As I write this, I imagine myself making a confession.  After all what is the best way to introduce myself? My name is Divine, and I am a Burundian who is too optimistic for my own good.

I am excited to be joining this amazing list of women who are contributing daily to this idea-and maybe an ideal- of giving voices to women.  This movement by women for women, this is one of the many reasons why I joined the ElleAfrique platform.

Okay so lets go back to this introduction.  In the best way possible, I am going to try to frame what you will be reading from me, and at best, how I will engage with you. In order to do so, I have titled this with my 2014 motto/theme/resolution or just my mantra: #BeYou. #BeAnAchiever. #BeAlive. #Payitforward. I will break it down in just a minute.

My beliefs, my values, and my ethics span from being born in Burundi, raised in Kenya , studying and now living in the United States.  I have had a good number of mentors who have help shape my opinions, and molded me into the person I am today. I am a daughter of a bishop and my mother is not only a pastor, but she was a teacher.

I’m an incredibly blessed person, and have had the pleasure of working with some of the greatest minds of our time which has led me to be an overly critical person. A long time ago, I learned that a society without a healthy dose of public debate and criticism becomes a victim of its own opinions. Thus, this year, I am embracing this critical part of me.

So back to my mantra!

Work hard to achieve your goals (Web Images)

Work hard to achieve your goals (Web Images)

We live in a society where everyone wants women to be anything but themselves. It is the weaves (yes I wear them), the make up (I wear that too),  the body image issues (I gave up on the losing weight schemes) and if all that is not enough, we are constantly being told that we are simply not good enough.  So why don’t we just support each other, engage each other, and be each other’s cheerleaders. How can we go about doing that?

  1. BE YOU:  They say that no one can impose their ideals on you without your permission. That stands true especially since it always seems that those around you have an opinion on what you should eat, wear, and what career is best for you. .  #DONTBETHATPERSON who ends up living everyone else’s dreams but their own! The truth of the matter is that no one knows how to be the best you, but yourself. So here is the challenge to you, BE THE BEST YOU!  Take everyone’s opinions, weigh them, and at the end of the day, do what is best for you. If you are like me, you find yourself engaged with people on so many levels and it is so LOUD that it can overwhelm you. In marketing, we call this the “clouding factor”. The trick is  to sift through all the noise and find your voice, and then make sure your voice is loud enough for you to hear it
  2. BE AN ACHIEVER:  Have you ever tried to employ someone and looking at their resume, you see a list of things that they have DONE, but fail to see what they have ACHIEVED?  In 2014, #DONTBETHATPERSON!  Be the person that plans to achieve their goals.  Be the person who doesn’t live a life as a doer.  The problem with being a doer is that you go about life doing things for the sake of doing them with no specific goals, therefore no way to see what you have achieved. So the challenge to you this year is to make S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable., Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals.  This way, you have ways of setting benchmarks that you can track by the end of the year.
  3. BE ALIVE:  By now, you know the saying- #YOLO – You Only Live Once! So make it count.  Life is too short, but even in the worst of moments, life is beautiful and worth exploring.  Make sure that you step out of your comfort zone, explore new things, meet new people, take on new projects, (unless you are a workaholic), and most importantly take every chance to celebrate life at its best. #DONTBETHATPERSON living within the constraints of their routine and refuses to step out of their comfort zones to see what else life has to offer.
  4. PARTICIPATE: This goes hand in hand with the above point. Participate in your community. #DONTBETHATPERSON who lives in a community and has no idea what is going on in your neighbourhood or community. More importantly, participate in building your community. In Africa, we are used to being told that we are not doing enough to make sure we get the leaders we desire. Why not start with 2014? Whatever your interest, be it education, youth empowerment, social entrepreneurship, childhood development, politics…etc, find a way to be involved. Imagine an Africa where we all embody that spirit of “Ujamaa” and work together to the betterment of our continent?
  5. PAY IT FORWARD: The Last three challenges really work together. In paying it forward, this is to simply use your skills and your resources to the betterment of others. Whether it is time, energy or money, we all need to find a way to give a leg up to others. I believe that God gave us skills and resources not only for our benefit, but for other as well.  In 2014 #BETHATPERSON who finds a way to use their resources to help others. Volunteer, mentor, and if time is a factor, donate to your favourite organizations, or an organization that speak to your personal mission.

So join me in 2014 as we learn from each other.  I am a great believer of what my mother once told me,  “A woman cannot only be stronger by learning from other women.”  As we progress, you will read about African political commentary, about the lessons I am learning as I build my business, and my optimism in working with African Youth as we work towards an Africa that we can all be proud of.  Lets challenge ourselves and work towards excellence.

What are your 2014 goals, and how do you plan to achieve them?