Day and night, I saw the harms of drugs and gang violence. We could see the anguish on my mother’s face every day. Eventually, she succumbed to depression. We never could understand why we were staying at my grandmother’s house so much. In my book “The Enemy in the Bush”, there’s a picture of us sad-faced kids at my grandmother’s house. We had no idea what was going on in our mother’s life. But as we grew older, we did.
Mom always wanted to be a teacher when she migrated to the North. I remember her telling me when I was a child. But the reality of life stole her dreams, goals, and aspirations and she never realized her true potential. Instead, she became the head of the house, separated from my father, who was fighting his demon of alcoholism. My mother raised a total of 10 kids. When I reached the age of 11, my three older brothers moved out of the house. Seven of us, ranging from 4 through 11, remained at home. Seven children living in a three-bedroom apartment in an impoverished neighborhood. This was my reality.
As a boy, I saw my mother struggle and sacrifice just to put food on the table. Sometimes, I would hear her argue with God about the hardships she faced. Her many prayers went up to heaven to ask God to help us make it through another day. As a child, I had few of the comforts enjoyed by others who lived in the suburbs. We had lots of love, but little in the way of material things.
My mother died without realizing her dream to be a teacher. She died with her dream still inside of her. I made her dream a reality by becoming an adjunct professor for 10 years. Despite lacking the resources, we needed to meet our basic needs of her family, we survived. But my mother never realized her true potential and purpose in this life. I often wondered when I was older why my mother hadn’t pursued her dream. Perhaps fear and self-doubt held her back. I remember how my siblings and I made a pact never to follow our mother’s path. When I questioned the WHY behind our decision, I knew it boiled down to the struggles, hardships, and pain we saw her go through. Seven of us made this covenant, but only two of us had successful careers and made positive lifestyle changes. My sister Mary became a successful certified social worker/ supervisor working in hospitals and is moving towards private practice. I finished a successful military career as a senior ranking officer and continued as a DoD civilian working complex mission-oriented jobs for our government. I also became an adjunct professor, author, and contributing academic author. Now I’m a certified John Maxwell coach, trainer, and speaker.
If you examine our lives, we knew where we were and had our eyes on where we wanted to go. We had a definite plan to get there. Living in impoverished conditions gave us the motivation to never lack for anything again. We wanted to be able to sustain ourselves. We were intentional about reaching our goals and never looked back. We were purpose driven. We had a direction, a destiny to reach. When we looked back, we celebrated how much we had grown.
Psychologist Charles Garfield has worked with many successful people including astronauts, world-class athletes, scientists, business leaders, and other high achievers. He believes that the success of any endeavor starts with having a mission. You must have specific goals accompanied by a strong desire. “A dream becomes a goal,” said Garfield. “The goal becomes the achievement.” I repeat this saying often. Achievers reach their dreams by being intentional in their actions, which means working with purpose and making every action count. It’s about focusing on doing the right thing, moment by moment, day by day, and then following through consistently. Successful people aren’t scattered and haphazard. As Zig Ziglar said, be an aiming specific, not a wandering generality.
Never stop improving. Never stop growing yourself.
How intentional are you? As you proceed through your day, do you have a plan and a purpose for everything you do? Do you know where you’re going and why you’re doing what you’re doing, or simply drifting down the stream of life?
In the theme song from the motion picture Mahogany, Diana Ross brings this message home:
“Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life is showin’ you?
Where are you going to?
Do you know?”
By Dr. D
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