Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I’m an Armenian American who grew up in the US but had very strong Armenian familial roots. Navigating between these two cultural norms and expectations was often confusing and difficult and presented a huge challenge for me growing up. It often felt like when I was succeeding in one, I was losing in the other and vice versa. It took me a long time to find my own voice among the noise of the two cultural expectations and figure out how to combine the two in a harmonious and positive way. I am now really grateful for these two aspects of me and their differing perspectives, which give me a much wider scope of the world.
Another thing that really helped shape me is my parents’ value of education and books. When we first moved to the US, my parents were starting from the beginning so we didn’t have a lot of spare income. I watched how hard my dad worked for the family and how much effort and energy it took for my parents to provide a stable and loving home for us. While I often heard a “no” when it came to purchasing toys, even with our financial constraints, one thing my mom never hesitated to buy was books. She would happily browse the bookstore with me for hours and purchase the books I wanted so I could build a library of my own in our house. Through their spending habits, my parents really showed me what they valued most in the world and instilled in me the significance of reading and educating yourself.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
To have more experiences, wide and varied, and not worry about timing or society’s expected path. Follow your intuition and engage in activities that make you come alive. Don’t worry about success, it will come if you are throwing yourself into life.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Do things a certain way because it’s always been done that way. Don’t take risks with your career because you don’t want to rock the boat.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
One of the things people don’t talk about enough is what happens in the period after you achieve some of your childhood goals, and how lost you might feel not having a clear direction to go towards any longer. After I received my Ph.D. and settled in the city I had always dreamed to relocate to (London) and set up a successful therapy practice, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt incredibly stuck and unable to find direction. For a long time I tried doing what I always do best, set out new intentions and goals, and begin working towards them, but somehow this time, that wasn’t having the needed effect. I had a hard time finding focus and motivation.
I felt low and uninspired for many years, stuck in a state of limbo, wanting to do more in life but feeling no real pull towards anything. That was a really challenging period in my life because it felt like I had lost who I was and didn’t know how to get her back. What eventually started to get me out of this phase, through a lot of personal work, is when I realized my goals in life had changed. This next phase of my life wasn’t about achievements and material or career success but about relationships. I’m now working on deepening my relationship with friends and loved ones and also cultivating a deeper connection and understanding of myself.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I don’t tend to see obstacles or the lack of a clear path forward as a problem to stop me from trying. In fact, I don’t often look for the “normal” or standard way of doing things, I feel that route is overcrowded and competitive. I will instead try to find less obvious or conventional ways of approaching a problem to find a solution.
What is your morning routine?
I tend to wake up fairly early before 7 am. I will put on a business, self-development, or psychology podcast, or audiobook and begin washing up then make tea. I like the process of buying high-quality loose-leaf tea and taking time to make it. This process helps me clear my head and orient me towards starting off my day positively. I’ll then either respond to emails, read, or journal. Finally, I’ll prepare a healthy meal and put it in the frig for later in the day, followed by gym and meditation before beginning to see therapy clients and attending meetings.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Avoiding social media. I’m never on it. I hardly post and, if I do, it’s nearly always about work. I barely ever look at it in regard to what others are doing. As much as possible, I try to reduce the influence others can have on me, especially in regard to over-exaggerated materialism or vacant opulence.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Consistency and organizing and making a plan ahead of time so you’re not left to your changing mood dictating how productive you’ll be for the day. I find that when I make clear and, most importantly, consistent plans and goals and stick to them, I achieve a lot. The amount of stuff I do doesn’t have to be a lot, in fact, that doesn’t actually even work. Having too many lofty goals in a short amount of time often leads to disappointment or burnout. Instead, having more longer-term goals that I stick to consistently and chip away at daily has been more productive for me. A small amount of writing, reading, or whatever work you have to do, each day, consistently achieves a lot.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Books have always had a huge influence on me throughout my life. It’s hard to say what particular books have influenced me the most because depending on what phase in my life I’m in or what particular challenges I’m facing, some books are more impactful than others at that time. There are two books that come to mind though I can mention which I remember had a strong impact on me when I first read them.
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer because this book made me realize how much we limit ourselves through self-criticism, fear, and negativity by the things we say to ourselves. It really broke down how your own internal voice is the narrator of your life experience. If you want to shift your negative perspective on the world, pay close attention to that voice inside yourself and what it’s telling you to do or not to do.
The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other – Jungian Perspective on Relationship by James Hollis. The book really focuses on self-growth and personal responsibility in your own maturation process. It discusses relationships not in terms of “the other” but about how you, through your own self-reflection and awareness, can influence your relationships with others. It’s very insightful for those who are interested in self-development and mastery.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality” – Seneca.
Whenever I hesitate or feel fear or concern, this quote often comes to mind, to question that negative voice inside rather than accept it as reality. Reality is much kinder than that voice inside.
“Wealth is the slave of a wise man and the master of a fool” – Seneca
I really like this quote because of its relevance to modern materialism. It always reminds me to focus on the importance of values and purpose rather than any external shows of materialistic success.
“Settle on the type of person you want to be and stick to it, whether alone or in the company” – Marcus Aurelius
A reminder to know you are and not lose it among the noise of the world.
“What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” I’m not entirely sure about the other of this one but I think it’s Erin Hanson
This one is a slightly cheesy one that I’ve seen on many Hallmark cards, but it always puts a smile on my face when I see it.