“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today, millions of people in America will enjoy a day off from their 9 to 5 thanks to the tremendous accomplishments of one man. Your choice in honoring and celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is optional …much like the way that he chose to sacrifice his life for a better quality of ours.

In honor of #MLKDay2019, here are five lessons the reverend doctor taught us about self help.

1) You are more powerful than you may realize.

How does a young Black man from the deep south inspire thousands of people during the Jim Crow era simply by speaking? How does a black man march through the most racist parts of the country (with little to no security might I add) and go untouched in some instances? If you recognize your inner power you can do the unthinkable. Dr. King taught us that complacency is always optional, and by recognizing that you are a spiritual being in flesh is the key to unlocking your potential.

2) Being idle is a choice.

I was born in the 80s, and while I have experienced my fair share of racism and discrimination, I will never know what it is like to have to look over my shoulder in my own home. None of us have to worry about getting lynched while walking up the road to the corner store or for staring at a white man or woman for too long. The conditions in which African-Americans existed during King’s era were based on a level of survival that we cannot relate to no matter how much racism we go through. Despite having every plausible explanation to remain stagnant, Dr. King made the conscious decision to fight for what he believed in. In sum, he taught us that just like being idle is a choice, so is being heroic.

3) Bravery is a must.

The definition of self help is to commit to improving one’s self. In order to improve, one must be brave enough to look at their flaws and where they do not measure up. The process can be daunting and downright scary, but it is very necessary. Dr. King, like many African-Americans and our allies at the time, was brave enough to take a look at the conditions faced by Blacks and publicly state in both word and action that they needed improvement. Bravery and positive, long-lasting change go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.

4) It all starts with you.

Many people take issue with clichés because well …they’re common sayings that are usually stated when people have nothing else to say. But you know what? They’re true most times. Here’s one that Dr. King mirrored his entire life after: “Be the change that you wish to see.” From making the decision to abandon the notion of simply looking out for himself to advancing the conversation of race relations during a time when it was most needed, Dr. King’s entire life has a narrative of bravery, selflessness and evolution. There isn’t one instance where we can look at MLK’s accomplishments and not see change. Not one. And it all began with his decision to do so.

5) Peace is the ultimatum.

Dr. King faced a tremendous amount of disrespect during his quest for equality and many times, things got physical. From police dogs to water hoses, King sought to maintain peace and prioritize his goals at all times. When seeking to improve yourself, focusing on what really matters will aid you well in your pursuit for evolution. Peace is something that is always at the forefront of transformation.

Dr. King’s legacy is more than a fixture in U.S. history. It is a critical point of reference for those of us who wish to continue to improve who we are during our time of existence. Understanding that Dr. King showed us the true power within us can assist in the abolishment of fears that may be keeping us from elevating. For that I am grateful.

Continue to rest in power, Dr. King.

Here is one of Dr. King’s more rarer speeches, “What is Your Life’s Blueprint?”

Shantell E. Jamison is an editor and certified Life Coach. For a full list of services offered click here

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