New Year Goals that Stick


By Dawn Onley

It’s that time of year again. It’s time to think of our New Year’s Resolutions and to plan how we will go about achieving these goals in 2016.

We believe in ourselves when we make resolutions. No one sets out to fail. We believe we will finally start taking our health seriously, get out of debt, quit smoking, and/or spend more time with family. We invest in gym memberships, new workout gear, and smoking cessation programs. We open new savings accounts that we vow to use each pay period to save for vacations and a 6-month rainy day fund. We hope for the best, earnestly giving it a strong go the first month or so before interest and enthusiasm wanes.

We lose momentum for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s hard work to change. When we’ve been doing things a certain way for months/years, mentally it’s hard to shift gears and go in a different direction, even if it’s for our own good. It’s also tough to go at it alone, without asking someone to hold us accountable to keep our resolutions. But for me, resolutions have always been tough to keep for a third reason: it was hard for me to “see” the results. I’m a visual person and there was no visual reminder of what I said I would do – outside of beating myself up in my own mind, and we all know that we can reprogram our minds to a new station when we try to hold ourselves accountable. Additionally, I not only needed to see my vision, but I needed to set short-term goals to help me reach it. Just telling myself I would do it was simply not enough.

About eight years ago, I began creating an annual “Vision Board” to help motivate and guide me to accomplish my goals. I cut out pictures and words, from magazines mostly, and glued them to my board. If I couldn’t find a particular image or word to fit one of my goals, I’ve been known to type out the word in a Word document, print it and affix it to my board.

Vision Board

It’s that serious for me. I need exact words to align with my vision.

Then I hang the board in a prominent place in my house (usually my bedroom) so that I can see it daily. Next, I make it a point to incorporate some actionable steps I can take towards achieving my vision by placing weekly “to do” items on a list.

Even with this, I still fail to accomplish everything I set out to accomplish. I’ve not always made the mark. However, since I’ve been keeping my vision board, remarkably, my success rate is pretty darn good!

One year when I focused my words and photos on training to run a few races, I completed a marathon.

Another year, when I wanted to start taking steps to grow my family, I received a call that would change my life forever. Not quite a year later, I adopted my son.

This year, I placed a picture of a diamond ring on my board. Apparently my boyfriend saw the same vision as me (smiles) and proposed in March. We were married in November.

I’ve traveled to places that I envisioned a year prior. I put African safari on my vision board in 2014 and in December of last year, me and my (now) husband were on a guided trip in search of the Big 5 at Kruger National Park.

Me and Calvin in Cape Town

Elephant at Kruger

Buffalo at Kruger

I longed to live near the sea so I envisioned it one year on my board, and later that year, me and my hubby were able to purchase a vacation home.

Creating and sustaining a vision board is a powerful process and I’ve become a true believer.

In 2016, I’m wishing for more time spent with my friends and family, growing this blog, a new home where my family can flourish, and to delve deeper into the Bible and my spirituality. I’m also wishing that you achieve all of your goals and that each of you have a beautiful year overflowing with God’s bounty.

Happy New Year, beauties. Happy New YOU!


The Struggle and the Triumph

By Samantha McKenzie

A friend of mine reminded me today of a low point in his distant past. He shared the trauma caused by his well-meaning family, the stint of homelessness that followed, and the kindness of friends and strangers that endured him during this very painful ordeal.


This was about the same time we met as struggling college students. Funny thing is I don’t remember any of his sadness. During the height of his sorrow, he managed to be the kind of young man that made everyone around laugh hysterically. He had an endearing soul, with a brilliant mind, razor sharp wit, enveloped within an altruistic nature. He worked diligently to earn his degree, moved swiftly into the workforce and would later become a successful entrepreneur.

From time to time we all find ourselves in unfavorable situations. We make choices and end up in places we didn’t think we’d be. Sometimes others make the choice for us. Either way, we are forced to deal with pain.

Let’s face it. We don’t schedule unemployment, homelessness, or the loss of a loved one. No one hopes to one day file bankruptcy, go through a bitter divorce or be involved in a car accident. Try, try as we may, we all plan to make the right choices, err on the side of safety and avoid life’s pitfalls.

Pain perches itself on everyone’s window sill often.

It is during these struggles that our character is shaped and remolded. This is the place where we find out how far we will go, how quickly we will turn away and how long we can endure. These low points are our battlefields for learning. Where we face great adversaries, meet grave challenges and learn our threshold for pain.

We get quickly acquainted with patience and humility. We bow our heads towards forgiveness and faith. We learn to carry more than our fair share of weight and take on bigger responsibilities. We expand and we grow.


My friend reminded me of the struggle and the triumph. I tip my hat to how he laughed at defeat and smirked wickedly at the disbelievers.

I’m sure he went on to learn more fruitful lessons in life. His list of accomplishments throughout the years are a testament. But today I get to marvel at how he muddled through this personal tragedy with a steady joyfulness and a pocketful of character. I gladly add him to my list of heroes.

A wise person once wrote, “Success is what happens when you get back up after falling.”


Clinging to Hope


By Dawn Onley

At a basic level, most religions are based on the concept of hope. The hope in an omnipotent and omnipresent God or higher power. The hope that there is more than this life. The hope of seeing loved ones again. The hope of eternity in heaven.

Hope is such a powerful thing. Hope is why we do what we do each day, rising at ungodly hours in the morning, getting dressed and trudging to work. The hope for a better life for our families. It is what keeps us going when all signs point to hopelessness. Hope and faith are sisters.

Once hope is gone, we may feel as if there’s no reason to hang on. Suicide has always made me extremely sad, for the family and friends left behind but especially for the person who felt hopeless. The person who no longer could deal with the pain; who felt like their life was worth ending.

Over the years, when despair and doubt started to rear their ugly heads my direction, I’ve become increasingly vigilant in protecting hope – in a better day and in a better outcome. Hope is really all we have. If we can’t have faith in an unknown outcome, we can’t be hopeful.

Around the holidays and at the end of a year and the beginning of a new one, when some people have a heightened sense of loss, dread and weariness, I’d like to encourage you to go in search of beauty and light. There’s courage in clinging to hope despite our fears. Pay attention to the smile from the stranger on the street or the compliment from a friend. Reconnect to what makes you feel alive – be it painting or writing or baking a special family recipe.


Cherish and protect the nuggets of joy. Keep reaching for the sun. It’s still there, behind the clouds, to lighten the day’s load.

As long as we have hope, we have a fighting chance.

What Are You Willing to Lose?

By Samantha McKenzie

As much as I talk about all the things I want to acquire, I spend very little time discussing the things I’m going to have to give up. The word sacrifice flows off our tongues pretty quickly, but the actions to get there are often carried out at a much slower pace.

What am I willing to lose? To start, I’m willing to lose my free time, my sleep and the social engagements that used to keep me in the loop. I’m also willing to reduce the time spent in front of the television set and the remainder of the time spent scrolling through my social media sites. This stuff is really addicting people!

blkstudentreadTo bring my dreams into fruition however, I know that I will have to give up some of the things I’ve become used to. I’ll have to redirect my focus, get more disciplined and learn how to turn my attention to the things that matter to me the most.

This means, I’ll have to set my alarm clock earlier to get better use of the morning (while I’m not a morning person, I do know that I’m most productive in the early hours). My weekends will look different as well. I’ll have to be willing to ignore those text messages and carve out my business hours right there at the kitchen table.

What else can we give up? Maybe we should reduce the number of shopping trips or lessen the amount of time we spend talking on the telephone. Maybe we’ll have to severe relationships with negative people, people you already know don’t want you to succeed.sacrifice

If you read stories about successful people, you’ll see the many changes they have had to make to achieve their goals. They experienced pain, loss and heartache and have lived to tell you about it. There’s no easy road on this journey. What are you willing to sacrifice?

It’s time to clean out our mental closets and make room for the great things ahead. Are you ready? See you at the next level.

She’s Making a List and Checking it Twice

By Samantha McKenzie

With Christmas just a day away, you’ve probably been juggling lists to accommodate this joyous, albeit busy season.  There’s the lists for gifts, groceries, chores and the one to keep up with your spending frenzy. Don’t forget the reminders to take your vitamins, set your alarm an hour earlier and the sticky note on the refrigerator to call your boss.

Before the sun sets, I challenge you to make a different type of list. This one will be just for you. It shouldn’t include your children, spouse or friends. It will be a list designed with you in mind.

Welcome to your self-care list.

This will be an opportunity for you to explore ways to take better care of yourself. Everyone’s list will be slightly different. Some lists will read:

  1. Appointment to doctor/dentist
  2. Schedule massage
  3. Walk in the park 3x a week
  4. Breathe deeply

There may be other lists that sound more like this:

  1. Begin each day with an affirmation
  2. Read a romance novel
  3. Find healthier sugar substitute
  4. Meditate more…

It doesn’t matter what’s on your list.  The point is to take the time to focus on your mental, physical and spiritual well being. Spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day doing something on your self-care list. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ve missed yourself. I’ll start with mine.

Samantha’s Self-Care List

  1. Spend 10 more minutes in the shower each day. Everything else can wait.

Share one of yours and remember to take care.


Choosing Hope Over Despair

white flower

By Dawn Onley

I’ll bet many of us can point to things that threatened our start in life. It may have been a learning disability. Or some type of health challenge. It may have been the divorce of your parents or the death of a loved one. Perhaps it was an authoritative figure who said something to make you feel discouraged or a bully who picked on you and made you scared to go to school.

It could have even been a tragedy of some sort.

No matter how terrible it was, no matter how searing the memory of it still is, we shouldn’t allow it to determine how we finish. We should not relinquish the hope of today for the painful memories of yesterday. We hold the power and we should choose instead to use it to honor whatever experiences we had to go through to get to where we are today.

Our trials shouldn’t get the victory, our triumphs should! 

The journey was too long and rugged for us to give up now, throwing up our hands in defeat. We need to take charge of our healing. More often than not, we know when something doesn’t feel right or when we can’t seem to snap out of the feelings of despair. We need someone else to hold us accountable, to make sure we are making progress.

Life is too short for us to stay stuck on a negative moment in our lives and to allow that moment to hinder us from truly enjoying life. Life is too precious for us to become one of those people who, whenever they experience hard times, manage to dwell on it for far too long, even drawing the conversation back to a similar experience in their childhood that they’ve never healed from.


As adults, we have the ability to take back our lives. We can choose to be happy. We can choose hope. No matter what it takes – therapy, medicine, exercise, faith. We can start seeing the whole picture. We can pick an elevated vantage point.

We have the power, and we shouldn’t throw it away.

We owe it to ourselves.