Everybody has their sources of inspiration at the times of personal crisis and discouragement: consulting with family or close friends, reading favorite blogs and watching favorite TV shows, reminding oneself of inspirational quotes, listening to some relaxing music or stress-eating. I personally found my latest source of inspiration in the memoir Becoming by the former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.
While the community of Black women has always admired her for her modesty and endless inspiration, we only knew some small snippets from her life without knowing much about the journey she passed to become who she is today and to inspire millions of women across the world.
Even though I might probably be one of the last people who got their hands on a copy of her book, I decided to share some of her best pieces of advice that became part of my journey in 2019 and hopefully will also help you find purpose and meaning in your own life.
#1. Do what matters most to you
“I knew what mattered to me. I didn’t want to be some sort of well-dressed ornament who showed up at parties and ribbon cuttings. I wanted to do things that were purposeful and lasting.”
Finding purpose in one’s life and work has never been an easy thing to do, especially with growing pressure from society, from our own families, our friends and sometimes our children.
The first step towards understanding what matters to you is by asking yourself, “Why am I on the path I have chosen?” Caring a lot about what others think may have put you on an established path which is not necessarily the one that brings you happiness, but it certainly meets the expectations of others.
Top tip: So if you are in a similar situation, make a list of what matters most to you and start doing at least one new thing every month that is purposeful and brings meaning to your life.
#2. Fight self-doubt and fear to fight failure
“Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s a vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”
Know that you are not alone when you ask yourself, “Am I good enough?” Millions of people are asking themselves the exact same question every day. Ending the cycle of self-doubt takes time and a lot of efforts, but it is all about taking one step at a time by exploring one’s own strengths, learning how to use them and embracing what we are good at and what makes us stand out.
Top tip: Remember that you are your own worst enemy. So next time that question comes to your mind, remind yourself of your top strengths and look at the ways you could use them to overcome that particular challenge. You will see that you will gradually become more self-confident.
#3. Take a career pivot if you are not happy
“I wasn’t in a career that brought me joy or touched any points of passion for me at all. I had to finally admit that to myself, which was a hard thing to do after investing the amount of time and resources.”
When there is a pay-off for the efforts we make, we enjoy the ride but we often forget to ask ourselves if what we are doing makes us happy. It is not easy to walk away from a career we have invested a lot of money, efforts, energy, and love in, but we should remind ourselves that it is part of becoming who we want to be. And becoming is a continuous process of changes and adjustments to people, places, our own passions, and ambitions.
Top tip: The most important thing is to keep in mind that you have the right to change your mind and make a career move if you feel that you are stuck in a dead-end job that does not bring any happiness to you.
#4. Becoming your best self means taking care of yourself
“I was looking to my husband to make me happy. And I realized I’m responsible for my happiness. I’m responsible for how I prioritize my life. And I can’t be mad at him because he prioritizes his life differently.”
The biggest changes in our life happen when we comprehend that we are the drivers of our own destiny, and unless we have fully owned it, we will not be able to be our true best selves. When we finally admit it, we become less dependent on other people and start to understand the true importance of taking care of ourselves by making the right decisions.
Top tip: Take some 15 minutes every day to meditate, do some breathing and some mindful cardio exercise. Get enough rest every night and in the morning start your day by appreciating how strong you are.
#5. Stay hopeful — optimism is key
“I continue to keep myself connected to a force that’s larger and more potent than any election, or leader, or news story — and that’s optimism. For me, this is a form of faith, an antidote to fear.”
Thinking positively opens up our brain to more opportunities and makes us see more options when a problem or a challenge arises. Many people mistake it for being blindly optimistic but part of positive thinking is about staying realistic about your possibilities but not limiting yourself to one-two logical outcomes. Thinking positively lets us see our own strengths and helps us find motivation by relying on our personal values and character traits.
Top tip: next time a negative thought passes through your mind, try to use a positive affirmation instead. Say, “I am going to try a different approach this time” instead of saying, “I cannot deal with this anymore.” You will see that by being positive your brain starts to open up and see more possibilities out there.
“I’m an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey. In sharing my story, I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why.” – Michelle Obama
By sharing the 5 lessons I learned from the memoir, I hope to also hear the lessons you learned from the book as well as your personal stories in order to keep inspiring the community of Black women.