Iyanla Vanzant's roadmap to staying grounded in life

·10 min read

Iyanla Vanzant is not done fixing your life.

Her hit TV show, "Fix My Life" on OWN, ended last year, and now she's launching the podcast "The R Spot" with Shondaland and iHeart premiering Wednesday, Aug. 3. Each weekly episode is an hour long and covers all things relationships: platonic, familial and romantic.

Vanzant said in an interview with TODAY that she started the podcast for a couple of reasons. Her YouTube show "The R Spot: The Relationship Zone" did so well before ending in 2018 that retooling it in podcast form excited her. Another reason she wanted an audio-based platform was to make herself more accessible to more people.

"While 'Fix My Life' was seriously successful, there were as equally as many people, or maybe two or three times as many people, who wanted the work of 'Fix My Life,' but did not want to be in front of the camera," Vanzant said. "Now they have the anonymity through the podcast. So that's my vision, that it will call other people forward when they don't have to reveal who they are."

Vanzant, a lawyer by trade, is well known for her story of overcoming, the books she's written and being a motivational speaker and life coach. She's written more than 15 books, and throughout her career she's shared how she is a domestic violence survivor from a previous relationship of nine years and how she finally ended the relationship and rebuilt her life.

Vanzant told TODAY 10 habits she has developed over the course of her life and how they're applicable to any situation.

Don't see negatives

Vanzant said it took her four decades to learn "we can't expect to be at the mountaintop all the time."

"I don't see negatives. I see experiences. One of the reasons that we miss a lot of positive experiences is because we get caught up in the offensive ones. If you get stuck in the offense, you are not going to see the opportunity," she said.

In her 1995 book, "Value in the Valley," Vanzant talks about how the real work oftentimes happens during the most difficult times, a point she further explained in the interview with TODAY.

"No, it's not all about mountaintops because the real learning and the real healing and the real growing happens in the valley. Everybody's got a dress for the mountaintop. But it's how do you keep your breath fresh and your teeth white and your attitude in check when you're in the valleys? That's where the real stuff happens."

Radical self-care

"I'm into radical self-care," Vanzant said of how she goes beyond common self-care routines.

"The first thing — it took me a long time to learn this — find something you love," Vanzant said. "What is the one thing you love? Or, the two things, whether you eat it or do it or see it or hear it? What are the things that you love just for the sake of loving because they make you feel good? They don't make you money. You don't ask anybody to approve of them."

"Start there because too many of us walk around with nothing to love in our life. We don't like our job. We don't like our partner and we don't like our kids. We don't like our body. We don't like our hair. So that's the first thing, so that when things get wrong, you have a place to retreat. Whether it's through a candy bar, or a TV show, or a good book, or laying in the sun, or something you can smell. So radical self-care really starts with, first of all, finding those things in your life that lift you and make you feel good."

Give yourself 1 hour every day

Vanzant said that every day she blocks off an hour time slot just for herself. She recommends dividing it into three 20-minute blocks throughout the day because "there are 24 hours in a day and we should be sleeping 10 to 12 of them but of course we don't," so it's easy to go days without any rest time.

"I say an hour, but break it down into 20-minute segments: 20 minutes out of your waking hours, 20-minute snatches where you don't do anything for anybody but you. I don't care what it is. If you just sit there, pick your nose, tweeze your eyebrows, count your toes, nothing. And that means just unplug. Unplug from the phone, the TV, the kids. If you can't find three 20-minute segments a day that are just for you, then you are too darn busy."

Iyanla Vanzant told TODAY the valleys can be just as encouraging as the mountaintops. (Paras Griffin / Getty Images)
Iyanla Vanzant told TODAY the valleys can be just as encouraging as the mountaintops. (Paras Griffin / Getty Images)

Use joy to stay grounded

"Joy is an internal experience. Happiness is an external experience. And you have to create your own happiness and that's a hard work that happens. See, people want happiness, but they don't want the work that goes along with it."

"Joy, on the other hand, is a state of mind and a state of being. You could be going through pure hell and still have joy in your heart that you can still say a kind word to yourself or to somebody else. So I think when you need more joy in your life, that you really got to look within."

Vanzant said starting there is a first step and each step gets easier, but sometimes the hardest part is just starting.

"If I can't walk, I'm gonna crawl. If I can't crawl, I'm gonna scoot on my butt. If I can't scoot on my butt, I'm gonna get somebody to tie me to a gurney and carry me. If my arm ain't working, I'm gonna use my finger. I mean, really. It's a level of internal commitment that you have to make. And it's not easy. Sometimes it's really hard."

Be like 'a blade of grass'

Vanzant said during difficult stages of life, she reminds herself who she is, of her past triumphs and of her village who unconditionally support her. She said there's one metaphor in particular that always encourages her during a rough patch.

"I always hold the vision of a blade of grass growing through the crack between two slabs of concrete. A blade of grass that will grow and thrive between two slabs of concrete — nobody's watering it, people are stepping on it, dogs are peeing on it. But it doesn't change its identity. It comes up and it is still a blade of grass. I have to remember that."

Celebrate yourself

Vanzant said while chasing perfection, there's never an opportunity to celebrate the progress. She said she's learned to mark time based on what progress has been made, and she purposely celebrates those milestones.

"I affirm myself," Vanzant said. "I like to hear words of affirmation."

Vanzant said it can be hard to celebrate yourself, so she gave some examples of how small the victory can be and how it's still worth celebrating.

"You have to celebrate every little victory. If you stayed on your diet 15 minutes, celebrate. Now, don’t celebrate with a cookie."

"If you punch somebody in the eye, be glad you didn’t hit him over the head."

"We think everything in order to celebrate it has to be big and splashy. And it doesn’t. Again, it’s that simple way to affirm and acknowledge yourself that makes you feel good, that makes you feel better."

Know what work you're doing

Vanzant said people are usually doing one of two types of self-work — healing work or growth work — and it's important to know which is happening at the time.

"Growth is about behavior. It's about changing from one thing to the other. Sometimes you're doing growth work, but the challenges and the issues, the deep-seated ones, whatever they are, will still recur in your brain. And people think because they're doing growth work, that they'll heal."

But that isn't how it works, Vanzant said.

"Healing work transforms something about you and usually that happens on the inside. It'll transform a feeling, it'll transform a thought, it'll transform a way of being that's healing work. Growth work basically transforms how you do what you do, and so you can do great, great growth work and don't heal anything. And I think that happens a lot of times with people, particularly with depression or anxiety or things like that. They think because they did read a book and did five journals that they've done the work that created the problem in the first place, and it doesn't."

Vanzant said identifying what needs healing is the first step and targeting the root cause is how healing work begins.

Connect to a higher power

Vanzant said she is a spiritual person and believes in a higher power working things out on her behalf. She said trusting in that higher source keeps her grounded and gives her something to believe in.

"It will work out. The universe, God — whatever you want to call it — knows who I am. It really does. I have a tendency to forget the universe knows who I am and it has not changed its mind. So I have to know, because life is a mixed blessing and because there is always an opportunity. If I forget who I am, then things will be rough. But if I remember who I am —  whether if it's that I'm a divine being, that I'm a spiritual being having a human experience, that I'm a blessed child of a great creator, whatever it is —  if I remember who I am, then I can bring myself into alignment with whatever's happening."

Vanzant said reframing her thinking into that position helps her reframe her approach to other situations too.

“We gotta get out of this concept that things are happening to us. They’re happening through us, not to us. So when it seems like everything is happening for once, it simply means that all your prayers are being answered at the same time, because nothing comes to you unless it’s ready to come through you.”

Reframe 'overwhelmed' into 'called'

Vanzant said the feeling of being overwhelmed is actually positive because it requires juggling a lot of things you're passionate about.

"Overwhelmed simply means that you've convinced yourself that you can do something that you're being called to do. That's what overwhelm is: You've convinced yourself that you cannot do something that you're either being called, instructed, guided or required to do."

Vanzant said when that happens to her, she leans into it.

"Here's my affirmation: Well, I can hardly wait to see the good that's gonna come out of this. I can hardly wait to see the good that's gonna come on, because something good has got to come out of this because all things are working together for my good. I can't see it right now. But all things are working together for good. I can hardly wait to see the good."

Have a guilty pleasure

"I have addictions. I got a 'Law & Order' addiction. I have a quilting addiction. I have a fried chicken wing addiction. I have a lipstick addiction. I mean, I got two lips and 800 lipsticks. The only thing I have more than lipstick is shoes."