“You want to know what they said?
I’ll tell you what they said.
I didn’t believe them but the thoughts still linger throughout my head.
They said I’d either end up in prison, on drugs, or I’ll end up dead.”
Those are words from my first published book, Unseen Thoughts, which chronicles defining moments in my life, the lessons I’ve learned from them, and how I found the motivation to overcome adversity. Born to a mother addicted to drugs, and a father who was never in my life, I am no stranger to obstacles and hardship. Having grown up on welfare and lived in Section 8 housing for all of my childhood, I was born into circumstances beyond my control. Before my birth, my destiny was preordained—receiving my name from an uncle who was sentenced to life in prison in the late eighties.
While life’s obstacles may seem insurmountable, the choice to succeed comes from within and begins with self-motivation. Self-motivation is the internal drive or force that keeps you moving forward. From a young age, I made the decision that I wanted more from life, but simply wanting something is not enough, you have to be hungry for it. I was hungry for more than project housing, food stamps, and hungry to be a better father to my future kids. So, I imagined a better future. The first step of self-motivation is to visualize triumph.
Visualize the life you want to lead. See yourself past the obstacles that are momentarily in your immediate line of vision and imagine your dreams coming to fruition. You have to wake up everyday, as I did in my childhood, and invest in yourself by envisioning the future you desire. Growing up, one of my favorite sitcoms on television was The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It may sound whimsical but watching Fresh Prince made me hungry for their lifestyle, so I began to envision my future in a mansion and working a high profile job. While I can’t say that I drive a Porsche or live in a mansion yet, I am well on my way to attaining the things I envision for myself.
After you see your life past your obstacles, place something symbolic in front of you that you can physically view day after day to keep your eyes on the prize. Keep something in front of you that is a constant reminder of your future self. Before I leave my house everyday, I am obstructed by a piece of construction paper on my door with the words millionaire, world-changer, CEO, and mogul. At the top of my makeshift vision board is the phrase “Work harder than yesterday, and don’t forget to help someone else.” It’s impossible for me to leave my house without seeing it and immediately directs my mind towards what I should be focused on that day, my future self. Whether it’s to become financially stable, to overcome grief, to move into a new home, to get into your first choice college, or to land your dream job—visualize it, write it down where you can see it daily, then take steps to move towards it.
When I was eleven years old, I watched my eldest aunt die from the AIDS virus. On Thanksgiving Day three years later I was involved in a car accident where my youngest uncle, who sat right beside me in the car, died in my arms. He was a vibrant young man who helped raise my siblings and I, killed at the youthful age of twenty-seven by an unexpected car accident. At fourteen years old, I had witnessed more than most people would have endured in a lifetime, and of course that pain is real. In times of misfortune like these, it’s easy to harbor in sadness and relive your crises. As difficult as it may be, just because the emotions and memories plague your mind doesn’t mean you have to dwell on them. You have to challenge yourself to stay positive in your thoughts. Instead of thinking about the terrible car accident I had, I pushed myself excessively to think about the wonderful times my uncle and I had together and all the great life lessons he taught me. Instead of dwelling on your mother’s death, or the dream job you lost- envision the great moments you had with your mother, or the even better job that you have yet to start. Psychologically and emotionally, it will make you feel better and help you overcome.
Lena Horne once said, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s how you carry it.” Obstacles will invariably come your way, but everyone has the power of choice. When difficulties in your life arise, you have the choice to wallow in your misfortune or to envision yourself past it. You have to focus on the positive events in your past and those that have yet to come in your future. You have to be hungry enough to work towards making your future self a reality. My deepest secret for getting out of dark places is self-motivation. This doesn’t mean you don’t depend on friends, family, your religious beliefs, etc. to help you through rough times; I would be remiss to say there weren’t people in my life to help me focus on my future. Nevertheless, motivation starts intrinsically. Self-motivation is this process of envisioning a brighter day, writing it and saying it constantly so it becomes a part of who you are, believing it will come by flooding your mind with positivity, and not just wanting to overcome, but being hungry to overcome.