Life is not about me, it’s about we

We all have goals that we want to achieve in our own self-interest. Some are major bucket list items and others are more common things like earning more money, getting a job promotion, finding a relationship, launching a business or starting a family. No matter what your goals are; you seeking them in the hope of finding happiness. How many times have completed one of your goal items to only find your happiness short-lived? You find yourself thinking, “Is that all?” So, why isn’t what we thought would make us happy or satisfied never enough? I believe that when we are reaching to achieve goals, we are really looking for fulfillment. Achieving fulfillment requires giving of yourself to help others and make a difference not only for your immediate circle, but for generations to come.

Zig Ziglar says, “You can have everything in life you want, if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.” Deep down we all want to do something significant and make our mark in the world. In order to make a such a contribution we must first stretch ourselves. We must grow to the level of what we want to become by sharping our minds, improving our skills, taking personal responsibility and cultivating relationships. This can be scary at times because it requires us to do things we are not often comfortable doing, even terrifying at times. A great quote that puts that in perspective is: “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” – Timothy Ferriss. Below is a model to help myself and others stay on the path to fulfillment:

Seven pathways to a more fulfilling life


True Success Requires Acknowledging your Personal Support System

Many of the successful people we admire – whether it be an entrepreneur, musician, athlete, mentor, executive, spiritual teacher or guru are typically perceived as people who have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. Meaning they achieved their success solely by their own efforts and determination. The reality is, that is only part of the equation. Anyone you who you see as successful or a high achiever has a massive Personal Support System which is rarely brought to light, because it is easier to focus on one person than the power and support of many. The bigger the success, the bigger the support.

We all have Personal Support Systems to some degree and the best way to harness the power of it, is to first acknowledge you have one. This system is your personal community of advisors, mentors, inspirers, coaches, teachers, leaders and experts who motivate and strengthen you in areas that you are weaker in or need further development in. This works similarly to the concept of the “Mastermind” Group. Popularized by Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich. Hill defined the mastermind as  “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose”, excerpted from Feel Good Girl The beauty of the Personal Support System vs. the Mastermind Group is you already have one, it doesn’t require and formal meeting and doesn’t even have to be organized (though it would help).

Furthermore, it is not required that all the people in your Personal Support System have a personal relationship with you. I have several people in my system who I am not on a first name basis with, whom I look to for inspiration and motivation. They support me merely through observation. Have you had anyone whom you see regularly, and doesn’t know you – that make you want to step your game up? Whether at the gym, in a race, at a store or on the job. These people are in your system too.

Personal Suppoer System Map

5 keys to attaining success through your Personal Support System:

    1. Acknowledge your Personal Support System and the people in it as much as possible.
    2. Pay it Forward: Share the knowledge you have gained from others and give them credit.
    3. Support your supports: Play an active role in their Personal Support Systems.
    4. Let people know how they support you, ie. “thanks for the motivation” or “hey you really pushed me today”.
    5. Become as excited about the success of others as your are about your own success (don’t fake it).

FEEDBACK: If you like this post, disagree with it or have a better suggestion – please leave a comment.

You are what you think, not what you eat

Last month in April I hand the honor of being featured in employer’s Wellness Spotlight on our employee portal site.
I got such a positive response, I decided to expand on it and share it with you:

Wellness Spotlight Questions:

When you started out, what were your wellness goals?
Get out of the obese category on the BMI scale, get my blood pressure under control and become physically fit.

What goal(s) have you achieved so far?
I surpassed all my goals. In 8 months I lost 40 pounds, and my total weight lost to date is 65 pounds.

How did you do it?
For me wellness, or well-being starts in the mind (not in the waistline). In 2010 I made goals and New Year’s
resolutions about my health, but the difference this time around was I slowly changed my belief system. I once heard a wise person say: “a belief is just a thought I keep thinking.” So, I starting thinking more about being healthy and in shape and stopped focusing on my unhappiness with being overweight.

To help me maintain my focus I surrounding myself with people, places and things that inspired me. I started
exercising consistently, hired a personal trainer and took up running. In the first 4 months things move slowly, but in May I cracked the code. A co-worker introduced me to a body chemistry and blood nutrition diet book call the GenoType Diet. Long story short – I learned what foods were toxic to my system based on my blood type, body composition and genetics. I found that the food I was eating was canceling out the exercise I was doing. So, I wasn’t gaining weight or losing weight. Once I eliminated these foods along with gradually increasing my physical training to three times per week  and running 3-4 times per week — the weight started melting off.

Once I achieved this initial success — I didn’t get comfortable. In fact, I purposely put myself in the position of being uncomfortable. This forced my to grow to new heights. Back in 2009 the longest race I had completed was a 5k (3.1 miles). Fast forward to December of 2010 where I completed my first marathon (26.2 miles). Running isn’t for everyone, so find a sport or activity you are passionate about. It can be anything: swimming, biking, croquet, tennis, kickball, dancing or even chasing your kids around the house. If you are doing what you love, the consistency issue is a non-factor.

What’s next for you on your health journey?
My goals this year are to continue improving my health and diet, continue to work with my trainer at Cross Training San Marco to take my fitness to a new level. Lastly, compete in my first sprint triathlon.

What advice would you offer to others just starting out?
The biggest challenge is not losing the excess weight. The real challenge is losing the excess emotional baggage we carry around in our minds. This excess brings a feeling of unworthiness and self-doubt. Some specific advice would be the following:

Last piece of parting advice:

  • Be more consciously aware of your thoughts, feelings and the words that come out of your mouth. How aligned are they with the direction you want to go?
  • Get out of the habit of blaming your situation on people and things you can’t control. Take full responsibility for the direction of your life – the only thing that is stopping you is you!
  • Only think and speak highly of yourself and do things that honor your worth.
  • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Set small milestones over time and measure your progress.
  • Lastly, when the vision for yourself on the inside becomes more compelling than what people see on the
    outside, you will become the master of your experience and achieve whatever you desire.

Core Values: What do you stand for?

As a visual communications consultant, two questions I always ask my clients in my discovery process are: 1) What are your values? 2) What do you stand for? I ask these questions in an effort to help people clarify their core values. We are all operating from a value system or set of beliefs that serves as the foundation in which we can measure our integrity. These values make up a broad set of guiding principles that direct the decisions and actions we take in our daily lives. These principles are deeply personal and require some reflection to get a good perspective on what our core values truly are.

From time-to-time we can all use a tune-up on our values system. In past experiences, I have found myself getting off course and compromising on my core values. When this occurs, I always get less than pleasing results, regardless of what the category is. Wether it be relationships, business, health, family or career areas. When I get in alignment with my values at the core level – all areas of my life are in harmony. Not only do I get the results I am looking for and more, I also attract more and more like-minded people into my life that hold me accountable for principles I live my life by.

So with that said, it is important to get super clear on what you value most. Doing so will empower you to take control of the direction your life is headed. It will drastically improve your decision making skills, and motivate you take the necessary actions to achieve your goals and intentions. If you are stuck in a destructive pattern, It will answer why you do what you. Below I have visualized a process for helping you get clear on your core values inspired by my good friend Florence Haridan.

Core Values: What do you stand for?

Loss, grief, and accepting change to heal and move on

We grieve over all losses whether we are aware of it or not. Any change in circumstances can initiate this process. Why? Because with each loss we feel something has been taken away from us internally. A void develops where that attachment has been ripped away. It is an emotional tear that makes us desperate to recover it and sad when we can’t. We feel diminished somehow by no longer having that person, place, or thing in our lives.

I looked everywhere I thought I may have placed it. I was desperate to find it. “What could I have done with that ankle bracelet,” I asked myself half expecting to hear me say, “You put the ankle-let in the top drawer of the nightstand next to your bed.” This wasn’t like me. I don’t throw things away … so, where was my ankle bracelet?

Grief happens when things change or when we lose something or someone who we care about. It matters not whether the object of our affection is animate or inanimate, we grieve over that loss. Be it a dollar or a dime, change in our situations and/or circumstances, a dismantled relationship or the loss we experience when a loved one transitions from this world to the next, the grieving process will be the same.

This process is called the 5 Stages of Grief, acknowledged by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying or the 5 phases of Managing Change, like the loss of my favorite ankle bracelet.


      1) Denial: What’s the first thing you do? You try to find the lost object. You tear up the place to locate the comb, the brush, or the penny that rolled under the sofa. In my case, it was the ankle.
      2) Anger: “Where did I put the dang gone thing? I should have taken it off before I went for that run, dang it!”
      3) Bargaining:“Please God, just let it be somewhere in the house. I promise I’ll never wear it outside again.” Yeah right!
      4) Depression: “O-mi-god, what am I going to do now? Oh man, my ankle looks naked.”
      5) Acceptance “Enough,” I said. “Get over this and move on. You can’t change what happened.” I had accepted the reality of my loss, experienced the pain, adjusted to my ankle without the bracelet, and reinvested in a new one.

We don’t have to go through the five stages in sequence. But we must go through them to heal and become whole again.

Trusting the Process – How I ended up doing what I’ve always loved

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1997, I graduated from Tuskegee University with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in Tuskegee, Alabama. Excited, about the new opportunities that lie ahead for me in the architecture work world, I was only to be let down by a down architecture hiring freeze. Fortunately, in Tuskegee, one of the few African American architects had also been one of my professors at Tuskegee, and he hired me for a year and a half. What a great job. It was only a 3 person firm, but I learned a lot and in 1998, realized I needed to grow from the small college town, and accepted a job in Jacksonville, Florida at a well known architecture and construction company that designed and built commercial buildings. This was the big times for me! Corporate world… here I am!

For the first few years I absolutely loved architecture, my job, and all of the challenges that came along with it. I started taking my architecture licensing exams in 2000. Many have compared the architectural licensing exams with the Bar exam that lawyers must take. It was a nine part test that I would soon learn would be the death of my spirit, my confidence, and what would make me bitter and cynical toward the architecture profession. Every test had test preparation courses to get ready, books, CD’s online tests, you name it, and it was out there to prepare for the “A.R.E’s”.  I literally dreaded going into my yearly evaluations with my boss, where they would ask me how many tests had I failed and how many had I passed. Every year it was a different number… but it was always a higher number of failing than passing.

After the birth of my daughter in 2005, I had taken the tests for 5 years and was failing miserably. I was being pigeonholed at work, and when I asked for more responsibility on projects, I was nudged to the side and handed red lines, while I watched my male counterparts move pass me with the opportunities that I had initiated. It was time for me to move on, I wasn’t growing, my company wasn’t appreciating me, and when one of my coworkers moved to a competing architecture design firm and he asked me to come… I was right behind him in 2007.

Starting at the new design firm was refreshing and exciting, although very stressful. After two months at the job, my coworker who I had followed was let go due to personal issues, and then started the slow leak of my new job.

Fortunately for me, I am and always will be highly ambitious. What I couldn’t get at work, I would come home and learn on the internet. I’ve always been a home decor, realty, DIY fanatic – in college my friends affectionately called me the “The Black Martha Stewart”, and to this day I idolize Martha and her Omnimedia mogul status – vowing one day I will create a similar presence but in Ronique’s own way. In the summer of 2009 I decided to start a home staging business that was more of a hobby than for profit. While being able to sell my 2 homes successfully on my own, I started Stagetecture to help home owners, but also have a website to hold my inspirations, give advice, and call home for myself and build another world.

By 2010, my work world was unfulfilling; I had passed my LEED Accreditation exam as a divergence from the Architectural Registration exams, and realized I no longer had a drive to become an architect. While I still loved the principles, the profession had made me numb and bitter. My night life of helping friends with their homes, writing my Stagetecture blog, and reading other lifestyle blogs consumed my life, and my architecture job, while helping me financially, was leaving me sleep deprived, and hungry for more of my new ‘work world’ in  my night life.

In the summer of 2010, through social media, I met up with several online architecture and interior blog owners and started freelance writing to get my feet wet. I took it on as a hobby, and then started realizing there was a huge market and I loved the challenge. What began as a small taste on a tiny blog turned into writing for a blog that receives 2 million viewers monthly, catapulted me into worldwide stardom and recognition. The taste turned into a gulp, and I haven’t turned back since.

In September 2010, I was offered a trip by an elite refrigerator and stove manufacturer to tour their facility and meet with other designers and kitchen bloggers – I jumped at the chance. This was my sign for jumping ship and starting my new life! Two weeks prior, I turned in my resignation and told myself that this trip would mark the start of my new entrepreneurial life. While this new life hasn’t always been roses, I wake up at 4am and sit at my computer for 13 hour long days… the money isn’t where I’d like…. But…

…It’s all mine. This process has been well worth it. I powered through each step to see what I DIDN’T want out of my life. Everyday I see people miserable at what they do… my advice, set your sights on what you DO want, and then trust the process, every step is required to get you to the other side… I’m living and breathing, happy proof.

A story of moving beyond stuck

We are not defined by who we are, but by who we are becoming

Everything that has personal, professional, and spiritual meaning for me today began with a choice to do something different. Albuquerque, New Mexico was my Turning Point…

Up until that time, one of my favorite quotes used to be: “When you are stuck, throw a hand grenade, close your eyes, and JUMP!” Why was this one of my favorite quotes? Because I felt as if that was the only way I could move when I was stuck with no perceivable way out. You could say it was a “leap of faith,” but it wasn’t. It was more like a stab in the dark and my way of “busting loose.” However, that approach was not the best way to handle what I thought were insurmountable circumstances. When I jumped with my eyes closed I never knew where I would land. I often found that I had exchanged the skillet for the frying pan.

My dream job as a Hospice Nurse turned into a not so beautiful nightmare when downsizing reordered my life and I found myself without a job and receiving unemployment … When I received the notice from the state informing me that my benefits were nearly depleted, reality hit me like a brick. I had to get a job — and with a quickness. I was back to being placed through home health agencies, something I had done earlier in my nursing career. “Oh boy”, I sighed. I remembered why I traded the hospital setting for home health — too much drama! I had now traded the skillet for the frying pan. And I’m looking at a request from the city to vacate the premises. Where is that hand grenade? Life sucked.

There are times in life when you need something to help you navigate through and around rough waters until you are able to float your own boat, like how I dealt with the dismantling of a dream and my identity. I had defined myself by what I had become: a Hospice Nurse. I had attached my personal power to a position. And I did not know if I could be anything else. I felt powerless.

I needed to do something different. However, knowing that I needed to do something different was not enough; I had to want to do something different. I had to become sick and tired of being “sick and tired.” I had to become teachable. I had to stop running away from myself; and run towards ME. So, in July of 1993, I relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico with my family, and I moved from Hospice Nurse to Life Coach.

Truth: We will not live up to our potential until we give ourselves permission to move beyond the words; to live boldly and to take measured risks.

Here are some pointers I have personally found helpful in motivating myself:

Take Charge of your Destiny

Live for the Journey, not the Destination

One of my major intentions for 2011 is to launch a visualization blog to inspire and connect with a tribe of like-minded people who share a passion for discovering their personal calling. Today marks the birth of that intention and I hope that you will join me and my fellow tribe members in our attempts to make a collective dent in the universe. I began this journey two years ago. Along the way I’ve had diverse experiences and connected with several people who have inspired me to create my own personal GeniusMap (below) to guide me on my path to infinite potential. This map will serve as the framework for future blog posts on various topics from the Spiritual, Mental, Emotional and Physical pillars.

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