When Lisa Nichols walks onstage, sparks start flying almost immediately. But this New York Times best-selling author, motivational speaker, and life coach is no flash in the pan. The fire Nichols ignites in her audience is the kind that seeks to burn away whatever false beliefs they may have about themselves so they can more easily get in touch with their intuition and their divinity.
Nichols simply won’t allow anyone’s truth to play small in her presence. She knows a thing or two about possibility, having herself gone from being a young single mother on welfare to becoming a millionaire entrepreneur.
Here, she talks with Unity Magazine editor Katy Koontz about staying connected to our truth, even when everything around us appears to discount it.
Katy Koontz: I’ve heard you talk about how important your grandmother, Bernice, was to you. Did she introduce you to the power of affirmations?
Lisa Nichols: She had different phrases for them, like scripture knowings or God appointments. They were declarations of who I am and of what my birthright is—declarations of my future unfolding itself.
While she never said the word affirmations, she certainly taught me about them and about the power of belief. I didn’t know it could be called an affirmation until I was an adult. My grandmother just called it my truth.
KK: How did your grandmother impart this wisdom to you?
LN: She would teach me while I was picking greens or chopping onions in the kitchen with her. Or while I was skinning the chicken or washing the meat. I learned while I was doing something with her, helping her to provide for and love on eight children and 18 grandchildren. Many of the things she said I couldn’t use at the time.
I’ve learned to appreciate my grandmother's wisdom more as I’ve gotten older. Now I think, Wow, she knew so much!
KK: She has made her transition, hasn’t she?
LN: Yes, when I was 25. And even at her funeral, she taught me something. I assumed there would be about 150 people there, but at least 500 showed up.
I had no idea where they came from—I had never seen most of them before. But right around the time the 12th person said, “Bernice took me in, fed me, and allowed me to live with her,” I said to myself, I will live a life that will cause the people I meet to tell the story about me that I’m sitting here witnessing right now. I made that decision at 25, sitting at her funeral.
A Grandmother’s Wisdom: Ask for Your Truth
KK: Believing our truth, like your grandmother taught you to do, is not always easy. Do you think that’s because it’s disguised, or do we simply talk ourselves out of it?
LN: Our truth is never disguised. It’s simply that we allow our fear to scream louder. Our negative self-talk, our worry, and our doubt is the scream. Our truth is in our intuition, which usually shows up in a whisper instead.
The opportunity and the challenge we have—all wrapped into one—is to ask for our truth to show up inside prayer, and then to be still enough to hear it when it does.
Whether you call it the Universe, the Divine, Mother/Father God, or whatever, there has to be a process where you’re open to it and then quiet enough to hear it speak.
If your head is filled with scarcity, doubt, lack, and fear, then you’ll discount your intuition when it shows up. But even so, your truth doesn’t change. I always tell people, water is wet, whether you like it or not. It’s just wet—that’s truth.
KK: You went through a very rough time in your twenties. You’ve talked about being fired from five different jobs during that period, and then unexpectedly becoming a single mother. Was it difficult to know your truth under those circumstances?
LN: I had a longing for my truth. I felt as if I was connected to it only by a very thin umbilical cord because I kept discounting it since nothing in my environment supported it. I felt like I was supposed to inspire people, encourage them.
But I got a D in speech, and my professor said I shouldn’t ever speak in public. I failed English, and that professor said I was the weakest writer she ever met in her entire life.
My community said that I should be in lack and struggle, that black people have it hard, and that I shouldn’t talk about prosperity. My spirituality said that I shouldn’t be financially abundant, and that I should give it all up. Every single facet of my life was incongruent with what I felt in my belly.
What We Believe, What We Know
KK: Did you feel more connected to your truth when you were younger?
LN: I was always leading, always inspiring people, always giving a mini soapbox speech to someone. In second grade, I staged a walkout because I disagreed with a pop quiz our teacher gave us. I started with four kids, and by the time we’d gotten to the edge of the field where we had recess, I turned around to see a little less than a hundred kids who had walked out with me.
None of them knew where we were going, but they were all following me. Then I had life experiences that challenged that truth. When I got that fail in English, for example, I didn’t even bother to try to write for 18 years.
I believed what my professor said rather than what I felt in my belly about myself and about what I was supposed to do with my life.
KK: Were you wondering if what everyone said was true? Or did you think you just weren’t in an environment where other people would recognize your truth?
LN: I didn’t know what they said was true, but I believed it to be so. I felt my truth calling, but everything around me made me question it. I didn’t question the people. I didn’t question my teachers. I didn’t question my pastor. I didn’t question my community. I didn’t question my culture. Instead, I questioned the calling.
KK: That’s an important distinction—what we believe as oppose to what we know.
LN: Truth is nonnegotiable. Truth is a thermostat, but we live a thermometer life. We check our truth based on what’s going on in our life—based on our bank account balance, on the relationship we’re in, on our weight.
But the truth says, “Hold on! I didn’t ask you to check your environment. I asked you to adjust the environment to match your truth, not the other way around.”
KK: That’s a powerful analogy.
LN: I’ve never said it like that before.
Don’t Wait for Fear to Go Away
KK: How were you eventually able to harness your fear to manifest your passion?
LN: I am always telling people, “Everything I ever did that you admire, I did it holding fear in one hand and passion in the other.” The key is being willing to live in a constant state of duality and meaning and letting fear be there.
Don’t wait for fear to go away, but don’t move only on emotion. Get a strategy. Move on information, move on logic, move on facts. Allow the emotion to fuel the facts and the logic. But know it’s okay for fear to coexist with passion.
You’re emanating an energy of what you believe about yourself and how you love yourself. The world will match your vibration.
KK: You describe fear as a created conversation about the future. I love that definition.
LN: When you’re in fear, you’re projecting what you believe will happen and then literally drawing back the emotion that it gives you. You’re predicting the future by holding on to that feeling, and you can become paralyzed about this false future.
For example, when you think, I don’t want to get in a relationship because I don’t want to be hurt again, you just created exactly that. But by holding on to a different thought, like I’m looking forward to a relationship because I want to be loved passionately, you can create that future instead.
Designing a Better Conversation
KK: I’ve heard you say that if you want to create a better life, you have to design a better conversation. I’m intrigued by your use of the word design. Can you elaborate?
LN: We are all born into an experience that we don’t have any control over, and we live in that experience for so many years. Then there comes a point when we become the author of our autobiography, the designer of our destiny. We don’t have the ability to rewrite Chapter 4, but we have the ability to write Chapter 24 forward.
I believe with all my heart and soul that you design the things that happen to you—you cocreate them—not just in what you actively do, but in how you choose to respond to what’s done to you.
Your response influences the other person’s next response. That’s what most people miss. Highly conscious people never react—they only respond.
KK: So it’s like a ripple effect—because we’re all connected.
LN: When you uncover that superpower, you stop wondering and worrying what’s going to happen. As I said before, I’m not a superhero, I’m very ordinary. I just choose to make extraordinary decisions every day.
One of those extraordinary decisions is that no one ever gets to trigger me, no matter what they do. My reaction is my choice, so I don’t ever worry about going off on anyone.
I’ve had more former employees thank me for the way I released them, and some guys who I’ve dated still send me Christmas and birthday cards. It’s because I left their dignity intact, and they’re grateful.
You mention we’re all connected, but it’s more than that. We’re playing a song together, and when I learn your vibration, I can be gracious enough to adjust my tune to your vibration instead of trying to drown you out.
KK: In teaching about how to design that better conversation, you say the world sees us the way we see ourselves. Are you suggesting we wear our insides on the outside?
LN: Absolutely. You’re emanating an energy of what you believe about yourself and how you love yourself. The world will match your vibration, so how you treat yourself is how the world’s going to treat you. You’re modeling that behavior for the world. You are the first example of how the world is supposed to see you and treat you, meaning, the world is watching you first.
Saying Yes, Yes!
KK: What is the origin of the “Yes, yes!” you teach people to say when you speak?
LN: It was 2014, and I was in Texas, getting ready to go onstage in front of about 3,400 women at the eWomenNetwork.
I was saying a gratitude prayer and started feeling myself being pulled into the next level of service. It was global—it was pulling me to Croatia and Kazakhstan, to Kiev, to Ireland, to Budapest, to Taipei. I hadn’t done any of that work yet, and so I felt my global reach, my global impact, my global service, really calling me.
Whenever God is stretching me to the next level, some surrender is involved, and so normally I’m nervous. I ask, Can I do that? Are you sure I’m the one for this, God? Little Lisa from L.A.? I kid you not. I’m a woman, I’m not a superhero, so I have to choose to be extraordinary.
Then I said, “Okay, God. Whatever you want me to do, I’m obedient. I’m in service. I don’t have to know the how yet, but I’ll say yes to the what.” I was building energy and momentum, and then suddenly I felt inspired to get on my knees.
I’m actually a borderline germaphobe, so I don’t like getting down on the floor in a public place because who knows the last time anyone cleaned that carpet. Yet the calling was so big right then—the conviction, the energy—the divine presence was so big that I didn’t just get on my knees, I got on my face. I kept saying:
“I say yes to you, God. I say yes to you! Yes, yes, yes!”
I was saying yes to the next part of my calling being born. Some people might have thought I was having a meltdown, but I was really having a build-up. It just looked like a meltdown.
Our truth is never disguised. It’s simply that we allow our fear to scream louder.
So when I say to the audience, “Say, ‘yes, yes,’ and the second yes has to be louder than the first yes,” the first yes is for you—you’re saying yes to all the things that you want, and all the things you know you can do.
The second yes needs to be louder because it’s for the divine calling on your life, and for the part that you don’t even know that you can do yet. I’m asking you to say yes to it and invite your expanded service in. Invite your expanded humility in. Invite your expanded prosperity in.
The part that you don’t even see that you can do yet, say yes to that now, with blind, unwavering faith.
KK: You were in the 2006 movie The Secret. Have you found people sometimes criticize the Law of Attraction because they don’t understand how it works?
LN: I always get nervous when I’m with people who have been in the New Thought movement or around the Law of Attraction work for years, but who are not involved in a daily practice.
This is not a passive law. You cannot sit on your couch and actively receive. You’re an active participant in your life journey. You and the Divine are cocreating.
Most people want to treat the Law of Attraction like it’s a game of racquetball—you just hit it to the wall, and it comes back.
But it’s more like tennis. It’s two participants going back and forth. When people tell me that they’re waiting on the Divine, I ask them what action they are taking.
Joan Baez says action is the antidote to despair, and to that I add, action is the prescription for your success. Action is at the core of moving you away from what you don’t want and moving you toward what you most desire.
Lisa Nichols is an entrepreneur, self-empowerment expert, life coach, and motivational speaker. She is also the author of seven books, including the New York Times best-seller No Matter What! Nine Steps to Living the Life You Love (Hachette, 2009). Her most recent book is Abundance Now (Dey Street Books/HarperCollins, 2016), coauthored with Janet Switzer. Visit motivatingthemasses.com.
This article appeared in Unity Magazine®.