It’s been a year. Aside from the headlines and constant chaos of current news and tantrums ringing out of the White House, it has been a trying year for me personally. And although I have had an extremely trying year, there are some lessons that I have internalized from the past that helped me stay clear in my goals. In holiday spirit, and out of my desire to relay any lessons I have learned to help others, I put together five lessons and how they can help people thrive beyond personal storms.

1.Think Beyond The Moment:

The most trying times for me have been when I am unable to see beyond my circumstances. I am a single mother, and I remember sitting in a public aid office on the West Side of Chicago as a college dropout with a future that looked a bit bleak. One practice that has gotten me through trying times and societal constraints has been imagining beyond my current circumstances. I imagined myself as a college graduate, providing for my daughter, and living independently. It wasn’t that the constraints disappeared. People were more than willing to put me in a box and state my potential. But, it takes being stubborn in your vision for yourself. And, often times, people project their inability to see beyond their own circumstances, not out of any ill will toward you. Make a vision board, visit websites of places you want to be, tell people your vision, and imagine this vision during the tough times.

2. Make Plans & Stick To Them (Loosely).

One lesson I learned from my extremely long journey to pursue grad school is that making a plan is one of the biggest ways to stay on track toward personal goals. I knew that eventually I wanted to attain a graduate school degree. However, once I cemented this goal, the plan to achieve this took various forms, meandering and actualizing itself in a pretty unexpected way.  Instead of seeing the meandering goals as failures or signals that I would never achieve this goal, I adjusted to the change while having my sights steadfast on achieving the goal. We don’t have control over life’s twists and turns, but we do have the ability to commit to a goal and be willing to be patient in the process. Thinking beyond the moment, as stated above is key to this.

3. Give Back

One of the most important lessons that I have learned is the power of purpose. In college, my choir teacher would tell the class, “When you feel down, go out and help somebody.” And my father has instilled the importance of purpose in life. Before I went back to the University of Illinois to finish my degree with an 8 month old, I read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. And, although my background is Christianity, beyond that, this book helped me solidify my commitment to being purposeful in my decisions. I had sought to go back to school to be able to provide for my daughter better, but I also became committed to being an advocate to use my experience to help others.  During the hard times, the promise of the pay check is not what drove me. My drive came from the possibility to one day be in a position to help another single mother or college dropout. In anything we do, we can seek to give back to others. And, often, our time and our words go a really long way towards affecting someone’s life journey positively.  Try to always remember the purpose behind your motivations, and attain new purpose if need be.

4. Be Serious About A Hobby

I am in my 30s and a mom of an 11 year-old, yet I still write rap songs and play guitar, as I have been doing since a kid. One of the reasons I do this is because I have identified something that has been proven to benefit my mental health.  Even on my most serious of work days, I am intentional about carving out this time for myself because not only does it let me connect to my roots, but it gives me the ability to transfer the stresses of life into positive energy. Rapping is not for everyone, but you should ask yourself about those hobbies that you have let fade. What are ways that you are connecting to your roots in the chaos of the now?

5. Embrace The Tumbles

It is really hard for me to take compliments about how much I “have it together”, especially given my continuous tumbles I have in life. One of the lessons I have learned is how to make a “fall” a win. Although painful and challenging, I try to see failures as both motivation and needed time reflect on any faults that I need to overcome. Failures and stumbles have a way of humbling us, making us look in the mirror, and forcing us to question. Again, we can take a failure as an end all be all, or we can take them as needed steps toward growth and redefinition. I’ve overcome obstacles by turning failures into redefining moments – moments where I welcome the crumbling of my expectations.

Rasheena Fountain is a writer, environmental justice advocate and mother living in Seattle, WA. She has a B.A. in Rhetoric from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an MA. Ed. from Antioch University Seattle.  She has written about race relations, environmental justice, #blacklivesmatter, women’s rights, education, and more for various local and national outlets. She will be releasing her first fiction novel in 2019.