What would you do if you were in a high salaried job in the lucrative pharmaceutical industry, but were overly stressed and unable to be true to your values? Would you give it all up?
My Page 1 Woman™ did. But it didn’t come easy. Of course, she had to overcome her fears and pluck up the courage to step out into the unknown. And in so doing she broke the mold by defying the expectations of Muslim women within her Lebanese culture – unmarried, childless at the age of 30 and a leader in her own business.
Now living in Dubai, she’s a woman following her dream to enable others in that part of the world to follow theirs too. “If you get to 30 and you’re unmarried, people think ‘What’s wrong with her?’ But I’m going to prove to women that they can pursue their dreams and the right person will come at the right time”.
Meet my Page 1 Woman™, Hiba El Ayal, a woman on a mission, who’s seized opportunities, sought out role models, and crossed continents to achieve success. There’s been family resistance, of course, but neither ill health, low self-esteem nor fear have stopped her. Energetic, with bags of warmth, charisma, focus and determination, perhaps her name has provided the fuel that drives her. “Hiba, in Arabic, means either gift from God, or a donation. It inspires me, and gives me responsibility to make positive change."
Here’s Hiba’s journey in her own words.
Describe your work
Hiba: Until recently, I’d been working in sales for six years in the pharmaceutical industry. It was highly stressful and competitive. I couldn’t be myself.
I’m a very positive person and I was good at my job – I’d even won an award. But things got really bad when I was diagnosed with vitiligo, due to stress. I didn’t have the courage to change jobs and experienced inner conflict. Then I had this ‘enough is enough’ moment. I started attending self-development and leadership workshops, which opened another world to me. I got myself a life coach, quit my career in pharmaceuticals and decided to find my purpose.
I’m now working in a network marketing business, and I'm developing my other business to help people discover their passion & unleash their happiness potential.
What were the essential steps that took you to where you are now?
Hiba: First I sought help from a friend. I told her that I wanted more. She introduced me to the network marketing company which has developed me as an entrepreneur and has introduced me to like-minded people. I began reading books about success, and applying my learning. If other people can succeed so can I.
Then I sought help with facing my fears; for example, attending leadership boot camps. Although challenging, they’ve shown me my inner resources and how good I could be. I also got support and encouragement from people who allow me to be myself.
Then I started looking after my health. I exercised regularly, stopped emotional eating and dieted. And I worked with life coaches, who helped me to understand what’s best for me, identify my potential, believe in myself and move from ordinary to extraordinary.
What was the one most significant thing that got you to where you are now?
Hiba: Believing in myself, and never giving up. This started in my childhood. When I was ten my parents divorced, and my mom left for seven years. But my grandma urged me to study, go to university and be the first girl in the family to do it. After graduation, I became the family role-model. The children and their parents came to me for help, especially with school issues. I felt I had something important to give other people.
And by caring for the women in the family, my dad inspired me to always look after myself and be strong for my family and friends. Helping others strengthens my self-belief and sense of self-worth. Also, I believe that God has sent me the best people, like Andy Harrington, to learn from.
What was your greatest challenge?
Hiba: Two years ago, I couldn't quit my job because I was afraid I wouldn’t have an income. I didn’t have another job to go to and anyway, I wanted freedom not employment. So I worked hard, paid my debts, saved my money and created financial stability. Also I built up the network marketing business and I’m now getting an income. And I got help from those I trusted. I quit when I was ready.
The other challenge came when I started doing things differently from others. I found huge resistance amongst my family and friends. I was scared I’d be rejected. Some of my friends accused me of running after money. I’m not materialistic, but I dream of creating a good life-style for my family. This fear of rejection held me back and I gave up my plans. But my coach said, “This is natural. People aren’t conditioned to become entrepreneurs”. So, now when anyone criticises me I just smile.
The third challenge was that I couldn't see examples of people successfully learning and developing themselves in our region because people here don't want to pay to learn. So, I didn't believe I could create an income in self-development. But then Andy Harrington brought the Public Speakers’ University to Dubai, and showed us people who’d created successful businesses. I learned that if I followed his system, I could move from passion to profit. So, I started believing that I could make an income from this.
What was your greatest light bulb moment?
Hiba: On 6th January 2017, during my first session with Jean-Pierre De Villiers, my peak performance coach, he offered me the opportunity to speak on his stage. On 1st April, I did it having prepared well and I’m booked to speak again in August and September. I learned that this definitely is what I want to do.
What resource has been crucial to getting you to where you are now?
Hiba: It’s like an equation - the EVENT + my RESPONSE = the OUTCOME. So, now I don't get stressed by negative events, because I can choose how to respond. It’s about using my personal power and being proactive to generate the outcome I want. You can choose to be passive or active. So, even though I know I have an illness, I’m relaxed about it, unlike before when I was in denial and coped unhealthily.
Since taking this approach the results have been massive. Miracles and golden opportunities have shown up. Most importantly I’m happier and feel unshakeable.
And Andy Harrington has provided real life examples that motivate me. I want to copy this kind of success in our region and inspire people. People say I’ve been transformed. It’s all down to Andy.
I’m now building my Unique Branded System that I’ll talk about on stage; I’ll be running boot camps and I’m writing a book.
What difference has it made being a woman leader?
Hiba: First, it gets men irritated. I started attracting the right people to my life when I started leading. They see me taking consistent action that sometimes even men can’t do. In my environment men often say, "You’re a strong woman. You’re equal to ten men; you do what we can’t do." So, being a woman in leadership inspires men, AND women.
Women sometimes say. “It’s easy for you. You don't have kids. You’re not married”. But sometimes having a family and coming home to hugs is better than getting stressed trying to make your dreams come true and going home alone. So, whilst being a woman leader, single or married, is great, it’s also difficult. One male friend of mine said, "Hiba, what about your personal life?" I’m not spending my life crying for a husband. I’m happy; I’ve married my passion. This is the life I want.
But I love children. I recently attended a UN initiative conference about refugee youths. We’re losing an entire generation due to a lack of educational funding. So, my friend and I are working to find an innovative solution. We want to work on their mindset, empower them, help them become leaders and heal, because they’ve suffered so much.
What are your top three tips for women who want to be leaders in their field?
Hiba: First, develop self-awareness and it’s easier to change for the better. Start by writing down five things that stop you from doing what you want. Then identify another five things that have made you stronger when things have felt really bad.
Second, seek learning in everything that’s happened in your life. Whatever happens be grateful for it, because there’ll be learning within. So, for example, instead of crying because my parents divorced, and mum left, I’m grateful for everything I gained from it. So, practice gratitude. It’ll help you change your response to the negatives and increase your resilience.
Third, get help from like-minded people. Be clear on who to ask. If you want to become a motivational speaker, seek help from motivational speakers. Contact the icons. You’ll get stronger and more powerful and you’re more likely to get the right tools and support.
What do you think of Hiba's decision to give up her career and follow her dreams? Leave a comment below. I'd love to her from you. And share on social media and with your networks. The more women we can reach and inspire, the better. Many thanks.