We are born with the right and potential to experience any degree of joy, happiness, prosperity and passion we wish. However, we often trade in the right to live abundantly for a life of security, low-risk/low-return choices and a myriad of “woulda-coulda-shoulda’s.”

When we take an honest look at our lives, one of the hardest pills to swallow is the one that tastes of “I played smaller than I could have, I focused more on my problems than on my passions and though I have lived my life, I have yet to live my dreams.”

I truly believe that the cost of living “safe” is much higher than the price we pay to live our dreams. I learned a great lesson from Dr. Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: begin with the end in mind. He has inspired me to live the way I want to be remembered.

Looking Back

Covey’s book describes an exercise where you think about the people scheduled to speak at your funeral and try to imagine what they might say about you. Here’s how it works:

Imagine you are attending your own funeral exactly three years from today. There are four people who are scheduled to speak about your life, your contributions and your legacy.

What would you want them to say about you and remember about your life?

What kind of person, what kind of sister, brother, mother or father were you? What kind of friend, daughter, son, husband or wife were you?

What legacy did you leave? How did you contribute to the lives of the people who knew you, met you or were in some way touched by you through your work, your words or your life story?

The day I did this exercise, I decided to live the way I wanted my obituary to read and the way I wanted my life story to be told.

It’s never too early or too late to start living with the end in mind. If you want your life story to say, “She lived a big vision and took big risks,” then start living that big vision and taking those risks today. If you want your life story to say, “He loved unconditionally and was a model of possibility-thinking and passion,” then be that person today. If you want it to say, “She created a life of prosperity by doing well while doing good,” start today. Start to be the legacy you wish to leave.

Release Your Gifts

When I read this passage from Dr. Covey’s book at the ripe old age of twenty-five, I initially felt an intense stir of discomfort and even fear.

I was struck by the thought that if I were to pass away the very next day, I had not created the legacy nor the memories I wanted to leave behind. I hadn’t yet become the person I wanted to be remembered as. I felt uneasy and realized I was late for work—my life’s work!

In that moment, I decided—without allowing much time for contemplating, analyzing or strategic planning—to live in the now, use my gifts to inspire others to explore their gifts and give myself permission every day to play a little bigger than I had played the day before.

And in that same moment, I realized that my life was not solely about me but also about all the people who were touched by my choices. The gifts we are born with are not just ours to keep; they are to be shared with all those who come across our path and whose lives we touch.

Your life up through this day is an amazing story of lessons learned, gifts shared and possibilities actualized. How will your life story read in the future? Do you plan to release more of your gifts this year than you did last year? Are you giving yourself permission to play a little larger than you’ve ever played before? To hug a little longer, to laugh a little louder, to cry a bit more freely, to dream a little bigger and to love more unconditionally than you ever have before?

You Are Complete

Each of us is born whole and complete, fully equipped with everything we could possibly need to live a life of joy, happiness, prosperity and passion. We are here to inspire and add value to each other’s lives; to conquer our fears and overcome negative self-talk so that others can be inspired by our words and actions and access their own power; to nurture and demonstrate the qualities of love, courage, humility and forgiveness so that we may be an example for others to do the same.

The gifts you were born with are meant to pass through you and touch someone else. And your biggest contribution to life is to have the courage to set your gifts free.


Four Steps to Start Releasing Your Gifts

  1. Get in front of a mirror and look into your eyes. Find something (big or small) to celebrate about yourself. Complete and repeat this sentence seven times, “I am proud that you ...”

  2. Continue to look into your eyes and complete the sentence, “What I love most about you is …” This will sound a bit strange at first, but once you get over your discomfort and connect with yourself, you will awaken your consciousness to the gifts within.

  3. Still looking in the mirror, make a bold statement of commitment—one that you can see progress in within thirty days—by saying, “I commit to play bigger by …” Set a date thirty days later in front of the same mirror for an accountability session with yourself.

  4. Finally, share with someone special three things that you love most about yourself. Your sentence in this step is, “I realize that I have the gift of …” As you begin to acknowledge your gifts and celebrate them, more gifts will be revealed and birthed.

Remember, your gifts include: being a good listener, a positive thinker; showing compassion and giving empathy. Your gifts are many and vast, and are simply awaiting your acknowledgement. — L.N.

LISA NICHOLS is a motivational speaker and
founder of Motivating the Teen Spirit, LLC, an empowerment
skills program for teen self-development. She is co-author of

Chicken Soup for the African American Woman’s Soul.
Lisa Nichols is a featured teacher in The Secret.