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SheSTRIVES: Toyota Presents the SheROX Triathlon Series

You don’t know what you’re capable of until you have something to strive for. “Striving is about the relentless pursuit of a goal,” says life coach and mom Cynthia Occelli, author of Resurrecting Venus. “It means that if I fall, I get back up. I show up and do my best, and let life take care of the rest.” Follow these four strategies to strive with strength—and style.

Four Steps to Tapping Your Power

1. Get out of your head. Striving isn’t about being headstrong, but heart-centered — relating to others on an emotional level. “Great opportunities arise from great connections,” says Occelli. “It’s how I bridged the gap from welfare to millionaire. It didn’t come from being aggressive or conniving, but from being open.

TRY IT >> Refocus your energy. “Meeting new people used to be so intimidating,” says Occelli. “So I did this exercise: I focused on the physical space around my heart, took deep breaths, and told myself I belonged there.” Try it yourself the next time you’re at a gathering and feeling nervous.

2. Separate negativity from advice. Whenever you share your ambitions, others may volunteer to predict your doom. “Remember that what you’re hearing is their story, not yours,” says Occelli. “Not everyone has the best intentions, even if they claim to be protecting you.”

TRY IT >> Choose your critics. Don’t tell just anyone what you’re striving for. “Protect your dreams by seeking the counsel of only those whose lives you’d want,” says Occelli. And if they aren’t walking their talk, their advice probably won’t amount to much.

3. Don’t get hung up on “how.” The biggest obstacle people fear is how they’ll get to the endpoint. “It’s not up to you to know how things will unfold,” says Occelli. “There’s an advantage to not knowing everything: You’re not conditioned the way others are. You may ask for things that someone else wouldn’t and, quite often, get them.”

TRY IT >> Take action. The odds of getting what you want are irrelevant, says Occelli. “Look at me—growing up the kid of a teenage mom? No one thought I stood a chance.” Identify what’s in your power to do rather than what’s seemingly beyond your reach. When you start taking steps, the road appears.

Overcome fear of failure. Mistakes aren’t an exception; they’re the rule. “Failures are strewn all over the road to success, so you can’t be afraid of that,” says Occelli. “Don’t let that stop you from reaching your highest potential.”

TRY IT >> Take a risk. You’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try. So, identify something your fear has kept you from doing—and try doing it. In law school, Occelli was asked to teach a session; she was so afraid that she taught the wrong subject for 15 minutes before realizing it. She made a mistake, but she also survived a lifelong fear. “You’ll build confidence in yourself, no matter the outcome,” she says.

Cynthia Ocelli
Life Coach, Author, Mom

The odds were simply not in Cynthia Occelli’s favor: Born a biracial child to a 16-year-old mother, Occelli dropped out of high school in the ninth grade, and at 19 was a mother herself, involved in an abusive relationship, and living on welfare in her mother-inlaw’s garage. But she turned it all around. Occelli went on to graduate in the top 3 percent of her law school class and build her dream home in Bel Air. Her book, Resurrecting Venus, provides insight into tapping your feminine power to create the life you want.

Toughest part about growing up >> People told me that I’d never succeed. I grew up feeling like the child of a lesser god. I was too dark for the white community and too light for the black community.

Biggest fear as a kid >> I couldn’t speak in front of people. I gave my first report in second grade from behind the projector screen.

Turning point >> Having my baby. I could accept less than nothing for myself but not for him. Five years later, I was living in L.A., in school, and in love with a wonderful man.

Bravest move >> Though I didn’t have a high school or college degree, I persuaded the staff at Whittier Law School to grant me probationary admission. I graduated with honors.

Worst heartbreak >> My husband suffered an aneurysm in 2002. He lost his short-term memory; I lost the man I knew. He wasn’t coming back. We divorced, and he moved back to France to live with his family.

What keeps me strong >> Though I’m not a religious person, many lines from Christian prayers resonate with me, including “Thy will be done.” It keeps me in a place of trust, humility, and confidence.

Learn more about Cynthia Occelli at cynthiaoccelli.com.