“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
~Henry David Thoreau
Ever since I was 3 years old, I knew I wanted to be Miss USA. It was my childhood dream. My mama was Miss North Carolina USA and I would sneak in her room and try on her crown and practice my winning moment in the mirror. Watching Miss USA and Miss America telecasts was like a holiday at our house. Even my brother and dad got into it. And oddly, they always managed to pin the winner. The winning moment did it to me every time. You could see in the emotions of her face all the long days of hard work, preparation and years of dreaming coming to realization because she had never given up. She was, in my eyes, the ultimate well- rounded woman. Intelligent, ambitious, a heart for people, public service, excellent interpersonal and communication skills, was fit, talented and poised under pressure. Miss USA was the pinnacle of that, and I wanted to raise the bar and be that standard. Not only that, but the job of Miss USA was pretty cool too, Donald Trump would be my first boss out of college!
I dreamed of being Miss USA, but I knew I couldn’t win it on looks alone. I always knew I wasn’t the most beautiful or confident girl. Actually, all throughout middle and high school, I suffered from a face, chest and back covered in cystic acne. But instead of letting the teasing and embarrassment defeat me, I chose to let it motivate me. I decided I would prove to myself and everyone else that I could be something as huge and unattainable as Miss USA. You may not have dreams of winning a title, but you do have a dream for something. You are worthy of having a dream and of obtaining it.
There is an epidemic of women who are believing lies about themselves, are allowing circumstances and fear to hold them back and to have control. But you are not meant for a life controlled by fear. You are destined for greatness, you are created on purpose for a purpose. You have a sphere of influence around you right now. If you are ready to go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you’ve imagined, here are 9 ways to achieve your biggest dream:
1. Believe in yourself. Start speaking the right truths to yourself. Before you can even think about achieving a dream, you have to actually believe in yourself, believe that you can do it. And you need to know this even when no one is telling you or believing in you. The heavenly breathed Word says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” This is the truth that you need to be walking in every day. Your parents may discourage you, you may feel unnoticed over and over again, and I know that can hurt. I felt overlooked so many times by my teachers and even my peers. But I held on to the truth God told me, that there was something in me that not everyone can see or is ready to see yet. I am to be persistent in cultivating my dream, the gift he wants me to share eventually and never let anyone else’s opinion determine my worth.
2. Take charge of your feelings: You can only be as great as you think you are. Proverbs 23:7 says,”so a man thinketh, so is he.” You’ve heard this before, but it’s true that your thoughts turn into feelings and your feelings turn into actions. So get your thoughts under control and be who you want to be. How do you do this? The best thing that works for me is speaking words of affirmation and declaration out loud in the morning before I start my day. Sometimes, dreams can affect our subconscious in a negative way which is why you feel like you wake up cranky sometimes. Therefore, set your minds on what is good, true and positive before the day begins.
Start by my making a list of words of affirmations. These are statements of positive truths. Some of my affirmations look like this:
I am created for greatness
I have an important calling on your life.
I am intelligent.
People feel good when they are around me
I am more than enough.
I’m defined not by what I do, but of who my heart is.
I am even more beautiful on the inside. I am a 10.”
And to take it to another level, when you give thanks for things that either you already have, or want to have…they increase…and it keeps you grateful and grounded.
Declarations are speaking life into something you want to happen in your life. Call it so like it already is so. For example: “Something great is happening in my life, today rocks!, I am a successful writer, I am a married to an amazing man.” For years, I would doodle my name and Miss USA underneath it to start envisioning it so I could believe it. I would declare, I am moving to NYC on April 20th. So when I packed my bags to go to Miss USA, I literally packed like i wasn’t coming back home, I packed for NYC. By the time I got to Miss USA, I told myself, you already are Miss USA, but this will be a fun 3 weeks getting to know everyone!
Read those truths and declarations about yourself every morning before you start off your day. It is proven that the thoughts you think will be the way you feel. Proverbs 18:21 says, the power of life and death is in the tongue, so the words you speak give power to your feelings, you get to choose if they are empowering or destructive.
3. Understand your Dream: When you have a dream, do you know that intensity with which it burns inside you and can’t be stifled no matter how much you or others try to tell you you’re crazy? Well, the reason it isn’t stopping is because you’re not crazy. That dream, that unrelenting desire was put there for a reason, and it wasn’t so it could be blown out or muffled. You see, God is the ultimate dreamer because is the the Creator of the Universe. He is the artist of all things masterful, incredible, pure and lovely. He hasn’t stopped dreaming, which is why he places slivers of his visions and blueprints on our hearts. They are there so you can be the vessel to paint the world with something no one has ever seen before. Brush strokes of designs with unique shimmering hues and intricate textures that sprinkle hearts, transform lives and forge legacies. You are gravely needed. Your dream was purposely placed in your very being, and it is bigger than you and no one can else can bring it to life like you can. Promise yourself that doubt and fear will no longer stop you from what you were designed to complete.
4. Decide who you want to be: Now is the time to decide who you will be for the rest of your life. Will you allow bad circumstances or broken relationships to define you? Or will you rise above that and choose to be a higher light. You may think you are young now and that you have time to think about all that later. But, who you are now is how people will remember you and that will follow you into the rest of your life.
Character is who you are when no one else is looking. I knew I wanted to be a role model one day, I wanted to use Miss USA as a platform to inspire women. Therefore I knew I needed to start making good choices as early as middle school. And yes, sometimes that cost me some friends and an exciting social life. “People say that you gain wisdom from making mistakes, which is true. But a wiser person learns from other’s mistakes.”
When I was in the 7th grade, I made a promise to myself that I would never drink until I was 21, to never smoke, try drugs or be sexually promiscuous. I’m sure you can imagine the impact this had on my social life throughout high school and college! I felt isolated sometimes, but stayed committed to my goals. My mom always told me that it’s better to have people respect you than to like you. I never really believed her, until people started coming out years later, with really kind and encouraging words about how they remembered me. I was so thankful that as hard as it was sometimes, that I held steadfast to my convictions and now I have my dream realized to show for that. It is never too late or too early to start living as the person you want to become and be remembered.
5. Set your goals and make a plan on how you will get there. This is a little embarrassing, but I was so intent on winning that unreachable goal of Miss USA that I started planning years before I ever even registered to compete. As early as high school, I started researching all the former winners and their resumes, their answers to onstage questions, what they wore for evening gown, their college education and activities they were involved in. I kept a notebook and every time I read something that popped out to me, I would make note and add it to my: “Sub Goals to Accomplish.” I was preparing for years not only to win the title of Miss USA, but for the job. I saw her as a role model, so I took on leadership positions. I saw her as a great public speaker, so I took a public speaking class and competed in local Miss America pageants to practice. I saw her as extremely interpersonal and business minded, so I started a jewelry business where I planned almost 2 parties a week and worked with women from all walks of life. I also saw Miss USA as someone who had a passion for a cause and service. So I started a student to student international mentorship program because I believe in bridging communities through knowledge and communication. You get the drift.
Start doing your research and setting small goals that will help you prepare. The journey may be long, but it is this process that will shape a solid foundation. The dream that is placed in your heart isn’t going to burst forth over night, it takes time and dedication to foster. And a dream worth having is always worth the journey.
6. Be Disciplined and Do Not Quit: When you aren’t working, someone else is. The only person you will hurt by quitting, is you. No one else will be bothered or hurt for more than a few moments, if that. People will move on without you, so don’t get left behind. Any dream worth having isn’t going to be easy, and it is worth fighting for. Most people never live to see their biggest dream realized because they let adversity defeat them and surrendered to hard times. The difference between the ones who achieve their dreams and the ones who almost make it, is their ferocity to never quit no matter how hard it gets. As you begin to achieve and gain confidence, you are reaching a new level. As Joyce Meyer says, “next level, new devil.” Consider it a good sign that you are on the right path when you start feeling attacked. Remember the enemy doesn’t want you to actually carry out God’s plan, so the closer you get to achieving it, the more vigorously he will fight against you. But the enemy has no power where there is no fear. Just look adversity in the face and say, “oh it’s just you again,” and carry on with your fabulous plans for the day.
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you until it seems that you cannot hold on for a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time when the tide will turn.” Harriet Beecher Stowe
7. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others: I used to have a serious problem comparing myself to other girls. Even now, I still struggle with it. With the constant bombarding download of self promotion on every social media account you scroll through, it becomes painfully aware when you aren’t “measuring up” to the girl next to you. Her successes and the “my life is perfect” emoticons start getting in your head, and you think, “what’s wrong with me? Has God forgotten about me?” No, he hasn’t. But maybe you have gotten lost in the perceptions created by other’s worlds around you. Maybe the feelings of intimidation and discouragement have taken a place in you that trumps out your rightful confidence. And taking that discouraged feeling and believing it as a fact is the poisonous concoction that will take you out. Everyone is on their own journey and some successes may be hard to understand when they are cheated and you are doing everything right. But first, remember everyone is going through something no matter how perfect their life looks. Before I competed for Miss USA, I went to this week long leadership conference called “Mental Management” where I learned how to handle my competition and channel their energy to benefit me. Instead of hoping the other contestants weren’t as prepared as me, I started saying, “I really hope this is the best class of Miss USA ever, so I can be more challenged and proud to win” or “I want the girls to be amazing, so it will be push me to strive higher.” This mindset helps me even now when walking into auditions because when I see all my competition, I don’t have to shrink back in intimidation. Know that God has a plan and all you have to do is your best and He will do the rest.
8. Be a Good Listener:”People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou. The best way I have found to make people feel good is to show an interest in them. Plenty of people are good promoting themselves, but truly engaging with the person you’re talking to by asking sincere questions takes you to another level. Be the rarity, that jewel that shines so much brighter than the rest, that people can’t help but notice. And believe me, people will notice. You will develop a reputation that warrants respect. You will notice that people will listen to what you have to say because you show a genuine interest in others and you hold yourself with integrity. “People don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care.” – John C. Maxwell. Thank people along the way, always stay grateful, recognize when someone has done something for you, give credit where it’s due. “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzerp
9. Seek Mentorship: You are a like a seed that needs water and light in order to blossom. The water and light exposure is like being nurtured and encouraged by people who care about you. None of us can make it on our own. We need mentors and people we aspire to be like to speak into our lives, shower us with wisdom, knowledge and guidance. I can’t even explain to you how crucial it is to align yourself with a mentor, whether it be a teacher or someone in the community from whom to learn and serve. To attain and maintain your dream requires remaining humble and realizing you are never finished learning. When you are serving someone you aspire to be like, that is when you receive the biggest impartation of skill sets and insight. They are the light that will help you grow and call out the greatness in you. Mentors teach you new ways and introduce to a new realm of influence setting you apart from the rest. It is quite mature to not only understand this importance, but to actually act on it, to honor and respect the people who have already achieved what you wish to achieve. “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20
Dream Big!” is a common phrase I used to sign autographs. I know from my own experience that it is vital and necessary because God always holds true to the dreams He’s placed inside us. But, it is your responsibility to do your best, so he can do the rest. My childhood dream came true because of my alignment with His plan. But I have realized, that was only the beginning.This was a door that opened to more than I could have ever imagined possible. Where will your biggest dream lead you?