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Bishop T.D. Jakes: Be the Woman You've Always Wanted to Be

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You have the power to get everything you want in life, whether you're trying to motivate yourself to go back to school and get that degree; become financially self-sufficient after years of depending on a spouse, lover or family member; or leave your good-paying job to start your own business. But first you have to believe it, says Bishop T.D. Jakes, internationally known preacher, teacher and pastor of the Potter's House in Dallas. "It's never too late to head out on a different route," says the minister.

That's the message he wants you to take away from his inspiring new book, Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits (Atria Books, $24). So just what is "repositioning"? Bishop Jakes says the concept is grounded in the longstanding biblical mandate that every person be a good steward of her own resources and talents. And, Jakes adds, it's a simpler act than you might think. "Repositioning yourself begins with applauding the fact that you've survived," he says. "Survivor's strength is stored up in you and ready to be unleashed. You're ready to move from survivor to success." Reposition Yourself offers a blueprint that will help you chart a new course toward achieving your dreams. Though there are no shortcuts in life, we asked Bishop Jakes to offer golden advice to get you started on your journey:

Step #1: Imagine a New You

Repositioning is not about harboring a thought that maybe one day you can achieve a seemingly distant goal. It's about having a belief in Self that is grounded in faith and putting that faith to work. Look at how many times Queen Latifah has repositioned herself; she's excelled in so many areas that many people don't remember she started out as a rapper.

Your own metamorphosis doesn't have to be nearly as dramatic. It may simply mean moving from doing other folks' hair in your kitchen to doing it in a salon, or going from owning a health spa to owning a chain of spas. God blesses what you do, not your feigning and going through the motions. Action must be an outgrowth of a faith that is working.

It was my father's faith that took one mop and one bucket and turned them into a whole janitorial service. It was my mom's faith that led her to put an oil lamp to read by at the bottom of the bed, with 14 brothers and sisters jostling all around her, and work her way through Tuskegee. This is not a faith that simply feeds a hunger for capitalism, making money for money's sake, or amassing material goods. This is not a name-it-and-claim-it, blab-and-grab kind of faith. It's deep-seated. Without it, no one experiences tried-and-true success.

Continue to next page to see step #2

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Step #2: Create Your Own Change

We cannot stay rigid when life is constantly changing. Not long ago in my own church, I started teaching about how to balance what life tosses at you with your latent aspirations. Many people not only responded to my sermons but also heeded that little God voice in their heads. Some went back to college; many got out of debt and have become home owners. In effect, people are moving on and moving strong. They're seeing that in spite of whatever tricky or hard things they might have experienced, none of that is the final word on who they can become.

Women who have had children out of wedlock or have been fired from a job sometimes feel that life is over. It's not. The past is not a death sentence. And deciding to go in a different direction than the one we've been taking doesn't necessarily mean we've failed or didn't finish a task. It just means we've discovered it's more rewarding and beneficial to go in a different direction. Maybe it also means we're beginning to see that changing course is part of what's been God's plan for us all along.

Take me, for example. I'll be 50 this year. This is turning out to be a time of catharsis and reflection. God is showing me new things and teaching me how to use new tools through some simple, if heartrending, lessons about adapting to change and the blows that change sometimes brings. Standing at my parents' graves has helped me more fully accept that we do die. The worth of their lives has become crystal clear, and I've embraced that powerful legacy. It has taught me much about my responsibility to others and about more carefully tending to what I pray will be my own divine legacy to my children, their children and all the coming generations. I'm striving every day to be more and more divinely led. As I evolve in this second half of my life, I'd rather coach people than be on a stage. When you recognize that life is sacred, you see the need to grant yourself the freedom to try a new way to be. As each day brings more challenges and change, each of us has to listen closely to what God is trying to tell us about our particular assignment and duties.

Continue to next page to see step #3

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Step #3: Know Your Power

I have two daughters, ages 19 and 18, who are college students. One is interested in journalism, and the other is studying theology and believes she's been called to the ministry. There was a time when that sort of thing would have been scoffed at. A woman preacher?!

We're in a world that can accommodate a Maya Angelou and a Condoleezza Rice but sometimes still relegates women to standing at the base of the pulpit. We see a woman taking a glass of water to a thirsty preacher but not being allowed to set foot behind that man's podium. Many of you remember what that used to look like in your churches on Sunday mornings. Or perhaps you're living that reality right now in a church that profits from your service but tells you to "stay in your place."

You have to alter that old paradigm. Some of what happened in our parents' generation needs to be rethought. What happened last year, last week, yesterday needs to be rethought. Women today have to find what is true for them. They can be homemakers or corporate bigwigs. There's nothing wrong with either choice. Find your truth. Change your mind. "That was right for me at 20, but at 45 I'm going to take an art class." This is your life being repositioned.

Continue to next page to see step #4

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Step #4: Take Care of Yourself

I was a guest speaker at the last Aspen Institute, which brings together movers and shakers at the highest echelons of commerce and academia during its Big Ideas Festival. We discussed a range of urgent topics, including the fact that prisons are now being built on the basis of test scores of third-graders, a disproportionate number of them being Black boys. We came back from Aspen determined to invest $14 million in Clay Academy, our school at the Potter's House. It's a college prep program, focusing on academics, the arts and athletics, a tri-unity of inspiration for our kids.

Growth is the good news. The bad news is that it does not occur without inconveniences. There's pain to be endured during the quest for further growth and progress. For some it's like a first pregnancy. Some women say, "I'm swelling; I'm throwing up. I've got that unsightly mask of pregnancy on my face." Being stretched, being uncomfortable, sometimes criticized and misunderstood-as soon as she realizes that discomfort is a given, the more apt she is to deliver her baby, her new company, her new idea.

In the midst of gathering resources, a woman also must take care of herself. Each of us from time to time finds ourselves in need of a pit stop, oil change or whatever it takes to recalibrate and refuel. And the point is, we know we need it, but we also know we are not yet able to make it happen. As a result, often we find ourselves feeling stuck.

You have to make a conscious decision to work some self-care into your schedule. We're made to believe that all this stuff is organic, that it's natural. But it's not. It's intentional. It takes effort, force, planning. Life is not a romance novel. You're not going to just meet someone wonderful who will take care of you. The caretaker is that person staring at you in the mirror.

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