By Jenniffer Weigel
Motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant knows about overcoming adversity. Vanzant’s star appeared to be on the rise when she launched her own talk show (“Iyanla”) in 2001 after several appearances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” But the show was canceled in 2002, and not long after, Vanzant’s daughter, Gemmia, succumbed to cancer, her marriage ended and she lost her home.
Today Vanzant, 61, is back on her feet with several best-selling books (including “Peace From Broken Pieces”) and her own reality show, “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” on Winfrey’s OWN network. Following is an edited conversation:
Q: Do you have a practice that helps you start each day?
A: I get up before everybody else, so that could be 3:30 or 4 o’clock in the morning. I like driving, especially early morning into the daylight. That’s heaven for me to just watch the sun come up. The birds, when they sing in the morning, I love that. I like to read something out of “A Course in Miracles.” I love scripture so I’m usually working on a scripture for several days. That’s what works for me. I encourage people to have a daily spiritual practice; that’s the best way to take care of yourself. If you have that daily practice, it means you’re getting divine guidance, and you’re not being guided by your ego or your personality.
Q: How do you suggest people get motivated to follow their dreams?
A: You’ve got to have a vision and an intention, and that will guide what you do. I call it devotion. Ask yourself, “Is this not moving me toward where we need to be?” I believe that’s helpful because a vision pulls you forward and it keeps you focused. A vision for the day, for the week, for the month and a lifelong vision _ whatever works for you. And then you govern your activities and your behaviors accordingly.
Q: On your TV show, do you see a common pattern or obstacle among the people you’re helping?
A: They don’t have an understanding of their value and their worth. And many don’t know how to use their power constructively. Those are two things that come up often. So many of us believe that we are victims to what happens to us, and therefore unworthy of anything better. What we’ve been taught and trained to believe about ourselves as children, often this is negative, and we need to unlearn that. The way we unlearn them is by having a vision and moving forward. Staying focused and being true to that vision of what we desire for ourselves.
The other thing we do is compare ourselves to other people. Comparison is an act of violence against ourselves.
If I could teach women one thing, it would be to ask for what they want, and keep asking until they get it. And we’re not talking about the “I need this” or “I want that. Gimme gimme gimme.” We are talking about the vision that comes to us when we are quiet, not the things that just satisfy the ego.
Q: What helps remind you about your vision?
A: I love a vision board. I have one hanging over my desk right now. Because what you see, you become, and it reminds you when you start getting busy in the day, about your vision. I like words more than pictures. I have a card sitting on my desk right now that says, “I only give out that which I wish to receive in return.” It’s one of Louise Hay’s cards. Words remind me more, and it gives me something to hold onto when I’m frantic about something else.
Q: What do you recommend for people who are having a hard time forgiving others?
A: So many people want payback and to see others suffer. Forgiveness is the key to freedom. You can choose to be enslaved and burdened or you can choose to be free. It’s a choice. Forgiveness is a state of being. So once you do it, it alters who you are and the way you can be in the world.
Q: Knowing everything you know now, what would you tell your 20-year-old-self to do differently?
A: Spend more time in daily reflection, contemplation and meditation. Had I done that at 20, things would have been very different in my life. But things really were as they needed to be, because I had to learn … how important it was.