Category Archives: S.M.A.R.T. Goals/ Planning

Resolutions That Don’t Have to Wait Until the New Year

New Years is a time that promotes reflection and goal setting, two of my favorite things. Today I have taken a few minutes to look over the book “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle. eckhart tolleI originally read the book in 2008 and revisited a few pages in which I had folded down the corner of the edges. The points below yet again put my attention in a chokehold and I am hoping that moving forward I can exist with the following in mind.

1. Focus on healing the inner and the outer will follow

I.e. my inability to lose weight is the physical manifestation of all that I carry

2. No longer use the words I, me, my, or myself unless necessary (the rest of this post will be difficult to write-lol)

I.e. avoid engaging with people in a way that puts personal opinions or preferences at the center of dialogue

3. When in doubt believe the following: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment (Tolle).

4. Know the difference between a fact and an opinion

Tolle explains that we often perceive an event in relation to our reaction to the event, thus leading to confusion. He further explains that an instinctive response is the body’s direct response to an external situation. An emotion is the body’s response to a thought.

5. Redirect unhappiness (this is related to number one)

Tolle says: “Unhappiness is an ego created mental-emotional disease that has reached epidemic proportions. It is the inner equivalent of the environmental pollution of our planet.”  Tolle asks: “Can you see that your unhappiness about being unhappy is just another layer of unhappiness?”

6. Accept that it is so…..

Using a quote by Shakespeare and focusing on perception again, Tolle reminds us that events and happenings “are as they are. What is dreadful is your reaction, your resistance to it, and the emotion that is created by that resistance.” Shakespeare’s words, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

7. Become a better listener (this ties in to number two)

I.e. in conversation or in reading and writing allow others to go through their own process. Tolle states that the power of allowing lies in noninterference, nondoing.

8. Stop being over dramatic about the past

Tolle encourages us to know that whatever we learn through self observation or psychoanalysis is about you. It is not you.

9. Live in the moment

Tolle suggests that we frequently ask ourselves: What is my relationship with the present moment?

I can say I right now because this is solely about me :). In closing these are the lessons I am guided by beginning right now.

Where have your reflections led you to today?


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I Have Yet to Succeed

I have not succeeded in my SMART weight loss goal. Although, I have become more conscious about food, my eating patterns and the emotional process that influences choices regarding my physical health, I have not succeeded. When I compare how hard I work to develop and meet goals in various aspects of my life I must admit that I do not exert the same effort toward exercise and diet.

My workout routine is inconsistent and I have yet to commit to plans for healthy eating (green foods, less sugar, adding vegetables, etc). I do sometimes keep a food journal when I’m trying to be on the right path, but usually give up when it occurs to me that my carb intake and lack of exercise will not prove rewarding.

Despite this “fail” (which it is a fail because I not only didn’t meet my SMART goal, I have gained more than 10 pounds since creating my plan), I did have one win this week. I committed to only drinking water and I did for 6 days so far. I did have milk with my breakfast but that was planned. My reasoning for water only was that I needed a flush and some cleansing.

I haven’t noticed anything big regarding weightloss, but I did notice that my teeth are much much whiter. This was something I did not expect or think about, but I am extremely happy about this. I guess no chemically flavored beverages have tainted my teeth this week and I have noticed the reward……Now, if only one week in the gym could show such promise.

How are you doing with your SMART goals?

Below is an article that provides some questions for you to ask yourself when you fail.


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Success Formula: Leading Lady Larvetta Loftin

Larvetta Loftin has made a personal and professional commitment to assure that the leadership of women does not go unnoticed. Her definition of leadership is “being able to fill in the gap for a friend or someone who needs your help.” For Larvetta, leadership ranges from buying groceries and doing laundry for an ill friend to executing marketing campaigns for large companies. Leading Ladies International is undoubtedly about celebrating women who have devoted time to lead with and for people they love.

It seems clear that being a leading lady is not a calling that allows for a tight schedule or quick fixes.  I was curious about how do leading ladies SMARTLY endure. Larvetta stated, “you have to be pressed and squeezed and put into some uncomfortable situations to elevate your game… grapes that are turned into wine, the pressure allows it to be a timeless drink.” Speaking of drinks, life is about having a glass half full for Larvetta. She also acknowledges that the glass does sometimes get half empty and that’s when you must take action. When you find yourself in neglect- lots of mistakes, not getting the proper rest, and when you are not operating in a stabilized community (i.e. daily routines), that’s when you know you’re half empty. Larvetta says this is when you have to take accountability, keep your end goals in mind, and do what is NEEDED to fill the cup back up.

To understand someone’s success, I always like to know more about their personal fiber (character in plain English but its way more than that). Our interview hit home for me when I asked, “What moral challenges do you face in your career or daily life that make you think about the phrase:“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”(Ralph Waldo Emerson)?” With no hesitation Larvetta replied, Kindness is the greatest gift you can offer to your life and to your business.” In the words of Larvetta, kindness is about listening and being present, not taking interactions with others for granted, and treating others how you want to be treated. Kindness is also a way to stand on your brand. I needed to hear that of course, and have since been working more intentionally on being kind. Another great strand of Larvetta’s core is her stance on honesty and integrity. She considers these the core competencies of her business and self.

Because so many of our interactions with people are online today we must be conscious of how we represent our brand, including our core competencies. Larvetta provided sound advice about how to manage your online reputation. Larvetta stated that, “it is important for your web presence to show that someone is present. It reminds me of a relationship, if your site is outdated, I feel like you are not investing in our interactions. I like to go to websites that help me see things different.”

My interview with Larvetta provided me with an example of a woman who is confident in the lessons of her experiences. Larvetta has found a way to validate the nature of women and our varied experiences as a valuable leadership quality. Boundaries are pushed each day because of Leading Ladies International through the vision of Larvetta as a personable, fun, and dynamic individual.

Larvetta Loftin’s Success Formula = Honesty + Kindness + Leadership that fills in the gap

More on Larvetta Loftin:

What is one of the biggest issues you see plaguing communities? What is your personal commitment to alleviating this?

Making sure that our children are exposed to the arts. The arts gave me the confidence and self-esteem to perform. In school I used my artistic acumen to really understand.

What is a good read that you would recommend to people working on personal and or community development?

“Boundaries”- as women we love to say yes. We say yes to everybody else but we sometimes do not pursue our own passion and success. Learn not to be everything to everybody.

“E-myth Revisited” – for people in business.

“Tipping Point”- helps you understand who you are. When you understand who you are it helps you be a better sound person.

What are some community assets and resources that you would recommend to others?

  • Community does not mean where you live, it is the community of people who you share interest with. It is important for you attend conferences that are about empowerment and professional development. These are the communities that you should get involved with.
  • People should also attend their local library. Look at and understand different trends and read a variety of magazines. Using the community to help to learn- the more you learn the more you earn.
  • Attend intentional networking events. If your community is small business owners you may want to attend program geared toward that. Program the dates in your phone and go every year.


  • Eliminate debt within 12-18 months in order to create wealth. List of all my bills and checking them off.
  • Come out of sole proprietorship and come into an S-Corp – by October
  • Be more smart with my time and make sure my time is being vested in my SMART goals.


Have you ever heard the phrase, “life is not a sprint it is a marathon”?

A marathon is about endurance and everyone who manages to cross the finish line successfully completes the race. Not sure if race is even the right word for a marathon, more like an event. It can be a race, but so many people run marathons to challenge and compete against themselves, not really focused on the concept of beating others or placing first. A marathon is an opportunity for someone to examine their ability to endure.

That’s what I really want to focus on today- endurance-SMART endurance.

At times I find myself running on fumes getting lots of stuff done, but not with very good rhyme or reason behind my actions. Sure, I have tasks to complete, but running thin without clear purpose or goals is taxing. When I begin to feel run down I always have to ask myself am I multi-tasking or multi-achieving- two very different things in my mind.

Achievement implies that I have worked toward completing a goal or task that means something to me. I don’t consider getting things done for the sake of saying, “it’s done”, an achievement. Achievement is not only an action but it is a feeling; you can feel a sense of achievement.  Too many times people go through the motions of tolerating and enduring any situation that they are faced with. This is not necessary.

Instead, we should focus on SMART endurance- tolerating struggles and overcoming obstacles that directly align with our personal SMART goals.

When you have clear SMART goals, your efforts are never in vain, your decision making process begins to make more sense, and you know when and if something is worth enduring.

What do you endure unnecessarily? How have you endured SMARTly?

Ways to Endure SMARTly

  • Look at how you spend your week- How is most of your time spent? Answering phone calls, emails, chatting with friends, business deals, reading, etc.? Become aware of how and WHY you spend your time the way you do.
  • Ask yourself, “Am I satisfied?”- In review, do you think that how you spend your time provides a sense of purpose or well-being? Make sure that you are on the right track.
  • Satisfied or not, create SMART goals- Knowing what you are working toward and how you want to continue or change how you spend your time will help you focus and be intentional with the decisions that follow.

Check out this article below on building resilience in order to better endure.


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365 Girls Rock Foundation: Community Asset and Success Formula

No one can argue against the need for meaningful programming geared toward positively impacting youth. The number of youth programs and initiatives that sprout up on an annual basis makes it difficult for each organization to stand out, but the women of 365 Girls Rock Foundation are quickly making headway with their persistent marketing efforts and quality programming.

365 Girls Rock Foundation is an organization spun from the book 365 Girl: Daily Affirmation’s. 365’s mission is to empower young ladies 365 days a year. Ultimately 365 looks to redirect adolescent behavior so that the sacredness of femininity and the moral compass of womanhood can be recaptured for our children, and our children’s children. The founder, Tracey Sydnor has teamed up with some very talented and dedicated women to ensure the sustainability of 365. The leadership team of 365 as pictured below is Tia Hawkins, Tracey Hawkins-Sydnor, and Michele Taylor.

365 Girls Team

Tracey has been working with youth for years but decided to go to the next level with 365 after observing many negative trends regarding young girls disregard for social media etiquette, carless attitude toward respect, and lack of desire to be great. 365 Girl serves as a motivational read for young girls that include affirmations and other inspirational words created to provide guidance for youth. Each chapter has a different theme such as social motivation, physical fitness, educational attainment, and sexual awareness as well as a chapter on how to deal with pain. Tracey’s background in the military provides her with the unique experience and exposure to model resilience, adaptation, and strength in spite of challenges.

The leadership of 365 has been conducting workshops across the nation based on the tenets of the book. 365 has expanded to include 365 Girl World (weekly radio show), 365 Girl Prayer Conference (prayer call twice a month), a city-wide pajama conference (12 hour action packed night of fun, empowerment, and motivation), an upcoming dress drive, and more. The weekly radio show hosts are Tia Hawkins (College Girl) Michele Taylor (The advocate) Shayla Courtney (The Heiress) and Tracey Sydnor (Ultimate 365 Girl).

The organization is in need of volunteers in the areas of photography, computer expertise, sound engineering, cosmetology, and teaching. Volunteers can assist with upcoming workshops across the nation as well as helping with hands-on tasks including collecting and wrapping dresses for girls ages 10-18. Next year the pajama girl conference will be expanding to 4 cities including Grand Rapids, MI, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, CA and Chicago, IL- which will be a great opportunity for girls and volunteers everywhere to become involved.

Girls become involved in 365 on a first come first serve basis. Any girl who wants to take part in a 365 event can pre-register on Facebook, twitter, email, or any other outlet they can imagine.  At times people are hesitant and curious about 365’s free opportunities but Tracey states that once parents and guardians visit their social media sites or get to know the leadership, they are more inclined to sign-up their young girls. Present and greeting parents during check-in and check-out, Tracey and Michele help to increase parents trust and willingness to enroll their most prized possession in 365 events. Mt. Carmel M.B. Church family has also shown a lot of support to 365 by providing male volunteers as security for events that require such. Off duty police officers from the Chicago Police Department (CPD) also volunteer!

365 reaches out to community’s that lack resources and local opportunities. During the first year, Michele and Tracey completed door to door marketing in CHA’s Dearborn Holmes Housing as well as schools in the same neighborhood. Fliers are also shared with local churches, restaurants, and salons, where parents of adolescents would frequent. 365 networks effectively through social media, college alumni networks, and church affiliations. As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Tracey has been able to garner support from Greek lettered organizations as well. Other organizations that 365 supports and receives support from include Joshua Mercer and Swish Dreams Educational & Sports Foundation for “Swish Girls”, Barbara Ellzey and R.E.A.C.H., Jennifer Reid and SHERO, Phoenix Owens and S.I.S.T.E.R.S. Inc., and Christine Hansberry/Pamela Linton with S.M.I.L.E (King College Preparatory HS) just to name a few.

Through strategic partnerships and alliances with public and charter schools, 365 will expand on their academic focus. Collaborations with the Chicago Defender Newspaper and other local businesses between Chicago, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles has increased the visibility of 365 tremendously.

I am excited about the progress and future of 365 Girls Rock Foundation. From the sidelines, I have been able to witness the commitment and enthusiasm of the 365 leadership team. I am impressed and support their organization 365 days a year. To learn more about 365, check out the links below.


Twitter: @365GirlWorld




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Success Formula: Dr. Chandra Gill

You can learn a lot about a person by becoming familiar with their reputation. Dr. Chandra Gill’s testimonials on her website and in her book “Champions Break Chains”, is the evidence that supports the impact she has made on the lives of people across the United States in her efforts to Motivate to Educate.” Dr. Gill holds a Ph.D from the University of Illinois in Educational Policy Studies where she focused on the absence of minority and youth voice in academia as it relates to the educational settings and needs of students of color. Dr. Gill is one of the most prevalent leaders currently rallying for educational change.

Although I never know what to expect from my interviewees, I am always eager for the knowledge each Success Formula has to share. My interview with Dr. Gill is important for a variety of reasons, but most importantly because I know that she overcame a struggle few with freedom can freely discuss. Every year a criminal amount of African-Americans become entangled in the justice system. Years ago while working toward her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Dr. Gill became a victim of the system as well.

During a field trip with students to an intense basketball game between two local high school rivalries, Gill’s co-chaperone was put in handcuffs by a plain clothes police officer after a game changing play. The events that followed included Dr. Gill having a seizure in which officers mistook for an attack. Although captured on film, Dr. Gill was still arrested and charged for assaulting an officer of the law. Despite the trauma of becoming a “Ph.D. felon”, Dr. Gill has never ceased or staggered in her commitment to bring equality to the educational system in which our youth and families rely on to improve their quality of life.

A recipient of the inaugural Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship Program, Dr. Gill has relentlessly engaged in dialogue and outreach that encourages access to education for minorities. Going a step further Dr. Gill founded Blackademically Speaking Enterprises, a company that focuses on understanding cultural barriers that prevent young people from being motivated to learn. A short list of what Dr. Gill and Blackademically Speaking are doing to affect community development include weekly talks in Woodlawn at St. John Temple on Monday nights as well as regular speaking engagements and workshops throughout the United States to educators, parents, and students that focus on overcoming obstacles to academic attainment. Most recently Blackademically Speaking coordinated a celebratory field trip for some of Chicago’s excelling high school scholars. Dr. Gill’s message always encourages “going back to give back”, which is one of the reasons Blackademically Speaking was born, and will be raised in her home community, Woodlawn (Chicago).

Chicago's top high school students

Dr. Gill is committed to educating young people in a way that is unmatched by many others that make the same claim. She has been taking on responsibility that shifts the blame of what is happening to children who are victims of a failed educational system. “We must deal with challenges in our community once they have been identified”, says Dr.Gill. Her courage to act as a community agent stems from growing up in a two parent household with parents that instilled in her the importance of understanding what one could be versus who they are. For example, driving through his old neighborhood on the west side, Dr. Gill’s father would point out people that fell victim to drugs and violence despite their leadership and notoriety as youth.

Dr. Gill’s parents did not shy away from voicing their opinion about community happenings. As an investor and stakeholder of their community, each of her parents knew they had a right to voice their opinions and solutions about their neighborhood, but always focusing on developing their first community- home. When Dr. Gill and her brother would receive new clothes or shoes, her parents would say “if we see you bragging to others about what you have, we will take it from you”. Today, Dr. Gill is happy about her achievements, but never compares her blessings to others.

It is always important to understand how Success Formula’s multi-achieve. Dr. Gill plans and seeks counsel through scriptures and the Holy Bible. “I am growing up in God and learning balance by listening to the Holy Spirit. For Blackademically Speaking this means I have to learn to say ‘No….. I can’t do everything’.” And on a more practical note Dr. Gill hired an administrative assistant in order to be 100% effective. Meditation and surrounding herself with individuals that understand the vision of Blackademically Speaking are also important factors that allow Dr. Gill to maintain her mental health during this journey.

When I asked her to share with me a community asset that she feels is a hidden gem, Dr. Gill quickly replied, “children are a community asset that have been written off; they are the gems God blessed us with.”

These moments are why I do this – to be reminded of things society and time would so easily have us forget.

I doubt that my interview has done justice to the road map that Dr. Chandra Gill is creating. What I can tell you is that her passion, dedication, and resourcefulness are aspects of success that I hope to emulate in all of my commitments.

Dr. Chandra Gill’s Success Formula= Motivate to Educate + Family first + Guided by the Holy Spirit+ Culturally relevant academia

More Dr. Chandra Gill

What allows you to wear your greatness?

“I’m trying to not spend a lot of time wasting my time.” Dr. Gill’s spare time is spent with family, learning family history and embracing family as her first community. Recently Dr. Gill learned that she was not the first of her family to go to college. This was discovered after exploring more about her family tree, thus showing the importance of connecting and engaging with family.

What is your idea of community development?

“Community development must include the future! The future is the young people. Although the elders voice is important because it started with their gifts and ingenuity, we must transition leadership to youth 15-20 years old. Community development should be a fluid discussion and plan that includes educational values, economic empowerment, sustainability, and spiritual aspects.”

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

January kick off for Blackademically Speaking 2012 initiatives to include students at all grade levels being active participants in community efforts to “Motivate to Educate.


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“Later” or “No”- ASCW (life plan 4)

The most important part about writing down your goals and planning for your future is REVISITNG your plan and goals. As a consultant I have worked on a lot of business plans for clients and it is amazing to see how invested I become in their futures by engaging in their work. I have noticed that the longer I stay away from my personal and professional goals, the less connection I have to them.

Recently I reviewed my life plan. And I want to share with you all my Volunteer Category. As you will see below, I think volunteering is a mutually beneficial opportunity for the volunteer and the organization or persons seeking assistance. At the time I drafted this section in early March everything below was true.


Purpose: To bridge resources for causes that need assistance

Outcomes: “Ashley contributed countless hours of service that assisted in building individuals self esteem, decreasing homelessness in urban cities, and redirecting youth to become social agents for community change.”

Vision: I volunteer 2-3 hours a week of my physical time on site. I volunteer my skill set 2-3 hours a week off site to help improve the sustainability of an organization. I learn about new opportunities and meet new people who help increase my perspective on the organizations I support. I complete one-time, short- term, and long- term projects. My volunteer life is secondary to my income activities and the needs of my loved ones. I will not have more than 2 volunteer projects simultaneously.

Reality: I physically volunteer about 2-3 hours a month. I volunteer about 10-15 hours a month off site to help improve the sustainability of organizations. People refer me as a volunteer for my skills and reliable reputation. I am willing to volunteer to learn new skills or enhance existing ones. I have had to cut back on my volunteering due to rising gas prices and re-prioritizing.

My current update is that I am trying to align my volunteer activities with my studies and professional experiences. I am interested in a lot of topics, but looking back at my life plan reminded me of what I made a conscious decision to become involved in. For a person like me, compassionate, always wanting to help, and easily intrigued, it is important to have a guide that allows me to know what to say “no” or “later” to.

As I was write this, I recall hearing friends and family say that they are learning to say “no” when asked to assist with certain projects.

I do not want to always say “no” but instead want to be able to say “later” or figure out a schedule that will allow me to take on an additional opportunity when the time is right. So many issues and people are correlated and sometimes you can’t learn about one without engaging with the other.

What helps you guide your volunteer choices or other decisions that dictate your time?

Below is an article that discusses why you would say “no”. It is also provides some insight on the benefits of saying “no” and offers strategies to help you do so.


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