Category Archives: advice

Three Life Lessons from Taraji P. Henson’s “Proud Mary”

Sonypictures.com (Click image for trailer link.)

I am a Taraji P. Henson fan.  I love every character she has played, especially as Cookie in Fox’s Empire.  She always exhibits a level of sincerity, grit and tenacity as an actress. For me, her characters are always very relatable and multi-dimensional.  She’s like your favorite cousin, keeping it real auntie, friend that has your back. When I saw Sony/Screen Gems’ thriller action Proud Mary last weekend, I was again impressed with Taraji. But not because the film was great.

I did enjoy the movie, but Proud Mary was not a box office hit, grossing about $14 million by its second weekend amidst projections of $20 million in its opening weekend, and debuting in eighth place as a box opener. The movie, however, broke even so that’s always a good thing, especially since Taraji has executive producer credits.

There were elements of the film that were lacking (production quality could have been better, writing could have been tighter, would have liked a better build up in beginning and more action in the middle, maybe her face off with another female — something her Cookie character does flawlessly), and several character’s acting were not up to par (what was up with Danny Glover and Billy Brown).  But looking beyond all of that to focus on Taraji’s character, Mary, she performs entertainingly (albeit stereotypical) as a fearless, bad-ass, gun-toting female assassin showing maternal instinct, empathy, and survival skills in protecting Jahi Wilson’s character, Danny, the son of one of her victims.

As a sparse movie goer but avid supporter of black women-led roles, I always look beyond the entertainment aspect of films and focus my understanding on the character’s backstory and its reflection of societal norms, values and beliefs.  Mary’s backstory was not fully developed, but the storyline was clear enough to ascertain that she was an orphan taken in by a crime family who had an encounter that woke her up.  She decided to reclaim her life, her goals and dreams while also giving Danny a chance to experience maternal love, hope and stability. Trying to regain control from a patriarchal environment is a familiar script that many women face in navigating their lives, but just like a bad movie, there are always some take-aways worthy of any experience.

  • Trust your gut. Mary’s career choice was more about survival that desensitized her actions and ruled her life. But when she saw the kid in her mark’s home obliviously playing video games, her instincts told her it was time to move on, but not without curiosity or concern of who she was leaving behind.  She thought about the kid often and checked up on him.  She recognized that a change in life was due. As women, we have a unique gift and often know when we are in a bad job, have toxic relationships, and make unhealthy life choices.  We must remember that it is our divine nature to trust our gut and know when it’s time to make change to do the right thing, not only for ourselves, but often for others. Let’s not ignore that nagging feeling or sign that we know is meant to get our attention.
  • Be willing to start over. The organized crime family decided Mary’s destiny was assassinating folks. It took her orphaning a child to realize her life was more valuable than that, so she decided on a re-do, to live life differently, and on her own terms. A re-do can happen at any time, age or stage in life but a person must be willing to let go of the past and anything negative weighing them down.  Unlike in the movie, I am NOT suggesting being extreme and taking out an entire family, lol, but there is no shame in distancing yourself from people who keep you in a bad place because of their lifestyle, actions, dysfunction, and/or attitudes. It is possible to outgrow people and move on, especially after we’ve learned the lesson they were in our life to teach.
  • You can always make a difference. Danny needed Mary in his life as much as she needed him. She learned that his mother left him and he felt abandoned, and that his father was not a good guy. Just the little bit of compassion she showed to him softened him to know that he mattered to someone. We never know someone’s story and the impact that life has had on them. Kids do become the adults we interact with and it’s the sincerity and small kindnesses that can make a difference, like a smile, holding the door for the person behind you, a quick email, text or phone call to let someone know you were thinking about them, an authentic compliment, or just paying it forward in your own unique way with the expectation of only good karma from the Universe.

Realizing Your Dreams With The Power of Intention

My gift to you. You can download this inspirational printable 8.5 x 11 poster.

It’s time to change the way we think and speak about our dreams. Transforming a conversation, just like manifesting a dream, begins by setting an intention. Your intentions will assist you in taking greater control of your life.

A working definition for intention is: “to have in mind a purpose or plan, to direct the mind, to aim”. Lacking intention, we sometimes stray without meaning or direction. But with it, all the forces of the universe can align to make even the most impossible, possible. My intention is to transform the conversation around dreams from fear and doubt, to hope and possibility, followed by action and results.

Some might say this is not the right time to dream. But it’s always a good time to dream and believe and want better for your life.  Without our dreams, all we have is our present reality. While our present reality is what’s in front of us, the greater challenge is our attitude around “reality” and being “realistic” and what being realistic has cost us. Often that’s our passion and joy, our hopes and dreams.

Setting intention allows us to be in the moment of reality by making a conscious choice to shift thinking to what we want. Given the unknowns and sometimes craziness of life, there’s never been a more important time to dream and setting your intention is the first step. When should you set an intention? You could set an intention every day. Your intention could be to work less and make more, or to find a new career that you are passionate about. It could be to get healthy and physically fit, or to spend more quality time with loved ones or alone.

How to set your intentions?  It does not have to be hard. At oneword365.com, individuals set their intentions by focusing on a single word.  Others use journals to capture ideas and write action plans for their goals.  My son purchases a desk calendar each year to add his weekly goals for propelling his comedic acting career. Many of my friends use walking apps or their watch to reach daily fitness goals.  Others partner with people, like friends or coaches, to encourage and hold themselves accountable for their goals. There is no one way to set and manage your intentions. The best advice I can offer – besides setting your intention – is to do what works best for your lifestyle and personality, and then ACT!

When you need a little inspiration to live your #Dream2018

 You mustn’t be afraid to dream bigger, darling. ~Line from the movie Inception.

In the stillness of time a dream can come alive. In its path found extraordinary outcomes for those who believe in the power of a dream.  But there’s more than just having a dream and capturing its vision, it is having intention, passion and focus. I recently had an opportunity to reconnect with a friend who has been teaching young children the past few years in Abu Dhabi.  I reached out to her via email on a whim because I heard her name in a song. To my surprise, she was in town and literally staying less than 10 miles from me.

We met up and while listening to her journey, I learned that it was a wonderful, contemplative experience that is now leading her to Indonesia in less than a week to teach adults. I was fascinated by her fearlessness to pack up for another country to live and work. It made me recall the desire I had in my early 20s to travel abroad. My short visit with her rekindled my passion to get out of my box and explore my dreams and aspirations.  To help guide me, I searched for women-centric quotes as motivators for me to dream big(ger). I am sharing below in hopes the quotes will inspire you, too.

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.  ~Eleanor Roosevelt

No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. ~Lupita Nyong’o

When you have a dream you’ve got to grab it and never let go.  ~Carol Burnett

Not fulfilling your dreams will be a loss to the world, because the world needs everyone’s gift – yours and mine.  ~Barbara Sher

Dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.  ~Shonda Rhimes

I don’t just dream, I do.  ~Aamito Stacie Lagum

The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.  ~Oprah Winfrey

I have dreams and I feel like I have a power to actually make those dreams become a reality.  ~Beyonce

The only requirement for having a dream is believing in it. ~Molly Barker

Little girls with dreams become women with vision. ~unknown

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning. ~Gloria Steinem

No dream is too big to come true. You are born to manifest the glory of God on earth.  ~Lailah Gifty Akita

 

One Word: #Dream2018

LOVE.  This was my 2017 intention.  The word I chose to guide my actions.  It wasn’t always easy to LOVE but I focused my LOVE through praying, extending gratitude, and being genuinely hopeful and happy in my life.  I greeted negativity with non-resistance, allowing it to evaporate into the nothingness of its origin and intent. LOVE prevailed so that I could focus on relationships, situations and circumstances that were for my highest and best.

But alas, as I usher in 2018, a new word beckons my heart with oneword365.com.  It is DREAM.  As a young girl, I remember many of my dreams and aspirations become shattered by adults nursing their own fear, pain and regret.  They probably believed their words and actions were for my best.  Over the years, those thoughts rented space in my psyche and my dreams and desires became lost in the mundane race called life, my spirit beaten down yearly by misplaced expectations. The world and its people can be so cruel.

Today, however, I serve an eviction notice to the uninvited guests who have become comfortable and overstayed their welcome.  You are no longer welcome here! This is not personal, but necessary. It’s now time to move along.  I don’t care where you go, but be gone by midnight. There is only enough space to unpack my long-lost DREAMs; recycling not allowed. Besides, the locks have already been changed and anything left behind is being placed in the trash on the curb.  Sayonara.

Welcome #DREAM2018 #ONEWORD365

Living Purposefully and Achieving Personal Mastery

Personal mastery is the result of setting goals and achieving success and is rooted in continuous self-improvement, especially towards gaining a competency in skill or knowledge.  Some people have large lofty goals like surpassing Bill Gates’ net worth of $79.2 billion or creating an Oprah-sized media empire. Others may have specific target goals like losing five pounds, getting into shape or having a peaceful home life.

Regardless of one’s goal, an important fundamental task for achieving personal mastery is purposeful living.  Or establishing clarity around what you are doing, why you are doing it, and understanding the greater benefit of what you are doing. The best way to get that type of clarity is through a personal vision.

Creating A Personal Vision

A personal vision is basically big picture thinking.  It’s the concept behind your goal setting because it shows you where you are headed and can provide all of the possibilities of many directions that you can travel.  If you don’t already have a vision for your life, the best way to identify one is connect with yourself, your inner being, and began to picture an image of the future that you would like to have.

Here’s a very quick mindfulness exercise to try: Try closing your eyes and actually seeing yourself as the person you want to be. What are you doing?  What can you see? How do you feel? Are you alone or with others? How are people relating to you?  Embrace this image and when you are ready, open your eyes. Now back in the present moment is where the real work begins.  This is often the hardest thing for many people to do, but write down what you saw.  Doesn’t have to be fancy words, just describe it in your own words, and this is the beginning of crafting a vision for your life.

If you ask anyone you admire how they accomplished their level of success, and they will emphatically tell you they set a goal for themselves, created a plan, and worked hard at mastering specific tasks. At the core of their goal was a personal vision with an anticipated outcome. Yes, there may have been some life detours, but the vision remained constant, and this is a person who is living on purpose.

Committing to Self-Discipline

Another key element of personal mastery is self-discipline. Just like a runner preparing for a marathon, one must be disciplined enough to follow an exercise and running regimen to ensure their body is trained and prepared to endure the rigors of the race.  That’s the same type of motivation required for mastering personal success.

I recall sharing my vision of running as an example of goal setting in a study skills class of high school students. I told them that in my mind I see myself running, but I never take action. I have the vision and can see me running but I lack the self-discipline to commit to running. I explained that self-discipline is holding yourself accountable to do what is right to meet your goals and objectives in life.  It motivates the action that is necessary to fulfill your personal vision and stay the course.

On a personal note, I still hold steadfast to the vision of running, and have begun small steps to motivate myself towards that end. Your approach towards achieving self-discipline may be to just jump in and just do it, as the Nike slogan suggests.  But always do what works best for you.  No one else is the best indicator of your heart’s desire, capabilities or personal circumstances. It’s better to feel good about your vision, goals and progress than set up false expectations and later abandon the vision forever. When you stay the course, no matter how long it takes, that’s personal mastery.  And in time, you will also have a great story to share about overcoming obstacles to achieve personal mastery that will be a motivator for someone else.  That’s real purposeful living when your experiences positively impact change in someone else.

personal masteryIn Summary

The desire for personal mastery begins with awareness of purposeful living.  Next, a personal vision is the roadmap to guide your living.  And lastly, self-discipline promotes the action that is necessary to achieve success.  Wishing you all the best towards your own discovery of personal mastery.

Enjoy (And Visualize)!

51 Weeks To Go and Counting

BELIEVEWith one full week of 2016 in the bag, I’ve noticed the trend in my social media circles to claim one “power word” rather than resolutions.  It actually makes a lot of sense to me, and hopefully to you, too.

With good intention, people make resolutions they plan to commit to in a new year. But once the holiday season is done and people get back into their daily grinds, resolutions can often fall by the wayside. Some people have become so disappointed with making resolutions, that they don’t even make them anymore; they just roll into the new year hoping for the best.

As my 23-year-old son pointed out to me, “People can resolve to improve at any time of the year, so it’s not a big thing.”  Responding with Mother Wisdom, I told him, “Yes, young wise one but the new year is like an automatic reset for many people to try again to accomplish something meaningful.”  Then I shared with him the trend of the Power Words, and he actually agreed with me that doing this seems more intentional, purposeful, and easier to commit.

The thing with identifying a Power Word is it can transcend any moment or area of your life.  For instance, if you choose “Thrive” as your power word, it can apply to goals for eating healthier and exercise.  Even if you messed up on a diet, your power word can be a constant reminder that any small accomplishment, like walking the stairs, is a move in the right direction. Thrive may even mean seeking a better paying job because you learned a new skill, or spending more time with a loved one just because.  It’s all thriving and you set the bar for what that means in your life.

So I picked two words that resonated with my spirit, BELIEVE (for the good that flows all around me) and FREEDOM (from anything that doesn’t serve me).  It is my intention and purpose to believe in the possibility of whatever my heart desires, because I know it’s poimg_2317ssible, and to be free from ANY thing, person, idea or thought that doesn’t serve my highest and best. Ironically, after I christened my words as part of my 2016 mantra, the word “BELIEVE” surfaced immediately in an image that adequately expressed my sentiments.

So what is your Power Word for 2016?  It’s never too late to pick one, or even change or add words. It’s for your personal edification to serve as a “compass that directs your decisions and guides your steps,” according to the One Word 365 community.  I recently learned about this social media community as I began to research the purpose behind the movement, and am sharing for anyone who may be interested (preview at http://oneword365.com/).

So here’s to your highest and best throughout 2016, to live with intention and purpose ALWAYS.

A Story Unsung: Getting Started

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There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story.  ~Maya Angelou

Yes, everyone has a story inside of them, especially women. Some stories are subtle, some are encouraging and empowering. Some explain and others teach. But all great stories have some level of conflict. You know when things didn’t work out exactly the way you originally planned. That’s usually your backstory.

So why would anyone really care about your story? Why does it matter?

While we all have our own stuff, it is never unique to just us. Our unique life experiences are what shape us into who we are in the moment, and there is always someone that can relate on some level.  More notably, Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and executive producer of How To Get Away With Murder, recently shared her story.  In Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, Rhimes recounts her personal struggles with weight and moments of insecurity and fear. While her story offers perspective into who she is and what shapes her creative edge as a storyteller, it is also a relatable story with many layers that speak to all women.

So, yes, your story does matter, and you don’t have to be a prolific storyteller, TV show creator and executive producer like Shonda Rhimes to have merit. Hundreds of thousands of people successfully write and self-publish books, a few who come to mind are Shelley Hitz with Author Audience and Kristen Joy of The Book Ninja, both of whom I met at a marketing conference last year. Some people use editors, like me, to help relate their story of life, love, fear, loss, betrayal, opportunity and discovery.  I’m sure this sounds familiar?

The key for you, however, is recognizing the merits of your experiences so you can begin shaping your story. Here are a few ideas that can help you get started:

  • Journal writing. You may not be quite ready to share your story with the world.  However, journaling providefemale-865110_1280s a more intimate and private option for expressing emotions and experiences. This can often be therapeutic and help to shape ideas for self-analysis and self-discovery.
  • Freewriting. You have to begin somewhere so just begin documenting your story in your own words. Grammar and spelling is not important. Just begin writing whatever thoughts/ideas emerge. Generally, freewriting involves a set time to write continuously without interruption.  Through this process, an unintended story may emerge that may have more impact than your original writing goals.
  • Outlining. If you require a little more structure, an outline will help to organize the flow of your writing, especially if you already know the story you want to tell.

So counting on you to get started with your story. Happy writing and let me know if you get stuck writing and need some help @divaninawrites or email me at divaninawrites@gmail.com.

Love and Peace Always….Ann