Spend time with family — this is so precious. In life, they say that the more connected you are to others, the more fulfilling life will be. For me, I live across the country from most of my family. I leverage technology, FaceTime, and texting to stay in touch with them which gives me such a reward to have them in my life.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Shakir. Matthew is a Certified Life + Business Coach, CEO of Awaken Momentum, and Mindfulness and Breathwork expert. He is a pioneer of transformative mindset and purpose-driven life and business strategies for his clients. You can find him here on Instagram and here on the web.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
The path to coaching was a long and arduous one. It felt like a long, uphill climb, but the most gratifying in my life. I was living well, but also dying, in the corporate world. No matter how much money I made, what title I was able to get, or what promotion pushed me up the ladder, I felt empty. Through this, I started pondering working for myself, but most importantly a desire to help others would not leave my mind. I knew that I could not live my life calling on hospitals and surgery centers and driving all over the country selling medical equipment. When I uncovered a passion for yoga, I started to really see how powerful I was without any material possessions, right within me. This gift for presence gave me this fire that pushed me to travel the world. I backpacked all over 13 countries after leaving my last job in corporate medical sales and swore I would never go back. I made that my mission and nothing was going to stop me. I got back to the US and drove my Jeep out to Colorado and was determined to launch a business. Through a passion for personal development and really soaking in all the podcasts, videos and programs from the likes of Tony Robbins, the passion for helping others was brought to life through the start of my own company 2 years ago. As they say, the rest is history.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
This past summer I got into a relationship where I sure thought she was the one. Everything was truly ignited for me. I saw my life paired with her, until it ended. She dumped me out of nowhere! It was the best thing that could have ever happened. From there, I decided I was going to live a sober life, shut off dating, and focus entirely on who I wanted to become and put all the remaining energy into my business. It’s all exploded! I’ve had more clients, more connections and more amazing days created than I could ever dream of.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
The most humorous mistake I made was thinking I could coach everyone! I am not everyone’s coach! I lost 3 clients this last year all at once because I kept saying yes. I was so driven to help others that I offered to help everyone who was ready to hire me and commit the investment of time and resources! My biggest takeaway was that I had to focus on who I could really best support. Coaching is a co-creation. I had to really discern who I wanted to help most and who I really wanted to help that helped me continue to become the best coach.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes, my mentor, friend and coach Gretchen. She has been there through my entire coaching journey. She was the facilitator for my first coaching training program. Instantly, I knew, and she did as well, that we would work together outside that program in some capacity. It changed my life. She helped me really understand what powerful coaching looked like and helped me bring my business and all my programs to life. I still work with her to this day and it has completely transformed my life and my business! I was just recently with her for 2 VIP days where we built all my programs and vision for 2020 and it was honestly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I cannot wait to take this same experience to my clients.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Take time for yourself. Self-care is an absolute MUST. Today, for instance, I took the latter afternoon off to get a massage and go get fitted for some new clothing. Going all day long from 4:30am on and usually not finishing my day until 9pm is a fast track for burnout. Keep care of yourself. Exercise regularly. Meditate. Do breathwork. The way you treat your physical self is the way in which you will treat the rest of your life. Take taking care of you as seriously as you do your profession, your relationship or anything else important.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Have an open-door policy for communication. Really, though, do that! The more you can get feedback and insight from your employees, you more you empower them to really care about the company and the future of the company. Most importantly, though, they feel valued. That creates a level of trust and rapport that is unprecedented and in turn you get long term staff that don’t want to leave for the next best opportunity.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Meditate. I had severed anxiety and some minor depression for a long time before I began meditating. Once I began this practice, everything began to shift. I started seeing better clarity, less anxiety, and an overall better outlook to life. It shifted how often my thoughts came into my mind and when they did arise, I was able to better manage them. This practice has truly changed my life.
- Breathwork — To me, learning breathwork first in yoga training, but then through Dan Brule’s book, Just Breathe, and taking his online courses, I have shifted the way I use my breath. This has completely eliminated my stress almost entirely, I barely have any anxiety, and I’m the happiest I have ever been in my whole life. I teach this to all my clients. The way you breathe, is the way in which you experience life.
- Journal — This truly is a new favorite of mine. Ever since I quit corporate America in 2017, I ended up travelling the world and I knew I wanted to record not only my experiences, but my thoughts and emotions along the way. When I left, I was lonely, scared, fearful, and truly had struggles being present and really enjoying life. Journaling allowed me to clear my mind a bit and started recognizing the shift I was making through all these beautiful practices. I now recommend this to every client and most everyone I speak to. It is such a great tool to create clarity and a record we can always look back on, on how our lives are changing.
- Exercise — As I’ve mentioned above, the way you treat your body (the temple) is the way you treat your life. This should be a daily practice. No matter whether it is yoga at home, bodyweight exercise, or crushing workouts at a CrossFit gym, exercise is the best medicine to creating a healthier mindset. When we release endorphins and challenge our bodies, we naturally release stress. We feel better and in that we experience life much better.
- Be mindful — This can be shutting the phone down for the evening after 8pm or focusing on paying attention to one thing at a time throughout the day. Being mindful, being present is a gift that sadly has gone downhill since these black boxes we carry in our pockets have become the way of life. Take some time for stillness. Take time away from technology. Focus on what you are doing. Eliminate multitasking. Great steps to being mindful, and it’ll radically improve your mental health.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Slowing down — take time to take a walk daily. Minimizing the tasks and activities you have daily so you can really enjoy each part of your life. I try to take walks daily in some form or fashion. By slowing down, I am able to be much more effective with what I do, do. But also, I find myself really enjoying the day so much more because of it.
- Finding peace in the day — You can do this by reading books or simply sitting on a front porch or deck and enjoying what’s in front of you. Or combine both! I love to read. Reading outside is even better. It’s such a peaceful activity and really gives you the opportunity to experience someone’s story and give you the gift of being present.
- Spend time with family — this is so precious. In life, they say that the more connected you are to others, the more fulfilling life will be. For me, I live across the country from most of my family. I leverage technology, FaceTime, and texting to stay in touch with them which gives me such a reward to have them in my life.
How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?
Yes! Limit technology! Kids are on iPads, phones and other devices way too much! The more kids can gain presence, the better connected they are to what’s around them, and the better they are able to show up for school, life, and their growth as a whole.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Stillness Is The Key by Ryan Holiday. I read this recently and it’s an amazing practical guide to different practices on how to bring stillness into your life. Stillness is what creates fulfillment, content, and an overall better life worth living. I have begun incorporating many of the practices such as taking a walk to really release stress, release the day, or just bring some peacefulness to my life. The more I bring stillness into my daily life, the more I truly feel deeply fulfilled with my life. It has allowed me to create more presence in myself and therefore show up better for others. I’ve shared that book with many clients and honestly, it’s such a practical guide to continue to go back to so you can better enjoy your life on a daily basis.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would gift free coaching to every single person I come in contact with. I would give everyone an opportunity to learn that they have the power to truly change their lives and create their destiny. Through this, they will be able to gift this to others around them and in turn creating a happier, more joyous collective of humans. My goal I have set recently is to serve 1 million people. I made this goal, so I can do this exact thing actually!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My mom always told me “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and keep on going.” This has something I have never forgotten. Any time something happens in life that gets me down, or knocks me off my path, that quote comes to mind. Every single one of us experiences challenges in life. This quote gets me back up again to try one more time. It has kept me persistent to going after success even after failure after failure.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can find me on Instagram at @matthewshakir and @awakenmomentum as well as on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mattshakircoach. You can also follow me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewshakir/.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!