In a world where we are inundated daily with crazy headlines, it is more important than ever that we focus on making our dreams our reality. Here’s your guide to clarifying your vision for the coming year and manifesting your best season yet. Declare Your Dreams First things first: List your intentions and desires. “When we set goals that promise rewards, the brain releases dopamine,” says John Assaraf, author of Innercise: The New Science to Unlock Your Brain’s Hidden Power. Assaraf emphasizes that the very promise of a reward releases dopamine, just as the actual experience does. “Dopamine then travels to your frontal lobe, where it gives you the motivation and ability to plan and develop strategies and then to act,” he adds. “Think of dopamine as the brain fuel in your motivational tank.” I learned the importance of setting goals the hard way. I’d never made it an objective to meet Oprah Winfrey, so when I was in the same room with her in 2016, it didn’t occur to me to make it ­happen. I was determined to not repeat that mistake, so when I sat down to write goals for the following year, I included these simple words: Meet Oprah. Define Your Why and How Once you’ve identified what you want, take a few moments to clarify why it matters and how you will get there. “Thinking about why we’re doing ­something activates a different part of the brain from the region that is activated when we think about how to do something,” Assaraf explains. By activating both regions of the brain, he says, “you shift from the realm of imagination to beliefs, actions and productive habits.” Your why can be connected to the long-term impact of a goal and what it means to your life and others, including our ancestors. For inspiration on your how, I recommend an activity I call the Crazy 8 in which you list a big dream and eight ways it could come true. My Crazy 8 for meeting Oprah ranged from randomly bumping into her to being a guest on SuperSoul. When I got clear on my why and how to connect with Ms. Winfrey, I started working on what I would say. Celebrate Small Wins As you make a plan, break actions into bite-size tasks—and celebrate wins along the way. “Some parts of your brain are designed to set goals for the future, while others lean to immediate gratification,” Assaraf says. So before you release those extra pounds, take a bow for that reorganized kitchen and that gallon of water you drank every day for a week straight. “Long-term goals require ongoing motivation, which can be supported by regular dopamine infusions,” Assaraf says. “When you check something off your to-do list, it gives you a piece of satisfaction.” Get a Dream Partner Experts suggest we are more likely to achieve a goal when someone else knows about it and keeps us accountable. Consider joining a Mastermind or Facebook group with like-minded women to help you stay motivated. Don’t Set Limits After declaring I would meet Oprah in 2017, the universe did me one better: I got an invite to her Wisdom of Sundays brunch at her home last fall. When we give ourselves permission to raise our expectations, we can be wowed by the outcome. “Thinking about achieving your goals increases your level of ­consciousness,” Assaraf says. This season, let your focus be on creating a life that curls your toes. Chart Your Success Story Once you have declared your dream destination, it’s time to commit. Thasunda Brown Duckett can offer some inspiration. Duckett made history as the first African-American to become CEO of JPMorgan Chase’s consumer bank, the country’s largest, where she manages a network of more than $684 billion in deposits and investments. At one of her first ­company town halls, she asked the employees she managed at the organization’s 5,000-plus locations a straightforward question: What are you saving for? Each location then created a vision board with words and images representing the personal goals they had committed their cash to achieve. Fund Your Dreams Now that you have gotten clear on your desires, get ready to develop a concrete strategy to pay for them. “It’s less stressful to save when you know your $10 is going toward your dream,” Duckett says. In other words, it’s easier to say no to a tempting bargain when you are clear on your beach vacation fund for the spring. Invest in a Well-Balanced Life “Think about your life as a diversified portfolio,” Duckett recommends. She advises that you include all the things that matter most to you: spending time with girlfriends, having a successful career, giving back to the community, being a great daughter, traveling, living in your own home, reading and ­anything else you enjoy. Then allocate a percentage of your time to each item on your list, for a total of 100 percent. “You’ll be able to see more clearly when you’re out of balance,” she suggests. “Just like a diversified portfolio, there will be ups and downs. Sometimes you’re overcommitted at work because you need to be, but then you need to recalibrate.” When Duckett realized she wanted to increase the percentage of time she spent with family and friends, she made space in her schedule to write cards to reconnect with loved ones and planned a trip with her college buddies. Be Your Own Umbrella And as we aim for our bright future, we must also prepare for the ­unexpected. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, more than half of American families are financially ­insecure. “Nearly half of adults say that they cannot cover a $400 expense and would have to borrow money or sell something,” Duckett states. To strengthen your savings habit, she recommends you start, skip and stop. Start with your goal and set a budget for achieving it; skip all unnecessary spending for a week; and stop thinking about saving by automating your payments to an account you can’t easily touch. Prioritize What Matters Even with her fast-paced career, Duckett stays focused on the goals that make her heart sing. “Being a wife, a daughter, a friend, an executive and a philanthropist are all in my portfolio, along with some of the things that I just love, like reading,” she says. “I also always wanted to adopt.” Her family welcomed 2-year-old Mackenzie, who joined ­Duckett’s three older children. And this year she saw another dream come true when her family went on a Disney cruise to celebrate her son Myles turning 10. “My whole family, including my mom and my dad, who is battling ­cancer, and my aunt and uncle were able to go,” she says. “It was on my vision board and what I was saving for.” As Duckett knows, we create our vision one dream and one dime at a time. Listen as ESSENCE’s Senior Editor, Charreah K. Jackson joins Yes, Girl podcast co-host Yolanda Sangweni, to give tips on how Black women everywhere can jumpstart their dreams.
Charreah K. Jackson serves as ESSENCE Senior Editor and is the author of Boss Bride: The Powerful Woman’s Playbook for Love & Success. Catch her on social @Charreah.