may benefit from your energy. They may also want to grow and change for the better. This was something that happened to me. When I was growing, people around me were also evolving and growing and finding their purposes. Hence, we ended up growing together. That was the greatest gift. This simple fact makes me very happy and grateful. Our lives, our communication styles, our relationships, and everything really have changed completely. Seeing people change helped me so much in my new job. Before I lectured people about the benefits of life coaching, I saw the difference in my life. This is living proof that things can improve, conditions can change, you can reach what you want, and lead a more fulfilling life. My mom supported me a lot. People telling me not to dream big became the thing that motivated me. I want to prove myself for my own sake. No matter how big my dreams are, I will always pursue them.
What is your advice for women in Qatar?
I feel proud of the achievements of Qatari women. They no longer restrict themselves within society’s expectations or gender roles. They are pursuing their dreams and living their lives with more purpose. I feel very proud that women in Qatar have taken on a wide range of professions. I would advise Qatari women to find their true purpose in life and go for it. Understand your message, your goal, what unique talents and passions Allah has blessed you with. Discover that at an early stage so you can live your whole life to fulfill your purpose.
- Interview written by Al Anoud Al Kuwari.
- Interview was edited to improve readability and flow.