Dr Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of LightHouse Arabia on achieving success and turning setbacks into possibilities.
The concept of success is something that is interpreted differently by all of us. How we measure positive experience differs from person to person, and while it is easy to compare our successes to those of others, this is not always a wise idea. As we come out of a turbulent and troublesome year, it’s important to recognise even the smallest successes in life and appreciate just how far we’ve come. Here Dr Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Managing Director of LightHouse Arabia discusses the importance of recognising success and using it to build on your next opportunity.
How would you define success?
I don’t believe people ‘arrive’ at a place of success. Maybe to the outside world it might look like they have arrived, and by all worldly measure they appear accomplished and feel accomplished, but successful people never “arrive.” I mean this in the sense that they never get complacent. The journey always continues. When they have done many things in the outer world, they journey into their inner world. Worldly success is important, but if one is only focused on that, it will be hollow and limited. We have two eyes, one must face the outside, and the other inside of us at all times. We must grow our roots if we are to reach higher heights. Simply put, for me, a successful person is courageous in the way they work and love and the way they serve the community. They are also lifelong seekers.
Why is it important for us to recognise our own successes?
It is important to be honest and make an honest assessment of yourself. Do not inflate or dismiss yourself. Celebrate when you accomplish a goal, and celebrate all those who helped you along the way. Most ‘successful’ people don’t stop growing, improving, engaging, learning, and creating until the very end of their time. So don’t wait until the end to celebrate, celebrate along the way. And don’t only celebrate the wins, but also the lessons you learn from the setbacks and the love of the people who were with you through it all.
What are some tips you can share for turning failure into success?
There is no such thing as failure if you learn something. I do not mean to be overly positive as I say this, but if doing something wrong, led me to learn something about myself, my team or my goal, then in the long run, it becomes experience and wisdom. And if experience and wisdom can only be cultivated through taking risks and getting it right sometimes and getting it wrong sometimes, then getting it wrong is an important part of becoming wiser. Find me a person who says ‘I got it right 100 per cent of the time’ on their path to doing something great — and I will tell you that they probably didn’t do something great enough. To reach your full potential, you have to take risks and be outside of your comfort zone, and to be in that zone means you will make mistakes and get it wrong sometimes — the most important thing you can do when things go wrong is to spend as much time learning from the experience as you were attempting it. This ‘let’s move on’ culture is what is resulting in unwise and inexperienced people. It’s not that people aren’t struggling, it’s that they are struggling and moving on before they have integrated the lessons and the wisdom.
How can having the right mindset help success and what are some tips you would share for keeping a positive mind?
I do not believe that the ‘positive mindset’ is the ‘right mindset’ – I believe in realistic optimism, and having a part of you that holds on to the possibilities and goodness in things as you go through difficult times. But to be successful you have to have the sense of self that’s strong enough to see the negative, experience the pain, and not let it keep you down.
The ‘right mindset’ for success is built in periods of setbacks, confusion, difficulties, even periods of disengagement and despair on the path to success, but the person sees this as part of their journey and not the end of it. To be resilient is to bounce back from difficulty, it is about picking up the pieces when you feel shattered, and getting back up and doing it all over again if that is what is needed. The right mind is committing to showing up again and again for the things that matter to you, through the good times and in bad.
As humans we are inclined to compare our successes to others – what advice would you give to those who judge themselves on other’s successes?
It’s good to do an honest and thorough assessment of where you stand compared to others. It’s also good to learn from others if they inspire you. But this cannot be done by comparing your social media highlights with theirs. If you are too focused on what others are doing, you are probably missing out on what you could be doing differently. Energy flows where attention goes, and what you water will grow. This means you cannot pay attention to two things at the same time and whatever you feed will grow. If you focus on the other, you fuel envy and comparison, but if you take the lessons and inspirations and focus the energy back on yourself, you grow. Learn from others but focus on what you are doing.
What are some of the traits that ‘successful’ people possess?
There are a lot of traits that ‘successful’ people possess, but here are my top 5:
- They pursue self-awareness and self-leadership. They know their strengths and their growth areas. They want to improve themselves but from a place of curiosity and personal potential and not a harsh, judgemental place of ‘not-being good-enough’.
- They are courageous. They take risks and step out of their comfort zone. They do the right thing which can often be the unpopular thing. And most importantly, they have the courage to be honest with themselves and others by showing up authentically.
- They have a clear ‘why’ and it is usually in service of something greater than them and not just about making money and getting rich quick. This way it keeps them focused and anchored when the ‘how’ gets difficult. Their ‘why’ is the compass and the northern light that keeps them on the path.
- They are kind to everyone. And they apologise when they are unkind.
- They don’t lose sight of what is important. They take care of their health and their relationships as they strive for success. At the end, that’s all that matters.
How can manifestation help us to achieve our goals?
Using visualization for manifestation is a part of achieving your goals. I am a big believer in visualization, manifestation, vision boards and prayer. But any of these activities alone will not work unless you are willing to work. You can sit and manifest all day long, but if you don’t put the blood, sweat and tears behind what you are doing, if you aren’t willing to get ridiculed, make mistakes, take risks, work through boredom, and show up every day for your goals, the chances are your manifestation will not work.
Who are some successful people that inspire you?
I don’t have a particular group of ‘successful people’ that inspire me. I am inspired by everyday people and I am reminded by resilience, fortitude, sacrifice, service every day by the people around me. Whether it’s my children who made it through 18 months of being home-schooled during the pandemic, my team at The LightHouse Arabia who show up for their community every day even though they are also impacted by personal and global events. My husband who has always been a wise and grounded leader and was the epitome of that for his team and his family during the last couple of years. My brother whose business came to a screeching halt during the pandemic and dealt with it with lightness and grace, my mother and father who were stuck overseas for many months, away from their home but each message they sent us was informing us about people who needed help in their city and how we could help them. Inspiration is everywhere. My heart is encouraged and I am deeply moved by those around me. I don’t have to look far for inspiration.
What is a motto you tell yourself every day?
My life motto for the last many years has been “remember who you are”. We so often forget how powerful and magnificent we are. The chances of us being alive, in this time, in this body, with this soul are one in millions. We all have fallen into the trap of believing what the world tells us about us. We never question their limited way of looking at human beings, our capacity, our inherent wisdom, our ancient spirit. The more rational and scientific we get, the more we lose sight of all that cannot be seen or explained.
We get messages from an early age about who we should be, or how we should be. And now with smartphones and social media platforms, we get hundreds of thousands of messages every day. All these messages tell us something has to change about ourselves or we have to do something new or different, or what we have or who we are is not good enough. Without knowing it, these messages become internalized as shame and despair. So I tell myself and my kids, “remember who you are” every day as a way to anchor ourselves in our inner wisdom and our authentic self.
Can you share a time that you turned a failure into success?
This one is hard for me to answer because I do not see life within the dichotomy of failure or success. I viscerally believe that if I learned something from the experience, then it was not a failure. If the experience resulted in technically, psychologically, or emotionally bettering me or growing me, then it did what it came to do in my life. Sometimes what looks like our greatest failures, is the channel through which we gained our deepest wisdom and the path on which we find our greatest purpose.
The most important thing a person can do to turn failure into success is to spend time processing and learning from the ‘failed’ experience. What went wrong? How did it go wrong? What could they have done differently? Where did their ego get in the way? Where did their limiting beliefs get in the way? Who could have asked for help? etc. Keep doing it as an ongoing exercise of revisiting that experience during different parts of your life because you bring a different level of awareness to it each time, and do this until you feel you have learned everything you can from it.
Are there any books or podcasts you would recommend relating to success?
A successful life is where you manage yourself and manage your time. Five of my go-to podcasts for that are:
- Beyond the to-do list by Erik Fisher
- Insights at the edge by Tami Simon
- Being well by Dr. Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson
- This Jungian Life
- The Drive by Peter Atia