My love for storytelling began at age eleven and has evolved throughout the years into many forms of expression. I love the simplest storytelling. A story that begins with: “remember that time when….” and the story unfolds, and I travel back reconnecting with something that took place many moons ago. Sometimes the story is a memory that makes me wish that I was right back there. Experiencing that moment again.
There have been many occasions when I’ve shared stories from my past adventures and someone on the receiving end will say, “Sonya, you should write a book.” No doubt. I’ve lived a full life, but I started to perceive years ago my pattern of sharing stories from my past and not living in the moment. It concerned me that I was becoming stuck, and stagnation is one of my biggest fears. I began to examine the times in my life when I was the happiest and synchronicities seemed to happen, and new opportunities came my way, new people and blessings flowed into my life. I recognized that my happiest times were when I was present, open, grateful, and I was actively imagining the things that I wanted and believed that I was deserving of them. I wasn’t waiting for life to happen in the future or thinking about the past – I was actively creating my life.
Living my life in the present and actively creating my life has been my practice for many years now. I had to connect to my purpose on this earth and since making that mind shift — I’ve been creating memories, not chasing them. When I turned 40, I threw a big party in Manhattan. It was one of the best nights of my life. I planned every detail of the party, including the music playlist because I wanted every aspect of the party to be memorable. Not just for me, but for my guests. I wanted to awaken all the senses and have everyone leave the party intoxicated from the environment and the energy.
When I turned 50, I was single for the first time in years, and I decided that nothing was going to hold me back from celebrating 50 years. So, on the day of my birthday, I landed in Paris that morning by myself. It was a spectacular trip. Paris was all the things that I needed to move into a higher vibration. I feel fully alive when I am in creative and adventure mode — actively doing something that’s new. Like experiencing a piece of art for the first time. Walking down the streets of Paris or when I traveled to Barcelona and taking in all the beauty. Creating memories feeds my creativity, desire to build community, my pleasure principles, and ultimately it brings me joy.
My practice to create memories is visualizing, goal setting, and execution. There are six principles that I live by.
I have an active imagination and I visualize the life that I want, and I set big goals for myself. I have so many examples of attracting something, someone, or a new job into my life because I set the intention. I believed it, and I worked towards it. What happens so often is that people will set a goal and then sit back and do nothing to achieve it. You must act and participate in the life you want for yourself.
Push through Fears
I don’t want to live a life of regrets and so I actively challenge myself to do things that I know are holding me back. I believe that we are here to evolve as human beings and we can block our own blessings because of fear. I cozy up to fear because I know that once I overcome the fear – it opens the door to new opportunities, new people, and memorable experiences.
I enjoy my own company immensely. But I believe that community is important because we are not meant to be alone as human beings. I intentionally cultivate my friendships, my family and working relationships, and I love to bring people together to connect, engage in conversation, have fun, and build community. Some people believe they just need their partner, and perhaps their immediate family, and they’re good. I fundamentally believe that cultivating and engaging with diverse people is a big part of why we are here. We can’t grow as human beings without each other. Life is not about playing it safe, being alone, or settling for someone that doesn’t challenge and inspire you.
Embrace Creativity and New Experiences
I challenge myself to see life through the eyes of a child as much as I can. That sense of wonder and adventure is truly living. I embrace new experiences that sometimes have me almost paralyzed by fear. Like when I traveled to Ghana and I walked across the Kakum Canopy Walk, which is 1,150 long and 130 feet above the juggle – connected by seven trees. I am extremely afraid of heights and when I was in the center of the canopy, holding onto the ropes and it swayed – I thought, “this is how I’m going to die.” But I took a deep breath, pushed through the fear, and I began to stride across the canopy taking pictures along the way. I will never forget the smell and the beauty all around me and how exhilarating it was that I did it. I also embrace creativity as much as possible whether that’s through interior design, cooking, gardening, deejaying, fashion, writing, dancing, drawing, photography and through my career I thankfully get to be creative as well. I believe creating is living.
I find tremendous joy from acts of kindness and being of service. The ability to help another person, or surprise someone with a gift that they didn’t expect is deeply fulfilling. Touching another person’s life is one of the most meaningful things that we can do as human beings. I learned the importance of giving from my mother and grandmother, and it’s been my practices for my entire life. When I give, I am not taking anything away from me. I am making a human-to-human connection because we are one.
I enjoy my own company and I’ve had some of the most memorable times of my life by myself. I’m never bored because there is so much that I can do with me. I leaned into dating myself after a breakup. And whether I am in a relationship or not, I will always take time to date myself. Because we can lose ourselves in a relationship, and after that big break up, I was able to take spur of the moment trips, lie in bed all day and watch what I wanted to watch, take myself out for a drink and dinner, or have a few glasses of wine on a Friday night and dance in the living room to music very loud. I’ve had a ball because I like myself. I laugh at myself.
I am grateful for my journey and that God has protected me and blessed me time and time again. I believe that if I don’t like me, why in the world would anyone else. I now know to make room for me in any relationship. I spend time getting to know me deeply. Paying attention to my random, sometimes repetitive thoughts that might fuel negative thinking, and I work on evolving and being optimistic and happy so that I can show up when I am with other people throughout my life in the best way possible.
I am a work in progress, and I find it exciting. Every day is a new day to live in the present moment and create the life you want.
Sonya Shields is a long-time nonprofit executive. She is a Senior Associate at Cause Effective and Senior Vice President for Organizational Development & Initiatives at Children of Promise, NYC. You can find Sonya on all social media platforms. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.