For most of her adolescence, Asha Tyson was labeled a problem child by family members and teachers. Her family said she was skinny, ugly, and that nobody wanted her. Her teachers thought she was dumb, especially since she had a D average in high school. What’s more, Tyson says she was repeatedly molested by her mother’s boyfriend — a pastor. He denied the sexual abuse, and Tyson’s mother believed him.
Tyson, however, refused to accept others’ truth about her by living up to the lies. “People had already written me off, so that gave me an opportunity to explore, imagine, and create,” she says. “I looked beyond my childhood experiences for confirmation on greatness.”
Today, Tyson is an entrepreneur and author of the acclaimed book How I Retired at 26! (ATD Publishing; $20). She travels the country empowering others with the necessary strategies to reach within and take hold of their true selves — just like she did. How can you tune in to yourself to find the best path for your life?
Our experts offer the following advice:
Recognize your own voice. “We have different voices that run within us, and one of the things I do in working with people is try to help them step back and analyze where these voices are coming from,” says Dr. Sandra C. Walker, a Seattle-based psychoanalyst and psychiatrist in private practice. Tyson’s inner voice led to her empowerment. She began studying the biographies of people such as Diana Ross, who once lived in a housing development in Tyson’s hometown of Detroit. Ultimately, Tyson realized that determination was the deciding factor for her success. “As far as I was concerned, I was the product of someone else’s decisions,” she says. “As an adult, I could decide how my story was going to end. I didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t have a great life.”
Inquire within. Meditation is crucial in this “tuning within” process, says Andrea Kay, a Cincinnati-based career consultant. “The best way to know what’s best for you is to know yourself,” she says. “People don’t spend the time it takes to ask themselves what they enjoy doing most, who they want to do it with, and how they want to make a difference.” That’s why Kay implores people to go off to a quiet place with a pad of paper and a pen, and start writing down ideas without any judgments of whether they’re rational, feasible, or profitable.
Understand the role of feedback. Tyson was very careful about listening to others’ advice: “I was always very sensitive to identifying who was and who wasn’t qualified to speak into my life,” she says. “If you weren’t living your own dreams, I didn’t feel that you could help me live mine.” Susan Neri-Friedwald of The New Behavior Institute in New York City adds, “We should listen because sometimes we can get insight that we didn’t get before. But we don’t want to give the person more power than we give ourselves.” In the end, she says, “Nobody