It has to be said: Sis, you just survived one of the most challenging years in human history. Now it’s time for you to receive double for your journey and to come up with a strategy to make this year legendary. After all, you haven’t pushed through a global pandemic to hold on to habits that keep you stagnant. If we can make it through a worldwide health crisis, financial uncertainty and political chaos, then we can face everything that’s coming—all while creating the life we’ve always dreamed of.
Before turning 25, I had battled cancer, been laid off in the midst of a recession and discovered I was the other woman in a new relationship. My setbacks taught me early on the importance of picking up the pen to intentionally create the life we desire.
No matter the circumstances, you can arrive at your beautiful future through declarations and actions. Mine have gotten me a life-coaching company, Shine Army, with clients on five continents; a book sold around the world; an interview with Oprah Winfrey in her backyard; and a first-class flight to South Africa as a motivational speaker.
Everybody can be a master manifester, as we author our thoughts and make decisions that either move us forward or pull us back. You didn’t make it through 2020 to not live a life that excites you. It’s time to graduate from just getting by and enter the thrive zone.
For a free Legend coaching series with Charreah—to unlock
the power in your story—visit shinearmy.com/essence
Charreah K. Jackson (@Charreah), an author, coach and former Senior Editor of ESSENCE, is committed to supporting leaders to be legendary.
JANUARY // Focus: Decide
Most lottery winners end up broke after setting the goal, paying money to play and actually getting millions of dollars. Why? Because they never updated their behavior and beliefs to actually receive what they wanted. Your brain is a train. Your beliefs and behavior are the tracks, taking you to every experience in your life. In order to get to new places, you have to lay new tracks—because we often do only what we plan to do. In my tribe, we honor your upgrading by saying #choochoo. Start your year by scheduling in the things that are important to you, including time to upgrade your mind, body and spirit. Set the foundation now, so when your dreams show up you are ready to grab hold of them.
I choose to do something today to move me forward. My thoughts and habits create my reality.
Mark your calendar for a year of growth and expansion. For inspiration, listen to the Michelle Obama Podcast on Spotify. The episode with Valerie Jarrett includes gems on how these powerful women set their schedule for sustainable success.
FEBRUARY // Focus: Love
On bended knee, a question is asked of you. Will you marry you? Every relationship is a reflection of your relationship with yourself, and what you feel about you is contagious. The quickest route to upgrading your love life is to love your life—and you. It’s time to increase your intimacy with yourself. Schedule a date night for one. Pamper your physical body with oils, soft fabrics and a meal you love, while giving yourself the greatest gift we can ever give—listening to your heart and higher self. Trust me, they have plenty to say, so plan for a late night.
I am the love of my life. I accept all of me.
Write yourself a love note, honoring every step of your journey and every part of your body—and celebrate at least 10 things you adore about you.
MARCH // Focus: Release
You can’t catch new blessings with full hands. Life taught Fatimah Williams, Ph.D., that we must release everything that doesn’t serve us. While completing her dissertation in Cultural Anthropology at Rutgers University, she realized she didn’t want to continue on her 10-year-plus journey in academia. So she said no to the six-figure jobs, including an offer to become dean at an Ivy League institution, and jumped into the uncertainty of entrepreneurship. “It was hellish,” she recalls of launching her business, Beyond the Tenure Track, a professional development firm. “But it brought me closer to God.” Soon after she changed lanes in her career, Williams’ 11-year marriage ended. “Sometimes you have to let go to clearly see what’s next,” she says. “You have to trust your vision and yourself.” Williams recently signed a book deal to help others expand opportunities and is enjoying dating again. The moral of her story? You can always make another choice.
I open my hands and heart to release what is ready to go and receive what is for me.
Take inventory of your life with the detox wheel, and decide what’s ready to be released.
APRIL // Focus: Invest
Your greatest asset is you. Plan now for your overflow of opportunity and resources by investing time and energy into your growth. “Imagine being at your retirement party. What are they celebrating you for?” asks Dethra U. Giles, founder of ExecuPrep and host of the Happily Ever Employed podcast. “Write down what you see, and search for people who have achieved what you want. Next, build relationships with people in that role.” As an executive coach for top corporate clients including Goldman Sachs 10KSB, the Tory Burch Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, Giles has seen up close how preparation sustains success. “Every Black woman should have a coach and a therapist, or she is setting herself up for failure,” she says. “This is our time as Black women to access new opportunities, and we want to be ready and prepared when doors open.”
I commit to maximizing my money by expanding my mind.
Enlist a personal board of directors to support you in taking inventory of your skills and opportunities for growth.
MAY // Focus: Bloom
I’ll always cherish the memory of walking to the pulpit wearing an Ivy Park bodysuit to deliver the Sunday-morning message at the 150-year-old Wheat Street Baptist Church in Atlanta. I had given myself permission to be my whole self. And it’s time for you to do the same. Start by spreading out in the spaces you already occupy. How can you add more of you to your current commitments and environments?
I will not only bloom where I am planted— I will bust the pot.
Make a list of your biggest life goals and the ways you can water your dreams, starting now.
JUNE // Focus: Emancipate
This special month doesn’t only honor fathers; it’s also important in Black history for memorializing June 19, or Juneteenth, the national day of celebrating the freedom from slavery of our ancestors. Since we are blessed to be born free, it is important to access every ounce of our liberation. That starts with being honest about where we are still in bondage. What do you feel you have to do or can’t do? Marketer and business strategist Derek D. Ross realized a few years ago that his bondage included putting other people’s needs before his own. “I had trouble saying ‘no’ and started experiencing the physical and mental effects caused by my own silence,” he says. Then, following a DNA test at 34, he discovered that the man who raised him wasn’t his biological father. This revelation became the catalyst that pushed him to reach for his own liberation. “I faced my feelings head on and had the difficult but necessary conversations,” he explains. “Once I accepted my truth in every area, I could begin identifying my needs. I could also make peace with my past, by not wishing it to be any different.” This past Father’s Day, Ross celebrated with both dads for the first time—and shares his story freely.
I am free.
Feed your freedom by doing something different every day for a week. When we step away from the usual routine, it reminds us of our options.
JULY // Focus: Inherit
It’s time to claim your spiritual inheritance. And we all have one. The experiences, talents and blessings in your bloodline are all a part of your legacy, and family-reunion season is the perfect time to review your family tree and gather new information. Discovering the details of your lineage gives insight into your own journey. By using the research tool on Ancestry.com, which requires no DNA, I was able to find records of many relatives—including Jerry and Sylvia Williams, the grandparents of my great-grandmother Katie, for whom I am named. They were born into slavery and died free people. My ancestor Jerry was also a minister who pastored 14 churches in South Carolina, making me a sixth-generation spiritual teacher. What’s your story?
I am a walking legacy and a living ancestor.
Honor Your History
Track your family tree back as far as you can.
Interview your older relatives for stories and insight.
Choose what traits you want to continue and what habits will stop with you.
AUGUST // Focus: Shine
Yes, people are Googling you more than you know—from potential employers to secret admirers. Use the long days of summer to capture your light with great photos. “Before you ever say a word, you are being judged by your photos online,” says Nick F. Nelson, senior marketer and founder of Brandpreneur. “Don’t hide your genius with bad photos. Take the time to present yourself, and signal you are ready for the next level.”
I will honor my beauty and share my light.
Nelson’s Success Shot List:
Project energy that will attract the opportunities you want.
Post a nice head shot that clearly shows your beautiful face.
Include an image of you in your element and using your gifts.
Don’t forget the money shot, showcasing your personality and style.
SEPTEMBER // Focus: Validate
We all desire to be affirmed. The good news is, we are all born validated. But will you accept that you are enough as you are? Charleston-based coach Adelai Brown had all the reasons to doubt herself. Her dad was absent while she was growing up, and her mother suffered with lupus and substance abuse (she has now been clean and sober for over a decade). Then, in 11th grade, Brown became pregnant—and soon learned that her boyfriend had another pregnant girlfriend. After getting out of that relationship, she gave birth to a daughter and worked to get her high school diploma, so that she could properly support her child. She found love and got married, bringing her bruised heart along for the ride. “My brokenness and negative self-image were driving a wedge in my marriage and family,” she reveals in Help! Save Me from My Broken Heart: Your Journey to Living and Loving Again. “I had to choose to heal. Every experience we go through is an opportunity to learn to love.” The first step is to acknowledge your pain and honor the strength it took for you to keep moving forward.
I am enough. Everything I have been through has been building me for more.
Commit to honoring one of the biggest challenges you’ve survived—whether by writing a poem to commemorate it, getting a piece of jewelry to symbolize starting over or even giving yourself a ceremony.
OCTOBER // Focus: Connect
Refresh your relationships and networking skills for support in your journey. “We don’t get anywhere by ourselves,” observes Ty Heath, Director of \Market Engagement, the B2B Institute @LinkedIn and cofounder of the company’s TransformHER platform for women of color in business. Growing up as a first-generation born in America to Jamaican parents, Heath had no idea of the opportunities that existed in tech. Working her way up in Silicon Valley, she was often the only Black woman in the room. Seeing an acute need, she went on to cofound this global summit, TransformHER. The most recent event engaged more than 100,000 women of color and allies. TransformHER is also an active community on LinkedIn“With technology, we have access to everybody,” Heath says. “We must give ourselves permission to take up space. Networking is an adventure to share ourselves authentically. Our differences are where we can add value.”
I am connected to everyone in the world.
Heath’s Connecting Cheat Sheet:
Update your online profiles to showcase who you are and what matters to you.
Lead with how you can add value and common points of connection.
Identify an ally to support you in your journey.
NOVEMBER // Focus: Nourish
One of the most satisfying dishes you will ever eat is gratitude. Embrace the season of Thanksgiving by witnessing your blessings. A few years ago, Robinson Lynn, Executive Director of Momentum Education, kicked off the #mogratitude campaign—inviting thousands of graduates of the personal-development training to express their thankfulness for 30 days. “Gratitude allows us to not miss out on the sweetness of life,” says Lynn. “Without gratitude, we can accomplish our goals yet not feel accomplished.” At moments when life feels hardest, expressing appreciation is especially helpful. “Eleven years ago, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on a Wednesday, and I started in her place as executive director on a Friday,” Lynn recalls. “I was 22.” Though his mother and best friend would pass away six months later, there hasn’t been a day when he’s felt anything but grateful to do this work and carry on her incredible impact.
I am grateful for my journey.
Lynn’s Tips for an Instant Gratitude Boost:
Serve the needs in your area, whether by donating or volunteering. Giving reminds us how much we have.
Reflect on happy memories and experiences for which you are thankful.
Reach out to people and share how much you appreciate them. People don’t know what they mean to you unless you tell them.
DECEMBER // Focus: Celebrate
Decide now how you will celebrate showing up for yourself for the entire year. I lost 20 pounds on WW and celebrated with skates. When I hit my goal weight, I plan on treating myself to scuba diving lessons. When we acknowledge ourselves and what’s working, we invite more joy to show up in our lives.
Every day is a party, and I am the guest of honor.
Save the date and a bottle of Black Girl Magic, courtesy of the
McBride Sisters Sparkling Brut, to celebrate your banner year!